Saturday, June 24, 2017

Movie Review: "Transformers: The Last Knight" (2017)

Director: Michael Bay
Year: 2017
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hours, 29 minutes

Cade Yeager, a British professor named Vivian, and the remaining Autobots search for the staff of Merlin, which has the power to destroy the world and will let Cybertron suck the energy from Earth in order to be reborn.

"Transformers: The Last Knight" is the fifth, yes, the fifth movie in the "Transformers" franchise. It is once again directed by Michael Bay, and this time, he has a whole army of new writers replacing Ethan Kruger, who had written "Dark of the Moon" and "Age of Extinction." Returning to star in the movie is Mark Wahlberg, who reprises his role as Cade Yeager, one of the few humans who still stands by the Autobots. He also becomes "the chosen one" at one point, so there's that. Also returning from previous installments are John Turturro, Josh Duhamel, and Stanley Tucci (though in a different role than the one he played in the fourth flick). New to the franchise are Anthony Hopkins as Sir Edmund Burton, last living member of the order of the Witwiccans; Laura Haddock, the aforementioned highly educated British professor; Isabela Moner as Izabella, an orphan who serves no purpose other than showing up at the perfect necessary moment; and Jerrod Carmichael as Jimmy, Cade's comic relief sidekick who didn't quite sign up for the job he's assigned. The plot here isn't much different than the one from any of the previous installments as two warring factions of Transformers search for an ancient Cybertronian object that has the power to destroy the earth.

Full disclosure, after watching the entire "Transformers" series within the span of a week and a half, we can't say we were exactly looking forward to this new movie. Other than the original "Transformers," which is a surprisingly fun and action-packed flick with the right balance of humor and explosions, the following three movies were either too goofy, too self-serious, or slow, plodding, chaotic messes that couldn't get the audience invested in the action happening on screen or the characters surrounding it. When the first part of "The Last Knight" started, we were actually enjoying ourselves. Sure, Michael Bay and his band of merry writers turn King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table into an absolute historical fact and have them team up with the Transformers, but we can deal with his revisionist zaniness as long as it remains fun. Unfortunately, the fun and excitement don't last for long and gradually get less and less interesting and engaging as this movie progresses.

This fifth installment winds up having the same recycled plot we've seen from previous installments as Cade and co. chase yet another McGuffin for the entire duration of the movie. There are slight alterations, of course, as well as a new but obvious focus on any installments that may come in the future. The second act of this flick is as slow as molasses, and we don't care about 99% of characters or the countless subplots running concurrently that get all jumbled together. Each action sequence gets more and more grandiose with less and less focus as time rolls on. It is a sheer visual mess of calamitous sights and sounds with people falling everywhere and robots fighting to the point where we never know who is doing the ass kicking and who is losing. It's all too much. We liken this to what happened with George Lucas during the "Star Wars" prequels. His vision and the ideas behind the stories are interesting, but nobody told Lucas to rein it in, and not just by a little, but by a lot. Michael Bay needs that same sort of truncation. He needs to learn that there IS such a thing as too much mayhem, and that is "The Last Knight."

The marketing for "The Last Knight" relied heavily on the angle that Optimus Prime betrays the Autobots and the humans, kind of like Dominic Toretto in 2017's "Fate of the Furious" and how he betrayed his family. Here comes a bit of a ~~**spoiler**~~: Optimus Prime betrays the Autobots for about five minutes of a two hour and thirty minute movie, and him snapping out of his trance of betrayal as Nemesis Prime is more contrived than the Martha moment in "Batman v. Superman." ~~*end spoiler*~~ Seriously, it is absolute trash writing.

Some of the actors in this installment are far too good for the material they are working with. Mark Wahlberg is still charming when he wants to be, but definitely ventures into the tone of voice and general annoyingness featured in "The Happening," which is never a good comparison. Anthony Hopkins can still be sufficiently commanding, but it's like he asked Michael Bay to make him the goofiest person he's ever been in his entire acting career because he wanted a change. It's painfully obvious that he's out of his comfort zone singing "Move Bitch" by Ludacris.

From a technical standpoint, luckily, Industrial Light & Magic's insane visuals are still stellar looking. However, one odd thing we noticed early on in "The Last Knight" is its constant change in aspect ratios. Within some scenes, there are up to five or six cuts going from 1.85:1 to 2.35:1 and somewhere in between. We don't know if this was present in any of the other films, but it's definitely quite distracting, especially considering it serves no purpose. It gets worse as the movie rolls along its very slow run time, and with nowhere to focus our eyes in frame due to the sheer amount of pandemonium happening on screen, it's easy to notice the slight aspect ratio changes that keep happening over and over.

We are sure there is still an audience out there for a movie like this, but we certainly aren't it. Granted, we love big, dumb action movies as much as the next person, but we'd prefer to watch something like "Pacific Rim" to something like this. There is a line for us, and people in Hollywood have taken to making statements like, "this one is for the fans" or "this is just mindless entertainment" in an effort to excuse sub-par storytelling, shitting writing, mediocre (at best) acting, and so much chaos, confusion, and lack of cohesion that it is headache-inducing. "Transformers: The Last Knight" may very well be the last movie in this series helmed by Michael Bay if it doesn't work in his favor. We just hope audiences are wising up to the fact that Bay's gotten away with making them watch the same movie over and over for the last decade, and this fifth installment is absolutely no exception.

My Rating: 3.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 3.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 5.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 52%
Do we recommend this movie: No.

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