TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT review

If it makes money, why fix it?

The fact that this is the fifth movie in this franchise shows that far too many people aren’t demanding better, making this question more and more relevant to movie-goers. Why are you Transformers lovers paying for this crap? How can you stand watching the same movie over and over?

Alright, how familiar am I with the Transformers franchise? Well, to be honest, not as much as most of my peers. To clarify, I’m talking about the original cartoon back in the 80s. I never watched it. To be fair, I was born in 1989. Already, the TV show had run its course and the movie was almost old news. And no, I didn’t grow up watching re-runs. I did, however, watch the 2001 cartoon TRANSFORMERS: ROBOTS IN DISGUISE. That was how I got into the franchise. I think I got into another iteration after ROBOTS – ARMADA, I think it was called – but then I drifted away from the cartoons, despite the many reboots.

Of course, this review is about the live-action films. So what do I think of them? TRANSFORMERS (2007) was awesome. Was it a dumb action sci-fi movie? Sure, but it was a ton of fun and it gave us exactly what we wanted to see: big ass robots fighting big ass robots with some awesome action scenes, original Optimus Prime voice actor Peter Cullen returns to voice his iconic character, Shia Labeouf was tolerable as an actor, Megan Fox was… damn (in a good way), the effects were downright groundbreaking, it was a cool-ass film.

But then REVENGE OF THE FALLEN (2009) happened. If I remember correctly, that movie grossed the second highest of any movie that year and for understandable reasons. It was coming off the heels of the first film, which was popular as shit. Everyone wanted to see the sequel. We regret that. I don’t know a single person that actually thought it was good or even okay. It was a straight-up bad movie. It was horribly unfunny, characters were remarkably annoying, Fox was atrociously exploited, and it didn’t show anything new. Hell, half way through the film, they kill off Optimus Prime only to bring him back at the end. I know a lot of people will cry out against its racially insensitive characters, but I didn’t catch on to that stuff. I simply looked at it like they were unfunny “hip” characters that are obviously not “hip.” It was a messy film that relied too much on bad comedy.

DARK OF THE MOON (2011). I maintain that this was a slightly better film than REVENGE, but it’s still not that great a movie, mostly because it’s pretty forgettable. In fact, it’s more of the behind-the-scenes stuff that got the most buzz. Fox compared Michael Bay to Hitler, so she was fired and replaced by the equally gorgeous, but less talented Rosie Huntington-Whiteley (just wait for MAD MAX: FURY ROAD [2015] and all will eventually be forgiven). It was her first real acting gig, so she’s by no means the reason this movie wasn’t good. Hell, even the bad comedy isn’t memorable because we had enough of that to overload the internet from the last movie. All I remember is that it’s only a little better.

Finally, we have the infamous AGE OF EXTINCTION (2014). As it turns out, taking a three year hiatus, as opposed to their traditional two, did little to give the creators of these things time to develop a good idea because this movie is arguably the worst of the franchise. On paper, it might look like they were trying to revitalize the films. Kicking LaBeouf to the wayside and replacing him with the significantly more talented and likable Mark Wahlberg, and including the admittedly awesome-looking dinobots, this probably should have been the most passable installment since the first. Boy howdy, it sure wasn’t. Each of the films have certainly been long, around the two and a half hour mark, the first film at least earned its runtime by being awesome and exciting. None of the other films have an excuse. And this film, clocking in at fifteen minutes shy of a three hour film is the greatest offender. For a movie as long as it was, I literally remember even less than the third film. Wahlberg had a gun/sword, the boyfriend was annoying as hell, and… that’s it. What else was worth remembering? Oh, maybe the ending where Prime is off into space declaring his hunting of other Decepticons or whatever.

Now we have this thing. I don’t think it looks like it’s going to change people’s minds. Early reviews painted this movie as the worst of the franchise, which… wow, I can’t imagine that. Or… maybe I can. From what I hear, the negative reviews are totally warranted. Somehow, this franchise worked in Merlin the Wizard. Yeah, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table Merlin. That Merlin. There’s posters showing Bumblebee killing Nazis, and Christ, what is with these movies trying to rewrite history like this?! It’s a load of horse shit and totally not needed! Whatever. The worse the ideas get, the more likely this franchise will implode, fail, and then get rebooted five years later with a brand new team and maybe we’ll get a good new franchise that knows how to take care of itself. So maybe that’s how we should look at these movies. They’re getting worse, and that’s a good thing.

