Dog’s Movie House: Latest Transformers Film Excercise In Souless Filmmaking!
Howdy Folks! It’s The Kendog!
They needed a writer’s room for this?! The fifth film in the highly profitable yet artistically dubious series about transforming robots, “Transformers: The Last Knight” is an absolute mess. A well-constructed, occasionally entertaining mess, but a mess nonetheless. For all the money put onscreen, for all the wonderful special effects work by ILM, there is a mechanical nature to Michael Bay’s latest that literally gives us nothing to care about. I enjoy a robot throw-down as much as anyone, but five films in and I find myself officially exhausted.
“The Last Knight” tells yet another tale of the robotic race of Transformers coming to our Earth in the past. This time it’s during the time of King Arthur when Merlin (a miscast Stanley Tucci) convinces the ancient shape-shifting robots to aid them in their war against the superior numbers of the barbarians attempting to conquer England. He is entrusted with a staff that needs to be protected from the evil Transformers who are destined to come to . . . ah forget it. My eyes are glazing over just thinking about it. All you need to know is the staff is “The Last Knight’s” Macguffin, with both the Autobots and Decepticons trying to find it to revive their ancient planet of Cybertron. . .again.
Mark Wahlberg comes back from the previous film as Cade Yeager (who comes up with these names?) who is now outcast and protecting Autobots from the authorities. Apparently all Transformers are illegal and a government force called the TRF (Transformer Reaction Force) are constantly trying to destroy the alien robots. Meanwhile, Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) is captured by his creator Quintessa (Gemma Chan), turned evil and sent back to Earth for the staff. Telling us everything we need to know as well as the other fairly stupid characters is Sir Edmund Burton (Sir Anthony Hopkins, the only actor is this film having any fun at all), the last of a line of protectors and historians required to provide our heroes with proper direction and the audience with a vague idea of what the hell is going on in the film. Also along for the ride (and as requisite Bay eye-candy) is Laura Haddock (Starlord’s mother from “Guardians of the Galaxy”) as Vivienne Wembley, the last descendant of Merlin and the only human who can use the staff. Also along for the ride is Josh Duhamel’s Lennox (returning after skipping the last film) to provide a familiar face and little else.
The problem with these movies isn’t that they’re based on a best-selling line of Hasbro toys. There are stories to be told as they have a mythology through comics and television over a time period of thirty-plus years. The problem is that, other than the first film, Michael Bay and his production team have no idea how to tell a story with characters we give a damn about. They’re tonally all over the place and each film seems to develop a different idea as to why the Transformers decided to come to our planet, throwing any sort of continuity right out the freaking window! Most of the characters, both alien and human, are not characters at all, but either caricatures or stereotypes, cast for their chiseled physiques or their other, uh, assets. (Seriously, in the first Transformers film, the special features segment has Michael Bay casting Megan Fox on the basis of her abs rather than her acting ability. . .this is not a joke.) It’s kind of like having a Ferrari with a four cylinder engine: it looks tough but it just lays there.
The movie is also too damn long. In an effort to weave some sort of complex mythology about the arrival of these alien robots, no fewer than five writers pump in enough useless backstory to put my usually attentive ass to sleep. By the time we get to the normal, over-the-top, Michael Baygasm conclusion, we no longer give a damn. Which is too bad, really, because the effects work is first rate. The CGI combined with the live sets and the characters all look like the fit in the same scene and Bay does craft some awe-inspiring shots as well as some complex set pieces. They would just mean a lot more if we cared as an audience. The setup doesn’t have to be that complex and a story like this could be told in less than two-and-a-half hours.
Perhaps it’s Bay’s influence. All five of these films have been more about huge action set pieces than actually dealing with character and most of Bay’s escapist fare (with the exception of maybe “Pain and Gain” and “13 Hours”) have conformed with this trend. He is not concerned with his writers crafting relatable characters and I believe, in this case, at least, that the massive Transformers audience is going to suffer a huge case of franchise fatigue. The series will go on (international box office for this is still going to be huge) but if it does, I’d like to see some fresh voices who are interested in crafting a compelling story with compelling characters to go along with all the admittedly professional looking special effects and explosions. That would be a Transformers story I’d be willing to see. And one other thing: let’s have Optimus Prime be in the next movie for more than ten freaking minutes, okay! 2 Out Of 5 On Kendog’s Barkometer! So Sayeth The Kendog!