|Transformers: The Last Knight
** (see below notation)
TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT shatters the core myths of the TRANSFORMERS franchise, and redefines what it means to be a hero. 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. Saving our world falls upon the shoulders of an unlikely alliance: Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg); BUMBLEBEE; an English Lord (Sir Anthony Hopkins); and an Oxford Professor (Laura Haddock). There comes a moment in everyone’s life when we are called upon to make a difference. In TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT, the hunted will become heroes. Heroes will become villains. Only one world will survive: theirs, or ours. (from Paramount Pictures)
It’s hard to believe it’s been a decade since Michael Bay defied all odds and brought the popular 80s toys and cartoon series The Transformers to life in a live action film on the big screen. The movie ended up actually being pretty good (despite its flaws, which were mostly in the content department), and it wasn’t long before a sequel had been greenlit (and the production actually visited our hometown). However, the 10 past years have spawned a total of five films, and one could argue that the quality of the films has steadily declined since its humble beginnings. Bigger does not always mean better, but Bay doesn’t know any other way, and despite the films continuing to grow in incoherence and spectacle, they still manage to fill theater seats and make a ridiculous amount of money. After 2014’s Age of Extinction, which introduced the beloved Dinobots in a disappointing way, Paramount Pictures assembled a writers’ room to get to work on planning out the future of Transformers on the big screen. While the result could go either way (a collection of creative minds or “too many cooks in the kitchen”), as a fan of the original 80’s series, it was too tempting to not at least be somewhat optimistic.
Even from the first Transformers entry in 2007, Michael Bay made it public that his movies wouldn’t be for kids, using the excuse that the fanbase was grown up now. A truly awkward masturbation joke was just one of the many things about the content of the first film that made it inappropriate for younger viewers. Unfortunately, it has only gotten worse with each movie, with Revenge of the Fallen being the first in the series to start even featuring the “F” word. The first film included bouts of humor to keep it fun and light, but the sequels have largely featured hit-and-miss attempts at humor, with the latest films leaning more heavily on the latter. This fifth film, The Last Knight, relentlessly tries to be funny, failing time and time again, to the point where the jokes illicit eye rolls and groans instead of laughs (honestly, I don’t think I laughed more than maybe once at the film’s many attempts at humor).
As someone who grew up with the original TV series and action figures, I enjoyed the 2007 film for what it accomplished and found myself making excuses for the sequels that followed, usually enjoying them on my first viewing or two before becoming increasingly frustrated with aspects about them — usually content, annoying side characters, and nonsensical “storytelling” — with subsequent viewings. The Last Knight is the very first time I’ve hated a Transformers film from the first viewing. The movie opens unnecessarily during the time of knights, putting us on the battlefield with King Arthur. Age of Extinction placed dinosaur-type Transformers on the earth, but while that seemed relatively excusable as they were lying dormant for centuries, The Last Knight wants us to believe that Transformers helped out the knights and the Witwicky bloodline has been some kind of chosen guardians of the Transformers for eons — including many known historical figures? Furthermore, a flashback places Bumblebee in Germany fighting Nazis in WWII. (Yes, you read that correctly.) Didn’t the first film make it clear that Transformers were a secret? It’s rather high profile for Bumblebee to be out in the open attacking the Germans – alongside other Transformers. And upon watching a behind-the-scenes featurette that addresses the film’s writers’ room, we learn that one writer proposed setting the entire film in the time of the knights while another suggested setting the film during WWII. Clearly someone simply said “Wait, wait, I got it! Let’s do both! AND set it in modern times!” This thing is a mess, folks. The first Transformers film had this sense of reality to it, where a teenage boy stumbles upon them and is thrown into the middle of an Autobot and Decepticon war on Earth. It felt gritty and tangible. This newer “they’ve always been here” idea just keeps getting crazier and crazier. Revenge of the Fallen suggested they were in the pyramids. Dark of the Moon insists they were on our moon. Age of Extinction has them dating as far back as the dinosaurs. Each attempt to expand on their history seems sillier and more far-fetched than before.
But the utter mess of the film doesn’t end there. In Revenge of the Fallen, a defeated Megatron was resurrected using the parts of other Decepticons. At the end of Dark of the Moon, Optimus beheads the famous villain, and in Age of Extinction, his head is used to make new Transformers type tech and a villain called Galvatron. Suddenly, in The Last Knight, Megatron is alive and well. This isn’t addressed AT ALL. There’s no explanation given to him being alive again. While I love Megatron – and the fact the Frank Welker returns from the original cartoon series to voice him here — it just makes no sense. The film also brings back the annoying Wheels, who presumably died in an aircraft crash in Dark of the Moon. Heck, Barricade, who seemed to die early in the first film, then is shown driving at the end of that film to the climactic battle and then is never actually seen again, just randomly shows up again here. Where has he been for three films? Who knows. I wonder how many times “Who cares? It’s just a movie” was said in that writers’ room. Bay’s unstoppable hubris is on full display here, and it’s insulting.
