Blockbusters have no excuse to be stupid this far into the 21st Century. With the number of films being released in theatrical, 3D and IMAX formats in the month of June and July alone this year, there are plenty of ways for audiences to get their big blockbuster popcorn tub of action fix in 2017. Not only that, but some of them have good stories and characters to go with that action, the best example being Wonder Woman, with the likes of War for the Planet of the Apes and Spider-Man Homecoming to follow soon.
In the past ten years, we’ve seen four other Transformers films, and they’re insufferable for film fans, apart from, what I would argue, to be the more Spielbergian aspects found in the first film from 2007. The rest of this five entry franchise is an exhaustive, incoherent mess in the eyes of fans of the old series of cartoons and toys and fans of craft of film. For a lot of those two audiences, Michael Bay’s films are downright offensive to the things they’d be turning out to see in, and yet, despite the panning, despite the blockbuster fatigue, this Transformers franchise is beloved by an audience that excused it all with the mindset that they didn’t care, that they’d gladly turn their brain off, and just enjoy the action. Today, with the aforementioned blockbusters and more to come in even less than one year, that is no longer a valid excuse. Michael Bay’s films, across the board, no longer meet a (any) standard. The action between the Autobots and Decepticons in these sluggish two and a half hour pieces of bombastic summer flicks have competition from superhero films, and generally well made action films, left and right, and not only do they beat this series in the creative composition of action, but they’re streets ahead in coherent storytelling and character development, which, surprise, makes their respective action scenes even more meaningful.
This fifth Transformers film reintroduced audiences to Mark Wahlberg’s Cade Yeager, the bumbling inventor, now turned fugitive after the events of the fourth movie as he is protecting and repairing the Autobots in the absence of Optimus Prime. He finds himself teaming up with Anthony Hopkins’ Sir Edmund Burton, the last in a line of protectors of valuable British secrets from the Dark Ages, and an Oxford Professor played by Laura Haddock, to protect earth from being consumed by the dead planet Cybertron, the original home of the Transformers, after Cade is given an ancient talisman leftover from a secret history between King Arthur and his knights of the round table, and a group of ancient transformers that served him. Apart from reintroducing Megatron, corrupting Optimus Prime as he returns to Cybertron, and a lot of useless jokes and supporting characters, the movie takes nearly an hour to introduce all of it’s concepts and is mostly a structural mess in it’s story and it’s editing. Characters are introduced, or shown, and never mentioned or heard of again until well after the audience that is paying attention wonders what happened to the plot line.
For the first time, the lore building shown in a Transformers movie seems like it could have a small inkling of spirit and depth, no doubt a credit to the screenwriters, but then are required to be introduced in such a roundabout way to keep things a mystery from the movie’s main characters, and just as things could start rolling into a decent pace, the moments are interrupted and stop dead in their tracks to provide an action sequence, or a useless joke, nearly all of which provide no substance to the film, and no levity, just more annoyance. As a result, the movie’s characters, not even the humans, have any believable spirit to them, save for the film’s main child actor, Isabela Moner, who really proves her emotional acting depth as a girl who’s family was destroyed and runs off with an Autobot in the wake of a Decepticon attack.
Transformers The Last Knight is far too interested in getting Wahlberg as Cade Yeager to develop a grating and unnatural romance with Laura Haddock’s character, cementing the opinion that the writers don’t understand genuine human interaction, or, if they do, Michael Bay doesn’t care. It can be said that Bay’s style is toned down considerably in his camerawork in this film, but not enough to not be instantly (unforgivably) recognizable in his use of telephoto shaky cam on closeups, or male gaze on the female actress in the cast that is of age. As a director, he can most certainly compose action sequences, and every moviegoer knows this if they know him by name, however his composition of the film as a whole is still as poor as every other he’s produced. It just so happened that this time around there was a screenplay (unlike the second and fourth films), so it’s at least understandable what is happening from moment to moment, but that doesn’t mean it’s any good.
The only saving grace of the film is that the Transformers themselves, for the first time, feel like believable characters, and their rendering in the real world and interacting with it are more physically present than ever. Unfortunately, they’re still Michael Bay characters, so they’re still insufferable, if not more for being large and metal with distinctively cultural stereotypical appearance and voice over work. The action scenes look good, but considering there are only a handful of them, and the majority of the film consists of the aforementioned poor story and character work one has to wonder why anyone would go see a fifth Transformers movie when it’s audience solely cares about the action, and this provides so little of it, while being a weaker blockbuster than the rest of it’s competition.