Transformers: The Last Knight (2017) Review
Transformers: The Last Knight is directed by Michael Bay (Transformers, 13 Hours) and stars Mark Wahlberg (Patriot's Day, Ted), Laura Haddock (The Inbetweeners Movie, Guardians of the Galaxy), Josh Duhamel (Safe Haven, Las Vegas), Anthony Hopkins (Hannibal, Red Dragon) and Isabela Moner (Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life). "Humans and Transformers are at war, Optimus Prime is gone. The key to saving our future lies buried in the secrets of the past, in the hidden history of Transformers on Earth". One of the most critically panned franchises ever made but they continue to make money - will this be the first great Transformers film?
No. This is just like all of the films that have become before it - it has all the same problems which shows that Bay's ego is that big, he just doesn't listen to the repetitive criticism. He's said this is his last Transformers film and I really hope it is. Let's get someone with a unique and exciting vision who can finally bring some life and credibility to this franchise. This time last week, I had only ever seen the first Transformers film and thought it was ok (6/10). This week, I set myself one of the hardest challenges I've ever tasked myself with - I caught up with the franchise and anybody who follows me on Twitter (@ASelenatorsView) knows just how excruciating that was at times - particularly the 4th instalment (by far the worst). If I had to do an updated ranking, The Last Knight falls smack bang in the middle:
2. Dark of the Moon
3. The Last Knight
4. Revenge of the Fallen
5. Age of Extinction
Take that as you will.
Let's begin with the plot - it's actually very hard to comment on the narrative of any Transformers film because they are always unnecessarily complex and pretty hard to follow. However, this might be the easiest to follow yet. However, that simplicity is complicated by needless extra plot points and characters that don't actually have a place in the film. The plot also doesn't become clear until at least 90 minutes into the film - until that point, the film spends its time wondering around and throwing in action when things are starting to become dull. What I find hard to understand is how so many terrific films are made in less than 2 hours and each Transformers film is around 2 and a half hours and are never able to be barely good. The script is also pretty weak full of lines that don't actually make much sense when you think about them or are simply exposition that the audience could have easily worked out for themselves. An example includes a line that's something like 'the biggest decisions are the ones you make in the moment' - aren't all decisions made in the moment? It's a line that sounds meaningful on the service but is just plain obvious and dumb underneath. There's also another moment where Cade (Wahlberg) is on the phone to his daughter and she says she knows she only has 5 seconds left. Once the phone cuts off, Hound (John Goodman) explains to the audience that this is because the government will be able to listen in - any person who has seen a previous Transformers film knows that this has been covered countless times so Cade's daughters line was enough - we didn't need further explanation. I think that's where The Last Knight and the Transformers films in general falter - they can't decide whether the audience is super clever or super stupid - at times, things are explained very poorly and briefly leaving the audience confused whereas other times, the simplest things are over-explained.
Transformers: The Last Knight is loaded with characters - WAY too many. The central protagonist is still Cade from the fourth instalment who we still barely know anything about. His daughter is out of the picture as she's at college so that actress just literally has to phone-in her performance. Our over-sexualised female lead this time is played by Laura Haddock - Viviane is introduced towards the beginning of the film showcasing her favourite past-time, polo and her job, touring museums. That's all we know about her. Then we are supposed to get excited when it is laughably revealed that she is a descendant of Merlin? That plot twist on paper sounds so stupid, I don't know why anybody thought it was a good idea. I have to say, the objectification was turned down slightly but Viviane is certainly not a good female representation and the Transformers films still continue remain a step behind when it comes to female characters - how can we have the terrific Wonder Woman and the pathetic Viviane in the same month? Viviane is always seen in tight outfits, is a love interest but there are some feminist qualities about her character shoe-horned in which literally do feel tacked on and false. We also have Izabella, with a Z- a pointless character that adds nothing to the plot other than helping us to discover a fallen Transformer. I found it funny how early on in the film Izabella's Transformer 'Canopy' is killed and the audience are supposed to care despite barely being familiar with Izabella, with a Z. The character was definitely an attempt to be X23 meets Rey but she succeeded in being neither. As for the Transformers, Optimus is barely in this one, Bumblebee is still my favourite thing about the franchise even though I didn't like how he now has a voice (but then spoke in radio straight after finding his voice???) and I don't really care about any of the others. Megatron assembles a suicide squad that are simply that - they are killed off within minutes. We also have our first female villain in this universe, Quintessa. She really doesn't have much to do and she's part of an unwatchable mid-credit scene thanks to tedious acting.
