26 March 2017

Transformers: The Last Knight, Bastion of Feminism

We need to discuss some trailers again. Normally we'd wait until the actual release date of these films to rip apart their cultural standing, and I've never been one to really care about hype or news, but there seems to be a weird gap here we need to discuss. While most of the Internet points their eyes towards Justice League (2017), which I could give or take (although this is clearly the Year of Jason Mamoa), there is another prominent trailer out there that is mystifying to me. That of course is Transformers: The Last Knight (2017):

This blog's history with Michael Bay's Transformers franchise is long and storied. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009) was the first film ever reviewed here, which is all kinds of insane. Needless to say, there is a strong love-hate relationship there. Each of these films are unambiguously awful, but Bay really does bad cinema better than any other terrible director out there. I'd watch Bay over Emmerich, Cohen, McG, Ratner, or even a Burton at this point. There's something about his complete lack of shame, confidence in his own terrible work, and of course, an uncanny eye for rhythm and momentum that makes his horrible pieces of art stand out slightly over his contemporaries.

For some reason, Transformers has taken up the greater part of the last ten years of Michael Bay's life. It's perhaps an indication of the atrocious quality of his films that he's actually cranked out seven films in the past ten years, five of which are Transformers, the others being Pain & Gain (2013) and 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (2016). Despite these "small" films, he's more preoccupied with the $200 million+ budgeted tentpoles, which have by now gotten comfortable with crossing the billion dollar mark worldwide, even if Age of Extinction (2014) had a relatively colder reception stateside.

It would seem then, that the momentum of this franchise has been depleted. Have crowds finally gotten over this mindless clanging of guns and metal? While it had a slew of ridiculous problems, Age of Extinction did finally introduce Galvatron and Dinobots, which are huge items to check off in Transformers lore. In fact, I still think that the general evil copying plot informed Logan (2017) a great deal. Chew on that.

I have always appreciated this franchise's ability to create each of its entries individually, without much continuity in between. Every film is a stand-alone story, which would seem to fly in the face of modern blockbuster theory, which places greater emphasis on inter-connectivity and shared universes. Well, ultimately people don't actually care about that - they care about being entertained at the cinema. These movies have largely been pretty damn entertaining. Each one introduces a new thing, and that's been cool. We really need some Unicron, which is the last big absence, but maybe that's what Transformers 6 (2018) and Transformers 7 (2019) are for. Oh who knows.

But let's get into this trailer, because that's what you're all here for. What the hell is this shit. This is like half-trailer / half-inspirational Nike commercial. The underlying message is a positive, if not cliched feminist mantra and it's pretty cool. This is from the franchise that gave us this shot, right? The one that has only hot chicks, especially the three women in Age of Extinction (Mark Wahlberg's hot daughter, the hot scientist who has no purpose, and the hot Chinese actress meant to increase Chinese ticket sales). Maybe Transformers will turn itself around and become this great girl power franchise. That's awesome. But I'm pretty suspicious. Again, Bay is terrible. He's the best at being terrible, but still terrible, especially when exploring male gaze on film.

And what is this talking to the camera thing? It's kind of novel, but just feels misplaced. I don't know what's going on this movie. A bunch of kids up to no good while palling around with Mark Wahlberg? Maybe that will be awesome, actually. For now I'm mystified. We don't have any great piece of lore to be pumped up seeing on screen. We do have Optimus Prime going rogue, though, which will follow in Dom Toretto's upcoming evil footsteps in The Fate of the Furious (2017). I feel like I'm taking crazy pills. Why isn't anyone else talking about this? Is it just that I'm such a devotee to these awful franchises that I'm the only one who puts a critical lens to this insanity? Likely so.

Anyway, I'm cheering for The Last Knight. Hopefully it'll turn out cool. I think the soft reboot is genius in that it gets away from the continuity requirements in modern blockbusters and just kind of makes its own movie. And Hot Rod! We get Hot Rod, I guess. And Megatron is back, even if pure Galvatron is one of the greatest 80s cartoon villains ever, both in Transformers: The Movie (1986) and how progressively more insane he became on the television show.

There's a lot of other notable trailers out there, both that we've seen and that we're lacking. Do you kind of feel like Disney just decided they can probably save a few million dollars in marketing by just relying on their own supreme word of mouth at this point? We haven't seen dickhole from Thor: Ragnarok (2017) or Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017). How will The Last Knight do against The Last Jedi? See, Transformers is everything.

Keep it real and fight like a girl. Buy Nike.

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