06 July 2017

First Impressions: Transformers: The Last Knight

Before we begin, I'd like to point this out. That article chronicles my long, mostly positive history with Mike Bay's Transformers franchise, in all its ludicrous, blatantly terrible hyperbole. I was actually genuinely looking forward to Transformers: The Last Knight (2017), which may be kind of crazy. Anyone who reads this blog ought to know that I have a decently high tolerance for stupid ridiculous big dumb movies. Well, I'm sorry to say that I have met my match. This was too much for me. Too much off the edge of oblivion, the point where it has nearly no redeemable or interesting qualities. The Last Knight was so damn bad in every possibly terrible way, and I was kind of into Age of Extinction (2014). This sets the bar incredibly low, EVEN FOR A TRANSFORMERS MOVIE. It's rough.

And for a second it gets real Tomb
Raider-y.
So, first of all, I actually only saw this because I literally had about two hours to kill and I was driving past a movie theater. It was about 7:15 pm, and The Last Knight had started at 6:40. I figured I wouldn't miss much, and maybe that is the entire reason I was so lost, but never at any single point during this film did I understand what was going on. Characters didn't make sense, but more importantly, they didn't even make sense within the stupid world that Bay had established in the previous four films.

I'm honestly not even sure where to begin with this one. Part of my frustration with this cinematic franchise is that most of the television series and even the first film did such a nice job of setting up every character to face each other with clear names (okay, there were like, Brawl/Devastator gaffes), backstories (okay, gimmicks), and conflicts that every subsequent film has done a worse job at defining. There's actually a cool Suicide Squad (2016)-esque moment where Megatron lists off the crew he wants to get together (full of random Decepticons pulling bank heists and other impossible crimes), and it seems like we're going to get a cool brigade of ne'er-do-wells instead of the huge anonymous army they always have. Instead, half of those cool characters are killed so instantly and easily that you wonder how this war between them and the Autobots has taken so long anyway.

Megatron, by the way, has no clear goal at all. I couldn't make rhyme or reason of what he wanted to do or why the humans wanted to ally with him. He ends up barely in the movie as it feels like the middle drags a ton with Mark Wahlberg in England rather than setting up any kind of formidable foe. This is made worse through the fact that this is probably one of the better Megatron designs, although I wish they would emphasize his gun more in ANY of these installments. He should have a huge arm cannon that can kill Starscream in one shot!

The same holds true for Optimus Prime, who should have been a huge big bad as Nemesis Prime, but he really only has one scene as his evil self, and the brainwashing seems to dissipate pretty quick. It's still a better reason thematically than The Fate of the Furious (2017), but at least in that one Vin Diesel became a continuous occurring villain. Prime also bizarrely leaves the film right before the climax on Cybertron as it's crashing into earth (I ought to mention SPOILERS at some point I guess, but literally it won't make a difference in your enjoyment of this trash), then reappears randomly. It's as if characters come and go according to plot needs so specifically to the point of parody.

This goes on and on. The "Knight" transformers combine to form Dragonstorm, which is a monstrous fire-breathing dragon that could have been a natural step up from Grimlock and the Dinobots (who also get exactly one cool scene and don't help in the finale), but nope. They don't do a fucking thing in the final battle except fly around. The Humans have to deploy tactical nukes (for a failed Buster Bluth plan anyway) where a ROBOT DRAGON could have sufficed instead. It's painfully apparent that the editor gutted this flick, or maybe it really did have that thin of a screenplay.

C'mon! He speaks in the first movie in that doofy voice!
In that preview I wrote I spoke as how this really felt like it was going to be four or five films at once, and that was definitely the case. This just seemed to be a bit of everything, none of which is developed. There's the Mark Wahlberg on the run thing (although the government seemed to find him quick when they needed to), the Autobots in hiding thing, the Ancient Order of Witwiccans (another weird Sam Witwicky Shia LaBeouf half-retcon where this flick played fast and loose with its own mythology, not seem to care about contradicting itself), King Arthur and the Transformers, Evil Optimus Prime, Quintessa and Unicron, and of course a random little Latino girl who is probably the most badass character who is also ignored for most of the film after she's established. It's all these random elements crammed into one film that a talented screenwriter might have been able to forcibly pull off, but certifiably does not here.

