Synopsis – Humans and Transformers are at war, Optimus Prime is gone. The key to saving our future lies buried in the secrets of the past, in the hidden history of Transformers on Earth.
My Take – In case you all have forgotten, yes, it’s been 10 years since the release of the first film of this blockbuster film franchise, based on the Hasbro toy line, also marking the fifth time Michael Bay has returned on the director’s seat, & for some reason keeps repeating with every installment that it’s going to be his last outing, as a fan myself, I hope at least this it’s true. I get it, people love to hate this clamorous franchise, even more, they revel in detesting Michael Bay, mainly as the series has made a name for itself for disappointing the thinking film-goers (like the people at Rotten Tomatoes) with a weak story and paper-thin characters. Critics keep complaining that this films are garish, pandering, chaotic, materialistic, hawkish and salacious – as if these are necessarily bad things, and yes to be fair, I agree the films in the series do suffer from poor writing & a non-existing character development for most of the cast, plus the bunch of writers (Akiva Goldsman, Art Marcum, Matt Holloway & Ken Nolan on this film) try to introduce and do so many things, while cramming in so many subplots in order to successfully manage the film from crossing the three hour run time mark, it does turn the film into a slug-fest for an average film goer. My only confusion remains in why people are still out to look for logic in this series based on a cartoon from the 80s about robots that transform into means of transport, who were originally created only to sell out a large number of action figures? Yet, no matter how low the critics rate the film, going by box office numbers ($3.774 billion to be exact, across four films to date), the series has clearly proved itself to be critic proof as audiences keep lapping up the big-screen antics of these shape-shifting alien robots and it’s likely to be the same story this time around. Yes, this one too is high on campery at its most resolute; it’s deliciously self-aware and embraces the outlandishness of the franchise’s combined premises by pushing the series deeper into its own particular brand of loopy fun, while remaining very visually pleasing. Sure, the film has its major set of problem, but director Michael Bay delivers exactly what it promises: a delicious good time on the big screen.
Taking place a few years after the events of Transformers: Age of Extinction, the story follows Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), a rag tag inventor, declared enemy of the state for helping the Autobots in their illegal war on Earth with the evil Decepticons. Away from his college going daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz), and wanted by the TRF (Transformers Reaction Force) led by the alien hating Santos (Santiago Cabrera) and former Autobots companion Colonel William Lennox (Josh Duhamel), Cade hides & runs a junkyard at an Indian reservation in South Dakota with the help of Jimmy (Jerrod Carmichael), and reluctantly helps those in need including a young girl named Izabella (Isabela Moner), who also has a soft spot for the kind Autobots, who have been bunking with Cade since their leader Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) left earth to seek out the makers of their species at the former planet of Cybertron. Upon arrival, not only does Optimus find Cybertron in ruins, but is captured by a sorceress Queintessa (voiced by Gemma Chan), who claims to be their creator, demands to make planet Earth their new home and brainwashes him into going after a weapon hidden on earth for centuries & destroy anyone who would come in his way, including his fellow Autobots. Back on earth, while helping some kids, in a war-torn Chicago (from Transformers: Dark of the Moon), Yeager stumbles upon a dying a Transformer knight who hands him over a talisman which grabs the attention of Megatron (voiced by Frank Welker), the leader of the Decepticons, who has been waiting for a while to stage his return. During a pursuit, Cage & company find themselves in the company of Cogman (voiced by Jim Carter), 4-foot-tall robot ‘ninja butler’, who has been send by Sir Edmund Burton (Anthony Hopkins), from England, and is the keeper of the exposition on the Transformers. Upon being introduced to Vivian Wembley (Laura Haddock), a skeptical English historian who turns out to be the last direct descendent of the Arthurian wizard Merlin (Stanley Tucci), the two learn that history has covered up the fact that the Transformers have been helping the human race for centuries beginning with a war led by King Arthur (Liam Garrigan) himself. With Autobots like Bumblebee backing them up, Cogman, Cade & Vivian must locate staff given to Merlin before the Decepticons and stop Queintessa from recreating Cybertron by