Film Review | Transformers: The Last Knight - The Good, The Bad & The Missing
I’m a fan of the Transformers franchise. I was a fan of the cartoons and I appreciate Hasbro’s original storylines, as far as they take us. I’d like to start this review, in which there are no plot spoilers, might I add, by asserting that it’s time for Michael Bay to relinquish the series. He’s a one-trick pony (with a very good trick) who has just about stretched thin his style within this franchise. I’d love to see a more cerebral take on our Cybertronian visitors; let’s get a Chris Nolan or Alex Proyas in the mix.
Anthony Hopkins: Like, duh! I had no idea he would be in this movie, and he lends a sophistication and on-screen presence that only he can. A legendary actor who really ties the plot together, adding comedy, context, and even a bit of sentimentality. It was a real treat to have him. Additionally, having Jerrod Carmichael and Jim Carter on cast was a pleasant surprise. Carmichael does okay for some comic relief, especially since we lose Tyrese Gibson for this iteration, who dealt out a fair amount of witty non-sequiturs. Jim Carter’s character, Cogman, is absolutely hilarious, and has some 4th wall breaks that are pure genius. He and Hopkins work well together to steal the show, quite honestly.
The Visuals: Five movies later, I was wondering what more we can expect from Michael Bay and his producers, but impressively, there were more than a handful of times in the movie where we see effects or transformations that we’ve not yet seen in this franchise. This movie is loaded with new Transformers and so the eye is continually stimulated with dope cars and cool robots. Bumblebee, the greatest thing to ever happen to Transformers, is a 2016 Camaro and my goodness, I almost fainted. The car is beautiful. This movie plays with history a lot, and so it’s neat to see how they envision Transformers through the ages both on Earth and in space.
The Plot...kinda: This iteration basically takes what movies 3 and 4 try to do respectively and does them in one: connecting historical context of Transformers to an intricate current day issue that must be resolved. I have to applaud the themes and the desire to do more here. It’s tough to do. Which brings me to my next point.
It’s sloppy: Bay definitely bit off more than he could chew for this one. Historical co-plot, Da Vinci Code-esque main plot, new love interest, Cade’s relationship with his daughter, a new relationship with the most annoying child co-tagonist ever (I seriously despised this little girl’s character, and the movie could have worked without her), an Optimus Prime storyline that doesn’t get fully fleshed out, which is a shame, and even more. There’s no way a movie could have tied all this together. There are issues with continuity, the plot summarizes far too often (it even starts with a summary! Like wtf? No! I need more rationale and explanation!), and it really takes the heart out of some of the moments that are supposed to be profound because the thematic anticipation hasn’t built properly. Like I said, kudos for the ambition, but yeah...no.
The writing sucks: Not that we’re expecting stellar writing. It takes a ton of money to blow something up every other scene, so you don’t have too much bread left to hire the best writers. The writing exposes Bay’s empty sleeves as far as tricks go. He tries to invoke new robots, new actors -- he even utilizes child actors more to make it ‘cute.’ But for the most part, the writing falls flat on its face. It’s corny, poorly timed in many cases, awkward and unconvincing. New director, new creative focus (not explosions), and more dedication to character development; these movies become Oscar-worthy. You heard it here first.
The Missing (I liked it; now I need more!)
Character Development: The backstory of Cyberton and Earth is getting really deep. It would really do the series justice to take a break, a la Wolverine franchise, and give us a movie dedicated to how much of this came to pass. I’ve heard tell that Bumblebee is getting his own spinoff, I would LOVE the chance to see a film centered on the friendship of him and Optimus and the fall of Cyberton. The live-action series has already taken liberties with plot lines and characters from the original cartoon, in some places completely making stuff up. They might as well do us a solid and patiently develop some of these personalities.
In addition, Cade’s relationship with his daughter is one of the true heartfelt sentiments of the movie. It doesn’t get enough attention, but I think it should. Cade is a completely fabricated character for the live action series, and it’s hard to construct a character solely for the screen, and have him be believable. For the most part, Cade is a pretty dull character, but that father-daughter relationship, in the context of him being a federal fugitive is really something to hold on to.
All in all, I’ll keep watching. The blockbusters every few summers are undeniable, but I love this series and I want to see them do it justice. It’s just a couple bad movies away from being The Fast and The Furious franchise (which is so trash in my opinion), so we we need to course-correct, but I doubt that will happen as long as Bay is at the helm and movies are making money. I’ll keep my fingers crossed. My official franchise ranking, for the record.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (#2) (the fight with Optimus in in the woods is still the best scene in the franchise)
Transformers (#1) (classic! Great way to open and Shia Labeouf was magnificent)
Transformers: Age of Extinction (#4) (slight redemption after #3, but the Tokyo setting and Dinobots saved the movie. The future tech/AI plot was also very timely)
Transformers: The Last Knight (#5) (everything I just said)
Transformers: Dark of the Moon (#3) (this movie was trash. Basura. gobbage.)