Let's face it. There is never going to be a Transformers film with incredible performances. Mark Wahlberg is fine and I genuinely believe he does his best and enjoys making these films - he has said if Bay doesn't return, he won't either. Haddock is pretty poor - I thought she had promise when the character was first introduced by thanks to horrible lines, silly twists and just a one dimensional character - Haddock's amateur abilities could not do anything to make this character memorable. There is a reason no respected female actor has put themselves in a Transformers film - they do not want to play such an awful role. Hailee Steinfeld, an Oscar-nominated actress, is possibly lined up for the Bumblebee spin-off - I hope she doesn't kill her career with this role. Anthony Hopkins is arguably the most credible actor the Transformers series has got to play a live action character and of course, it's a paycheque gig. Hopkins is clearly having fun and not taking the job too seriously. Isabela Moner is ok but her character is definitely shoe-horned in there to appeal to young girls but her character isn't important enough for Moner to make an impression.
What I find hilarious about these films is that they claim any piece of history - landing on the moon, the extinction of dinosaurs and now the King Arthur tale all involved Transformers. I think that's down to Bay's ego - I can see it now, Bay sitting in an office saying 'Wouldn't it be cool if the Transformers were actually part of King Arthur?'. I don't why the Transformers can't simply save the world and always have to be tied to the history of humanity/earth in some way.
Some Transformers films have redeemed themselves slightly with entertaining action sequences - I enjoyed the skyscraper sequence in Dark of the Moon quite a bit. However, there isn't really a memorable action scene in The Last Knight. It's just lots of car chases and explosions that are logically unrealistic - one gun shot does not have the effect that this film portrays it does. The finale sequence is pretty hilarious - at first, I thought they were going to go for Miley Cyrus's Wrecking Ball but instead they payed homage to I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here's Celebrity Cyclone - watching them all fight through wind and obstacles to get to the shard was hilarious. Then when they were thrown back and had to start again and then when it was just Viviane's turn to go the final stretch and she was being thrown around, it was just laughably bad. Oh, and for anyone who wants to see this film because Optimus Prime goes bad - don't pay for that. This isn't list Fast 8 where Dom actually goes bad, Optimus Prime, I mean Nemesis Prime (what a stupid name), makes his appearance for 5 minutes maximum. It was too easy for him to come back around. Finally, finale raised the stakes incredibly high and everything just got out of control. I don't know how the world would recover if something like this occurred - yes, the world has been saved but lots of mass destruction has occurred. With the action sequences, I just turn my brain off because I know they're going to go over the top - there's a group of men sitting something going 'and then this' 'and then this' 'and then this' without actually logically thinking if any of it makes sense. It often does not. The regular action does help to keep the energy high and the film feel slightly more light-hearted.
It can't all be bad? It's not. There are some elements about this film that are undeniably good. For instance, the visual effects - they get better with every instalment (except for the ugly inside of that ugly ship in Age of Extinction). The Transformers somehow become more well realised as the series progresses and the cinematography also looks good. Visually, the Transformers films look stunning but they don't even come close to reaching those heights in any other area. From watching them all, I've also noticed that Bay loves a sunset shot - expect more here. I hate to admit it but I did not have a horrible time watching this film - I enjoyed some of it for its silliness which just made it all-the-more light-hearted. It's one of those so bad its good. The only Transformers film that I found truly obnoxious and unwatchable was Age of Extinction. The Last Knight didn't have to do much to surpass that. At times, the film manage to slip into the dumb but fun category - often just dumb but occasionally fun. What I don't like is how some people give these films a pass simply because they have become pronounced as a 'turn your brain off' franchise - that shouldn't be ok as some films are torn apart for being stupid and sloppy. Stop the double standards. Transformers: The Last Knight may have fun and stupid moments but let's admit that it is a sloppily made, overly complicated film that is an embarrassment to the whole idea of filmmaking.
Transformers: The Last Knight is a middle-of-the-road film...on the Transformers spectrum. On the spectrum of films in general, it falls well into the bottom half - this is a poorly made flick that I doubt has had much thought and craftsmanship go into it. Bay says this is last and I truly hope it is. The visual effects are masterful and the action sequences look epic but logically, they don't make sense and go way out of control and are unfixable (but the film still manages to fix them). There are too many characters which means other than Wahlberg, they all cancel each other out. The performances range from bad to fine and story is convoluted but one of the easier Transformers stories to follow. There are many laughably bad moments and my score is definitely higher than it should be because there are times where The Last Knight is just so bad that it's kind of good.