I don't even know where to begin with the King Arthur stuff. I mean, whatever, it was established in Revenge of the Fallen (2009) that Transformers had been on Earth since ancient history, but the idea that this secret society have kept their presence hidden since 484 CE is totally laughable. I mean, they had Transformers with George Washington and shit?! How does Transformer technology keep remaining at the same level as Human technology, but in the form of giant robots? It's so damn insane and stupid. Like Cogman - he was some kind of steampunk Transformer, but...it's not like Transformer technology has rapidly changed in the past two-hundred years, right? It's just...they're still the same robots, right? Right?! Please help me. This was so stupid, but no, not in the good insane disregard for logic that other films have achieved.

I didn't get all the Transformers suddenly using swords, either. What happened to at least Optimus' flaming hot axes? The best part of the film, though, and the best part of any film in 2017 is definitely Mark Wahlberg stopping an Ancient Knight Transformer from delivering a killer blow to Optimus by blocking its sword with his own. I laughed outloud in a theater filled with only myself and one other person sitting a few rows away.

Regarding the more fantastic cosmic elements - Unicron and the Quintessons, I'm decently up to speed on this, but I still sat there mystified. I couldn't figure out why anyone was doing anything. Maybe I'm misguided that Unicron is the bad guy, which he's traditionally been in every incarnation of the Transformers ever. Apparently here he's just the planet Earth, which seems really insane, disastrous, and impossible if they're ever going to fight him (or hell, even if he wakes up). What was the point of Merlin's Staff? What did it do? Or to be more precise, what did the British chick (Valerie? Vanessa? Vivienne?) do by grabbing it? What was the entire point of their main third act objective? Megatron seemed to be wary of Quintessa, but also definitely worked with her, right? Maybe I really should have watched the first thirty minutes. Someone please tell me if it's just me.

The film was less girl-power than I thought it might have been, and there was so much male gaze with Vivienne, but there was some nice work by Isabela Moner as...Izabella. There was one moment where she actually cries while giving a moving monologue about her dead parents or some crap and I just kept thinking "You're trying waaaaaay too hard for this movie right now, dear." She had a few pretty cool moments here and there, but generally this ended up being more the male military fetishization that it always is.

Still up for that Beast Wars movie. Now that's stupid
mythology!
Speaking of that, Josh Duhamel came back from his adventures doing jack shit as a pretty weary Lennox, who I'm pretty sure Mark Wahlberg has never met, although they seem to know each other for no reason. Also returning after taking Age of Extinction off was John Turturro, who I wish had more to do besides make phone calls to Anthony Hopkins from Cuba. I at least wanted to see a match with that Surfer Bro Volleyball robot! Whose name is...Volleybot. There are more returns as inexplicable as their exists, such as Barricade. We also finally got Hot Rod although he's French for no damn reason. Finally, nice to see Steve Buscemi lend his voice in another Michael Bay film, as a big fat Autobot daytrader named Daytrader for some reason. He also never reappears after his one scene.

We ought to talk Anthony Hopkins, because he is absolutely bonkers in this movie. It's as if he's having a wild, uproarious time and totally knows how campy and dumb this all is. I don't think I've ever heard Hopkins yell "Move, bitch!" It's like when Morgan Freeman yells in Wanted (2008), "Shoot this motherfucker!" It's crazy to see one of the all-time greatest actors ham it up in the most contrived film ever made.

So, listen, I can't do this anymore. I'm still into a full-blown Unicron film, but these flicks have blown so much mythology with little disregard for anything that it's getting real rough to trust them with anything. I suppose this is nothing new. And Transformers mythology IS the stupidest mythology ever, but these films continual making-it-up-as-they go along is getting difficult to be enthusiastic for. Perhaps it's a good thing - an answer to all the diehard strict continuity people and nerdy mythologists. I can get behind that if for a second I thought it was intentional, instead of just winging everything for the sake of selling toys and advertising in China. There are supposedly like fourteen other Transformers films coming, but I think I'm finally done.

Don't bother with this one, folks!

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