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MOVIES: Transformers: The Last Knight - Review: "A Gigantic Mess Unworthy of Your Attention"

23 Jun 2017

Minor Spoiler Warning. I've done my best to keep this as spoiler free as possible apart from what has already been revealed in the trailers. But if you want to go in completely spoiler free, proceed with caution.

What happens when you put The Da Vinci Code, Transformers, a bit of Inglourious Basterds and Stranger Things into a blender and give it to Michael Bay to direct? The result is something like Transformers: The Last Knight, where it is clear that over its two hour and thirty minute runtime, about as long as the Ultimate Edition of Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, not once did anyone stop to tell Bay no. Whilst the reigning in of Bay by Spielberg in the first Transformers movie helped it become the most accessible of the series that it was, Bay is unleashed into full Bayhem mode here and holds nothing back, putting directors like Roland Emmerich to shame in showing just how much destruction he is capable of unleashing on the world at large.

There is so much going on here it's hard to keep track. In the first fifteen minutes we find out that Transformers have been around since the days of King Arthur and Merlin, and Merlin himself was not the great wizard everyone believes he was but a drunkard who happened upon a Transformer. There's a full scale medieval battle sequence that goes into pure, unconstrained action to kick things off and for once it actually left me wondering whether Bay should consider directing a medieval war epic at some point during his career. It would be wildly innacurate no doubt, but the action here certainly lives up to the intensity of the fight sequences that we've had from films like Gladiator in the past. His action sequences always look nothing short of spectacular, so if you're here for the action alone, you'll probably enjoy this film. It's when we start to look beyond the action that the problems start to come into play, and as a result, the film never really takes off because of it.

Transformers: The Last Knight goes through multiple plots that don't slow down. Bay moves from one plot to the next every five minutes giving them little time to breath. We start off with a group of kids breaking into a no-go zone in a very Stranger Things-style opening, and we are quickly introduced to both Mark Wahlberg's returning Cade Yaeger (who's an inventor! Something that the film will always do its best to remind you of, just like the last one did), and franchise newcomer Isabela Moner, whose family were killed by a decepticon and she lives alone, a survivor unwilling to leave home. Here, her character Izabella is a streetwise tomboy mechanic who is clearly influenced by a combination of Rey from Star Wars and X-23 from Logan, but never really feels as memorable or as well developed as either of those two. She's much more annoying too, as Bay can't escape the problem of annoying kids that so many directors have struggled to overcome. Wahlberg's returning presence is felt, but ultimately, his character still remains bland, generic and as shallowly developed as he did the first time around.

The other three major human players here are Josh Duhamel's returning William Lennox, the standard tough-guy military soldier who Bay likes to use so often in his movies and has by now, appeared in most of the films. In this one he's a U.S. Military Colonel and an unwilling member of the Transformers Reaction Force (TRF), which was set up to reign in Transformers, Decepticons and Autobots alike. As we spend a significant time in England in this film, we are also introduced to characters like Viviane Wembley, Laura Haddock's generic, objectified female lead who never really makes an impression, and the only one really here who is vaguely tolerable is Anthony Hopkins, who clearly knows what sort of movie he's in, playing an eccentric historian Edmund Burton, who is basically there to spout exposition and nothing else. Props to you if you manage to remember the names of both of these new characters by the end of the movie, because I recently saw this film a few hours ago and had to look up who they were on IMDB when writing this review, something which I normally don't have a problem with. The cast is so huge that no one character really shines in particular, and as a result the many arcs on display are juggled and not one is pulled off successfully.

The Transformers themselves too, are pushed to the wayside for the most part with the main focus on the humans, like it's always been in these movies. At the end of the last movie Optimus Prime was headed into space and it looks like he went to the Fate of the Furious school of movie betrayals, because much like Vin Diesel in that film, he's turned against the Autobots. But will the film care that much to flesh out that plotline? No. It's given about as much thought as all the others, which is zero. There's nothing here with any substance, and the script is as usual, absolutely terrible. There are so many unintentionally funny moments that the parts that are meant to be funny end up not working at all. It's clear no thought was put into making the script, and with three people attached, Art Marcum, Matt Holloway and Ken Nolan to write the screenplay itself with Akiva Goldsman joining them for the story, you'd have to think that between them, they could have came up with better dialogue and more likeable characters than what we had here.

Hell, the betrayal in The Fate of the Furious is handled with more depth, which is saying something. Everything about this movie feels shallow and it was clearly made without any heart at all. Whilst the action sequences are nothing short of amazing with a clear spectacle in mind - so if you are going to see it at the cinema regardless of what this review says, you might as well see it on the biggest screen possible. But if you're on the fence about seeing it or not there are smarter, better blockbuster movies out this year that deserve a look. I even enjoyed King Arthur: Legend of the Sword more than this movie - it certainly has a better grip on Arthurian legend at least - but there's also excellent movies like Wonder Woman and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 that have come out this Summer too, and with Edgar Wright's Baby Driver on its way as well which looks set to be a hit, so go and see those and avoid this one. At the end of the day, despite some badass action scenes, when you can't remember a single line of dialogue or a single character's name come the end of the movie, it's time to take your franchise in a different direction.

Michael Bay has said that The Last Knight is his last movie in the franchise, and let's hope that unlike the last two movies, he actually means it this time. The time has come for new blood, and armed with a competent director and a good script, as well as a fresh reboot, there is a slim chance that this franchise could still be salvaged yet. The one thing that they need to keep however is Steve Jablonsky's awesome score, which as usual, is by far and away the best thing about the franchise so far.

What did you think of Transformers: The Last Knight? Did you enjoy it more than I did? Let me know in the comments below.

About the Author - Milo MJ
Milo is an Arsenal FC supporter and loves TV shows like Battlestar Galactica, Justified, Black Sails, The Americans and Person of Interest. He reviews Preacher, The Mist, Star Wars Rebels, Silicon Valley and Veep for Spoiler TV and will be covering Castle Rock, Counterpart, Krypton, Marvel's New Warriors, Rise, Marvel's Runaways, Snowfall, Succession, Star Trek Discovery, and Trust. He also contributes to comic reviews on a weekly basis for All-Comic. He also regularly watches and reviews films on Letterboxd, and you can find his ever-changing list of 300 favourite movies here.
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