Saturday, 24 June 2017

Transformers: The Last Knight (2017)

Transformers The Last Knight poster.jpg
What a Knight-mare

Director: Michael Bay
Running Time: 149 Minutes
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Hopkins, Josh Duhamel, Laura Haddock, Isabela Moner, Stanley Tucci, John Turturro, Jerrod Carmichael, Santiago Cabrera, Glenn Morshower

"Nothing is certain but death and taxes", a well known quote by Benjamin Franklin. Although, if the quote had to be updated for the modern era, it'd go as follows: "Nothing is certain but death, taxes, and Michael Bay remarking he won't direct another Transformers film". If this time is true, and Bay has walked away from the franchise he began a decade ago, then he's clearly utilised a scorched-earth policy. Whatever follows on from this film, it'll be even more difficult to trust this ever-more tainted brand name after this pathetic excuse for a $260 million blockbuster film.

After the events of Age of Extinction, Optimus Prime has left Earth to confront his makers. In his absence, the TRF (Transformers Reaction Force) has been set up, focused on eliminating all Transformers, no matter their faction. The only hope for saving the future involves an ancient talisman, which has found itself in the possession of Cade Yaeger (Mark Wahlberg), which everybody seems to want.To find out what it all means, and why the Transformers keep coming to Earth, he turns to Sir Edmund Burton (Anthony Hopkins), who knows all about the history of it all.

Since the franchises early days, Michael Bay has kept trying to build up the mythology of the Transformers, by inserting them into various points of Earth's history. Not content with leaving it at appearances in Ancient Egypt, during the Apollo 11 mission and when the dinosaurs were on Earth, Bay seems intent on filling in as many gaps in history as possible.

Cranking this aspect into overdrive, we now have Autobots intervening within World War II (and even assassinating Hitler), a three headed mechanical dragon helping King Arthur vanquish his foes, and Leonardo Da Vinci being an Autobot. Yes, the Renaissance painter was a robot in disguise. These elements come forth during the films middle portion, as things grind to a halt while Anthony Hopkins explains every part of the overly convoluted backstory. His appearance is that of somebody fed up with their job, uninterested in the segment they're explaining on the Autobot History Channel.

Devoting such a massive amount of screentime to this aspect is detrimental to the final product, as it's stuffed within more unnecessary plot points than you can shake a magic stick at. There's enough ideas to justify a series of films, and none of them are granted adequate development. Even more bewildering is how there's enough time to include a scene where new inclusions Anthony Hopkins and Laura Haddock discuss when Mark Wahlberg's character last had sex. One gets the feeling any notion that somewhat interested the screenwriters was thrown in, no matter how little time was actually given to fleshing it out. 

Image result for transformers 5 youtubeMark Wahlberg returns as the still ridiculously named Cade Yaeger, who works more as an Autobot mechanic than the inventor he claims to be. His role has expanded to helping any Transformers that he finds, while residing in a scrapyard the same one-dimensional caricatures who make up the Autobots. Now that Wahlberg is finished with the franchise, it feels clear that Isabela Moner is being set up as a possible new lead for the franchise. This makes it a bit awkward when the film discard her halfway through, only to randomly reappear for the finale.

Joining the franchise is Laura Haddock, playing Vivane Wembly, a Professor at Oxford who becomes entangled in something bigger then herself. She has a love for Polo, an underwritten relationship with her father, and is repeatedly told by her family to find a husband. This where the obvious set up for her and Cade's relationship comes in, which is at odds with the chemistry free nature of their relationship. No believable strides are made to develop their relationship, unless you count the instances where they tell one another to shut up. Notably, John Turturro and Josh Duhamel each make their return to the franchise, but their phoned in performances leaves one suspecting it was a pair of decisions made for the paycheck.

Optimus Prime has always been the face of the franchise, so having him be sidelined for a good portion of the film is quite distracting. After leaving Earth at the end of the last film, intent on facing his creators, he appears as brainwashed as the promotional material has indicated. Little weight is carried during these moments, because, unsurprisingly, it's a pointless diversion with an outcome that can be seen coming from miles away. It serves little purpose than to waste time, which is far from needed in something so bloated and crammed with needless plotlines. Behind it all is Quintessa, a generic villain with a villainous plan that's essentially an asinine viewpoint of Lars Von Trier's Melancholia.

As is a tradition in these sequels, Megatron is needlessly crammed into the picture. Is there a fear that not including him in the film, no matter how unsubstantial his role, will make audiences forget about him? He's supposed to be the grand nemesis of Optimus Prime, and his purpose this time is to assemble a Suicide Squad style team. Their purpose? To act as needless fodder, composed of ridiculously named characters like Mohawk (how do Transformers have hair?), Dreadbot, and the gold chain wearing Nitro Zeus. It's clear that the best Decepticons are now unusable, when these are who makes up the current iteration of Decepticons. Yet, somehow, the Dinobots are wasted more than them, as their scenes consist of Grimlock regurgitating a police car, and one ambiguous scene of action.

Credit where it's due, ILM still deliver solid work with the reliable visual effects. But it feels hardly worth praising this element, as the result gets lost amongst the rapid editing, the shaky camera work and the overblown handling which favours needless explosions. This combination renders the action scenes as an incomprehensible mess, particularly during the final act, which makes enjoying the sight of robots fighting a difficulty. The end result of it all, from the direction to the writing, leaves the film feeling rather soulless, while efforts appears to be considered a foreign notion.

It's perfectly fine to enjoy a film just for its scenes of big robots fighting, but Transformers: The Last Knight makes it hard to justify that. So much of it is devoted to over-explaining the massively convoluted plot, and the even more ridiculous history thrown together, with action scenes that are largely incomprehensible. If you wish to save yourself the money, find a brick wall and bang your head against it for two and a half hours, while a friend uses a hammer against any metallic object they can find. The headache you receive will produce the same results as watching Michael Bay's fifth entry into this franchise, and consist of more effort.

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