Incomprehensible decisions are made all throughout the entire film. Hot Rod – who replaced Optimus Prime in the 1986 animated film and became Rodimus Prime – appears here as a French-speaking sports car. New Decepticons are introduced as incarcerated outlaws (in a goofy, over-the-top role call kind of way) and are dismissed almost as quickly. Grimlock and the Dinobots are just used as junkyard dogs for their on-screen time and Bumblebee has a stupid new ability where he can fall to pieces and pull himself back together again… which makes no sense whatsoever. And I’m still trying to figure out what part John Turturro’s Agent Simmons actually played in the film’s story (He seems to have mostly, quite literally, phoned it in). This film just feels as shoddily made as it can conceivably get. When some kids sneak into a war-torn stadium to gawk at the destruction, there are tiny little debris fires all over the place, yet the action clearly took place long before the kids arrived. (Again, Bay’s hubris.) There really seems to be no rhyme or reason to so much that happens in this film — oh, and all of a sudden, when Cybertron starts entering Earth’s atmosphere (again), it’s got green, grassy, mountainous terrain… when it previously (and understandably) was only made of metal. When they reveal in the behind-the-scenes that they decided to add the terrain this time and shoot it in Iceland, it just seems like a “just because we wanted to” production choice than anything else. Oh, and apparently now Earth is, and always has been, Unicron, so there’s that mess to process too. In a time in Hollywood when we can watch a very well-thought-out cinematic universe like Marvel coming together nicely with each succeeding film, it makes the haphazard mess that is the Transformers series seem all that more lazy, careless, and just plain sad. Paramount just needs to take this series away from Michael Bay, wipe it clean and start over. Please.
If you’re concerned about the silly plot hype about Optimus Prime being bad during this film, I was surprised at how it was handled. (I had been ready to skip the film entirely just at the thought of turning our beloved hero into a villain.) He’s shown early on landing on Cybertron, being brainwashed, and then… nothing. He disappears for most of the film. Also, the advertised fight between Prime and Bee is not only short, but it has a resolution about as cheesy and corny as the one between Batman and Superman in last year’s superhero bro-down. The hype about an evil Optimus Prime was a turn-off for me, but it actually has very, very little to do with the plot. They thankfully don’t go overboard with it–the film isn’t even all that dark–and the resolution to the fight won’t ruin anyone’s childhood. One more thing the film really suffers from is a lack of emotion. I love Optimus Prime, and have since I was about 4 years old, and I actually found myself not caring too much about his fate when things briefly looked bleak. That, my friends, is terrible storytelling and filmmaking if you can get me to not care anymore.
The content is what you can expect from these films… sadly. However, coupling the messiness of the plot with the usual offensive content just makes it seem even more like Michael Bay just doesn’t care about anyone but himself anymore. There is close to 40 uses of the “S” word, for starters, and the sexually suggestive content is even more ridiculous than usual — and feels all the more shoehorned into the film. In one scene, Cade and Vivian are trashing a room looking for something, and busybody women are listening downstairs thinking the two are going at it physically above them (with them saying some phrases that could be taken that way out of context). Then there’s a painfully acted scene where a parasitic talisman crawls around Cade’s muscular torso and slides down the front of his pants, which flusters Vivian and she actually offers to take a look at it. (I can’t make this stuff up, folks.) Lastly, there’s plenty of violence, mostly involving robots, but the opening scene with the knights battle is rather violent, with some bloody faces and clothes.
I can’t express enough how disappointing this film is — mostly because the Transformers deserve a much, much better film than this. I know it’s possible. Michael Bay clearly only cares about what he wants and what he likes and doesn’t care about fans or families. I’ve been hoping with each film that it would be his last, and after five entries, I surely hope this is the last time out for Bay. I’m waving the white flag. Please Paramount, we’ve had enough.
– John DiBiase (reviewed: 9/22/17)
Blu-Ray Special Features Review
Transformers: The Last Knight is available in a 3D Blu-Ray/2-Disc 2D Blu-Ray/Digtial combo pack, a 3-disc Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital combo pack, DVD, and a 4K Ultra HD release with a Blu-Ray disc and digital copy, as well as separately through the usual digital movie providers. The regular Blu-Ray disc is chock-full with the following features, but they’re all on a second, bonus disc:Blu-Ray Disc 2
Climbing the Ranks (8:48) is about Josh Duhamel returning to the film and how his character of Lennox had ranked up from from Lt. Colonel to Colonel. They also talk about real life SEAL team members and military who worked on this production — and the new anti-Transformer task force called “TRF” (Transformer Reaction Force). (1 “bad a**”)
The Royal Treatment: Transformers in the U.K. (27:04) is all about taking the production to England for a segment of this film. It focuses on a car chase on the streets of London, filming a polo match, real-life castles, and filming in Stone Henge. (2 “S” words, 1 “a” word)
Motors and Magic (14:47) – This is a role call of Autobots and the changes in the characters’ designs. They talk about updating some of the characters’ designs, ike Crosshairs and Drift, introducing Cogman, and how new character Sqweeks was the first Transformer to be created practically for this film. They also talk about new character Day Trader, bringing back Barricade and Megatron, and a new character called Mohawk.
Alien Landscape: Cybertron (7:15) is about designing the new Transformers villain Quintessa and taking the production to Iceland to be used for the surface of Cybertron.
One More Giant Effin’ Movie (6:45) – This is a montage of filming action scenes and moments. Sadly, all of these special features proved to be better than the actual movie. (There are some “S” words here and LOTS of bleeped “F” words.)
– John DiBiase, (reviewed: 9/24/17)
Parental Guide: Brief Summary of Content
Sex/Nudity: Some women harass Vivian about finding a mate. They say they can help her find a man or a woman, and say “woman seeking woman;” Cade and Vivian argue, and he calls the dress she’s wearing “a stripper dress.” In response, she offers to take it off; Some characters tease Cade about the last time he made “whoopee” and he says “maybe I’m saving myself;” Cade and Vivian tear apart a room looking for something. Women downstairs from this room hear the banging and some of Cade and Vivian’s dialog taken out of context and think the two are having sex (even though they pretty much just met), but nothing of the sort is happening; Cogman says to Burton, “Agnes called and asked if you were in the mood for a snuggle;” Cogsman sees Vivian and Cade laying on top of each other after they fall and land that way and he tells them “no, there is a time and a place;” Cade lifts up his shirt (revealing his muscular torso) when Vivian walks in. A parasitic talisman crawls around Cade’s torso and slides down the front of his pants, which flusters Vivian and she offers to take a look at it.