Well, here’s the cast. Starring, we have Mark Wahlberg (PATRIOTS DAY [2016], THE GAMBLER [2015], PAIN & GAIN [2013], and the upcoming DADDY’S HOME 2 [2017]), Optimus Prime voice veteran, Peter Cullen (THE TIGGER MOVIE [2000], and TV shows TRANSFOMERS: RESCUE BOTS and CHIP ‘N’ DALE RESCUE RANGERS), Anthony Hopkins (COLLIDE [2016], THOR [2011], THE MASK OF ZORRO [1998], and the upcoming THOR: RAGNAROK [2017]), and Isabela Moner (MIDDLE SCHOOL [2016], a bunch of Nickelodeon shows, and the upcoming THE NUT JOB 2: NUTTY BY NATURE [2017]). In support, on the human side, we have Josh Duhamel (CHIPS [2017], WIN A DATE WITH TAD HAMILTON! [2004], and TV show FANBOY AND CHUM CHUM), Laura Haddock (GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 [2017] and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY [2014]), Stanley Tucci (BEAUTY AND THE BEAST [2017], THE HUNGER GAMES [2012], and AMERICA’S SWEETHEARTS [2001]), and John Turturro (HANDS OF STONE [2016], MR. DEEDS [2002], and THE BIG LEBOWSKI [1998]). On the voice-over side, we have John Goodman (KONG: SKULL ISLAND [2017], 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE [2016], PARANORMAN [2012], and the upcoming ATOMIC BLONDE [2017], and TV revival ROSANNE [2018]), Ken Watanabe (GODZILLA [2014], INCEPTION [2010], LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA [2006], and the upcoming GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS [2019]), Steve Buscemi (THE BOSS BABY [2017], HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA [2012], and FINAL FANTASY: THE SPIRITS WITHIN [2001]), Omar Sy (BURNT [2015], X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST [2014], and THE INTOUCHABLES [2011]), and John DiMaggio (BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE [2016], video game GEARS OF WAR [2006], TV show FUTURAMA, and upcoming animated film BATMAN AND HARLEY QUINN [2017] and video game CRASH BANDICOOT N. SANE TRILOGY [2017]).

Now for behind the scenes. Directing is Michael Bay, known for 13 HOURS (2016), ARMAGEDDON (1998), and THE ROCK (1996). RED FLAG!!! Three writers: Art Marcum and Matt Holloway (PUNISHER: WAR ZONE [2008] and IRON MAN [2008]), and Ken Nolan (BLACK HAWK DOWN [2001]), and all three are slated for Transformers 7 (2019) and Transformers 8 (unannounced release year). Composing the score is Steve Jablonsky, known for DEEPWATER HORIZON (2016), THE LAST WITCH HUNTER (2015), and THE HITCHER (2007). Finally, the cinematographer is Jonathan Sela, known for JOHN WICK (2014), MAX PAYNE (2008), THE OMEN (2006), and upcoming films ATOMIC BLONDE (2017) and DEADPOOL 2 (2018).

Overall, I’m eager to see how stupid this movie gets. So far, it’s already grossed a franchise-low at the box office, so it stands to reason that these movies won’t be around much longer. One can only hope.

This is my honest opinion for: TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT

(SUMMARY)

The US government has declared war on all Transformers, Autobots and Decepticons. Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) hasn’t been heard of since he ventured into space to search for his maker. Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) is in hiding with the Autobots as the government hounds for him. In the process, he’s taken on a young teen girl named Izabela (Isabela Moner), who has a knack for fixing machines, including Transformers. Things get even more complicated when Sir Edmund Burton (Anthony Hopkins) realizes that the remains of the dying planet of Cybertron, the Transformer homeworld, is coming to consume Earth, and an ancient relic from a thousand years ago has chosen Cade to help prevent Earth’s destruction with the help of Oxford Professor Vivian Wembley (Laura Haddock).

(REVIEW)

Yup, it’s as bad as it’s anticipated to be.

I think it’s actually really important to give something away as a public service announcement. It’s not a spoiler, so don’t worry. It’s likely that you’ve seen the trailers or TV spots, so we all know the marketing surrounds Optimus Prime as the bad guy throughout. Yeah, this is a big freakin’ deception. What do I mean? I mean he’s absent for most of the run time. In two and a half hours, he has maybe two or three scenes in the first hour that last two to five minutes each and is gone until the final half hour where he does all his “bad guy” stuff… which probably doesn’t last more than fifteen minutes. Yeah, not even kidding. The main selling point of this thing isn’t even the God-damned focus.

So… what’s left? Well, nothing interesting. In fact, this thing ranges from being remarkably boring to bizarrely stupid, taking the stupidity of this franchise to a whole new level. Remember when I said that they worked in Merlin the Wizard into this movie? Yeah, this wasn’t some kind of joke. Merlin isn’t some crazy metaphor of some historical figure. No, it’s actually far worse. Merlin was a real dude. He’s played by a bearded and thoroughly unrecognizable Tucci, and is a drunken weirdo who found some lone Transformers that crashed on Earth 1,000 years prior to the events of the story and they grant him a staff that grants him powers, sort of. Merlin isn’t a magical being in this. At least, it’s not clearly established that he is. If I were to hazard a guess, the movie is trying to establish that Merlin was indeed a real person and his “magic” was just Transformer technology, which would be perceived as magic in the dark ages. But… by heavenly Jesus, why? None of this backstory is necessary. The runtime is already two and half hours and much of that could be trimmed down just by getting rid of useless mythos.

