Transformers: The Last Knight (2017)
Directed by Michael Bay
The whole point of the Transformers franchise is simple, straightforward, entertainment based on giant, transforming robots. So let's not even get into all of the minutia around the product placement.
Following the events of Age of Extinction, Optimus Prime arrives at Cybertron in search of his creators, but is captured by them. Back on Earth, all Transformers are declared illegal and the Chicago area has been quarantined because of Transformer activity. Cade is still helping and protecting the Autobots, but during an excursion into Chicago he runs afoul of the new anti-Transformer task force, the TRF. After getting away he finds that a special medallion from the dark ages has followed him from the city, marking him. This medallion signals the beginning of the end, and Cybertron begins making it's way to Earth, intent on using the planet's core to reenergize itself.
Why do the stakes always have to be the destruction of Earth? In each film, Megatron has conspired to destroy the Earth or eradicate humanity in some way. The stories have ranged from the patently simple in Transformers to the incredibly complicated, as in Age of Extinction, and with each successive film the writing has gotten worse, the action less gripping, and the atmosphere more ridiculous. But The Last Knight is the first film that's been boring and laughably forgettable.
It's become evident as the franchise has continued that Michael Bay has begun to barely care about the movies he brought to life. He once put a huge amount of work into the authenticity of the look and feel and even the acting and characterizations. But that work is gone. The Last Knight feels like a jumbled mess and looks like it too. It could've been a simple, straightforward story with intrigue and action but its bogged down by uncomfortable dialogue, forced characterizations, wasted buildup... in general, the story is convoluted and unnecessarily complex. The basic idea makes a certain amount of sense but its like the producers felt it was too simple and kept adding more.
The result is horrendously wasted potential. Let me give you an example. The Cybertronians are led by a "sorceress" named Quintessa, who claims to be Optimus' creator, and she effectively brainwashes Optimus, flipping him to her side. Optimus acts on her behalf, turning against Cade and the Autobots, attacking them. Within minutes, as soon as he hears Bee's voice, the brainwashing is undone and he's back to normal. Why include the brainwashing at all? It doesn't serve the story in any way. The movie is filled with these inconsequential, pointless narrative additions that only make the story unnecessarily complex and difficult to follow.
Similarly, the acting and characters feel like pointless additions. They rarely add anything to the movie and often feel like annoying, unrealistic caricatures. The dialogue is too forced, like it's trying to be relatable to the youth, but the result is irritation; 10-year-olds talking like adults, everyone having the same sense of humor, people saying, "Dude," and, "Bro," for some reason. The franchise seems to be becoming characterized by this, with some people disappearing or returning for pointless cameos and being replaced by other annoying characters, like the turnstile of pretty girls. I can't even say that it feels like the actors did their jobs because none of them brought any life to their characters. It's a far cry from the chemistry the previous casts shared.
With each successive film the CG gets better and better at the cost of recognizability. The main characters are only memorable because of their bright colors; Bumblebee is so difficult to recognize when he's not yellow they had to give him a warhammer, a unique weapon no other Transformer has, just to create the connection. The rest of the Transformers are walking, driving amalgamations of gray and black. Even though many of them, like the historic Knights of old, are supposed to be important pieces of the story, they practically play no part.
Besides the impressive CG, the rest of the photography is more of Bay's signature Dutch angles and gratuitous slow-mo.
One of the best things about previous entries has been the culmination into climactic action sequences, featuring dramatic, explosive fights and epitomized robot violence. But here, gone is the measured pacing and slow buildup that rises to a gripping, adrenaline pumping fight. Instead, The Last Knight is of singular focus: drama; and because of that singular focus they've utterly failed. Throughout the movie there's no change in mood or tempo; every scene features dramatic, climactic music and within the first 10 minutes there's already painfully forced crying over a death. Every conversation, speech, revelation, and interaction is supposed to be epic, but its exactly because of that that none of them hit the mark. The movie's at the same, dramatic level throughout the film and when we finally reach the climax it doesn't feel climactic, it feels like more rising action leading up to something bigger. Then the movie ends.
If the Transformers franchise is going to succeed, any future film will require a story of smaller scope. The constant one-upping is tiring out the franchise. The first film had a few dozen deaths; the second film had a few thousand; the third had tens of thousands; the fourth had hundreds of thousands; The Last Knight has several million. Somehow, despite these massive death tolls there are very few deaths of consequence, and the few there are don't last.
Ultimately, what it comes down to is that, for the first time, our nostalgic robot-fighting franchise is boring, tired, unfunny, unmemorable, and so much worse. The Last Knight is too forceful and heavy-handed; the comic relief is shoved and unnatural; the story is shunted aside in favor of never-ending melodrama; the fights are unexpectedly conversational.
There's nothing of note here.
TL;DR: I really wanted to like this movie. Similar to the Fast and Furious franchise, I love the pure, unadulterated action, the fun characters, and the simple stories that let us focus on the giant robots. But, again like Fast and Furious, I'm disappointed by this newest movie. The Last Knight officially takes itself too seriously, tries to be something beyond what the franchise is capable of. Instead of fun action, it tries to be a suspenseful, sci-fi, adventure flick with a convoluted plot that steals imagery from James Cameron's Avatar.
- Acting – 10 / 20
- Story – 5 / 20
- Cinematography – 5 / 20
- Soundtrack – 4 / 10
- Entertainment Factor – 5 / 10
- Sci-Fi/Action – 6 / 10
- Other – 0 / 10