Speaking of useless mythos, this movie is beyond impossible to follow. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say that it gets unbearably complicated. So, Optimus somehow gets injured in space and finds his dying home of Cybertron. There, he meets his maker Quintessa (Gemma Chan), who says that the staff can save Cybertron. This staff is apparently inside a gigantic, semi-living, ancient Transformer ship called Unicron and combining Cybertron with this thing, it will save Cybertron, but destroy all life on Earth. 1,000 years ago, Merlin was given a staff by the Transformers that came there at that time, twelve total, and upon his death, he was buried with the staff. I still have no idea what the Wicwicca bloodline is, other than it would later be called Wickwicky, which is the name of Lebeouf’s character in the first three films, and they’ve been the ones that have kept the whole “Transformers have been here for a long time” a secret from the world. Seriously, that seems like a pretty tough feat to accomplish because they’ve clearly been cropping up since the Dark Ages in paintings. Any eagle-eyed historian would have noticed something when the Transformers arrived… again… in the first film. Not to mention there’s the whole, “Bumblebee fought the Nazis” bullshit. That was in the 1940’s! Records would have existed about giant robots slaughtering Nazis. And of course, there’s how f**king stupid Vivian is. She’s this curator for a museum, or whatever, and dismisses the King Arthur stuff as mere legends, even though in a painting, there’s a clear depiction of a TRANSFORMERS DRAGON RIGHT THERE!!! How the hell does someone miss that shit?! Maybe the “magic” angle is nonsense, even in this universe, but there has to be something worth looking into when realizing that Transformers have made their way into 1,000 year old art. It’s beyond moronic that this isn’t addressed.

I know I was prattling there, but this is just what was coming out at the time. There’s probably a shit-load more to talk about and how many plot holes there are, but I haven’t the energy to try and list them all. I was tired just from the paragraph above. And that’s what the experience of watching this is: your brain gets so overloaded with complexities that eventually your mind overheats and you stop giving a shit. Oh, Cade’s been chosen by an ancient Transformer knight to… do I have no idea what, but it allows him to summon a sword and grants him super strength to block an attack from a big Transformer with its own sword. Yeah, that happens. Do you feel like you’re getting stupider just reading this? Try watching it. It’s a mental endurance test unlike any I’ve experienced in recent memory, at least from a genre that shouldn’t be that hard to entertain me with.

Ugh, what else should I say? I usually don’t mind Duhamel as an actor, but I feel like Lennox is so bland and useless in this movie that he could have been switched out with any actor and the role would have been fine. His ferocity and bad-assery from the first film has never been recaptured. Not his fault, but I wish the writers weren’t concerned with fan-service and learned how to properly develop characters. Alongside him with useless characters are Izabella, Jimmy (Jerrod Carmichael), and Buscemi as Daytrader, who is a horrible choice to voice the design of the character. I love Buscemi, but he could never voice a character that looks like a gruff, over-weight, bearded trader. It’s distracting as hell. Thankfully, it doesn’t last long. Also, the dinobots get pushed to the wayside pretty early on with no mention for where they were in the climax of the film. The baby dinobots were painful “cute pandering.” Admittedly, I want one, but they’re obvious emotional manipulation. Plus, they don’t stick around in the film long. Haddock gets brutally saddled with a ton of sexist scenes involving women only talking about being with men and how she can’t be a real woman if she doesn’t have one by her side. We also have that dumb-shit cliché where Vivian and Cade don’t get along at first but the audience knows they’ll hook up by the end. By god… the more I think about all this, the more my head hurts.

Is there anything redeeming about this movie? Nothing that truly saves it. Wahlberg is passable. Hopkins is kind of enjoyably hokey and zero-shits-given about his performance. Maybe the climax is a little different than what we’ve seen with some big-scale visuals. While it’s clear that this movie is more of the same, it’s more of the same in all the wrong places too. It’d be one thing if it was just boring action and useless characters with wasted actors, but there’s still a plethora of groan-worthy humor, sexism, stupid mythology additions, and marketing that lies to your damned face, barely delivering on its promised premise to the point the movie basically doesn’t. “More of the same” shouldn’t give this movie a pass. We should know what we’re getting ourselves into, but if we can predict all these horrible tropes that have become all too familiar with these things, then this shouldn’t be a shrug followed by a “whatever.” This should be the final straw in which audiences don’t see them. With good franchises going strong with better stories and characters, Transformers should be fizzling out now. I urge audiences to not see it. Or, if you have to, and I can’t believe I’m actually suggesting this, don’t pay for this. Sneak in to the auditorium, but don’t give Bay, his writing team, or the studios that greenlight these projects your hard earned money.

My honest rating for TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT: 1/5

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