laying waste to the Earth in the process. As many reviews stated, most of the people hated this flick for a couple of reasons such as Bay‘s directing techniques, the various plot holes, the editing, etc. but as an avid lover of the series, I was thoroughly pleased, mainly due to its spell bounding visual effects. Yes, by definition, this is the largest action set-piece Bay has ever pulled off – unless in his next film he just finds two bigger planets, or throws in a moon for good measure, but the climax sequence especially, in all its literally earth-shattering preposterousness, is a cinematic experience no other filmmaker could have possibly concocted. As a director Michael Bay never disappoints in the lack of action, be it car chases or fighter jets flying in the background to foreground in lock-tight formation, or shuddering planes of rock plough into each other at neck-craning angles, and of course giant robots slug each other with swords and rockets as one surface tilts crazily into the next, in his commitment to clashing viewpoints and gonzo geometries, the carnage is almost insane – and watching in 3D on an IMAX screen, I just couldn’t help but drooling. Like the third film (Dark of the Moon remains my favorite of the series), the film also has the expected excellent use of CGI to outdo the action scenes in comparison to other films out der. The 2007 film was one of the first films that I’ve seen in which they did CGI scenes in the day time, and it looked really good. You can see that director Michael Bay has hit his peak in really making the CGI action interact well with the live action footage. Shot 98% using IMAX 3D cameras, Bay seems to be having a blast shooting the war sequences especially. Unlike the previous film, a lot of the action sequences revolved around melee combat instead of plain gunfights, which ended up making the fight sequences way more exciting. DreamWorks Animation studios still has their finger on the pulse of animation. Once more their studio proves they can make the fiction world come to life in stunning realism, filling the 149-minute run time with fluid motion, breathtaking special effects, and dynamic sequences. Bay‘s fixation on the special effects continues to shine through in the pyrotechnic, CGI laden visuals that fill the silver screen. This is great for the last 45 minutes, where the high speed, action packed climax comes to life, infusing adrenaline into the theater and getting things ramped up. While action scenes might not be the strongest point of this film and it’s saddled with an overlong running time, it is bolstered in surprising areas – with charismatic performances and laugh-eliciting deliveries. Happy – eager, even – to send itself up, the film revels in switching up its mythology, indulging audiences with some genuinely out-there lore that sees it present itself as a far better take on the Arthurian legend than Guy Ritchie’s recent King Arthur re-imagining. This is an unashamedly cinematic experience, which sets up a staggering sixth film in a franchise that some might say has already jumped the shark.
Coming to the humor, from the get go, Bay’s writing team has set out to bring laughs amidst the acting (which is about the only thing he is good at bringing). The good news this one may actually be the funniest of the series as it brings plenty of laughs to the mix, mainly coming from Jerrod Carmichael and the usual I don’t want to die banter & the rest coming from the scene stealing new addition Cogman, who may be a bit dramatic for his own good. However, as I mentioned above, I get the hate as most of non-adequate factors present in previous films continue to pounder here, that includes the banter between the Autobots, which is grating in the extreme along with film’s pick-and-mix attitude to current pop culture is wildly undiscriminating. Coming to the plot, like the previous films, this too follows the same ingredients as the previous films, which shows how the Transformers have been a part of human history for long, while that does sound good on paper, for a director like Bay at helm, a better visualizer than a story teller, selling this kind of a story is more of challenge, which he seems still unequipped at. And of course, it does not help the film feels like two different films stitched into one. Keeping the trend of unnecessary sub plots alive, the film feels like an amalgamation of two different storylines, one continuing the semi reboot theme which started with Age of Extinction, while the other half felt more attached to the roots of the earlier three films. The first three Transformers films were characterized by a visual hyperactivity, but the default palette is now one of casual disregard, with a “who cares” approach to character introductions and spectacle. It’s made all the more obvious by the usual blatant product placements and notes of self-parody that poke fun of everything from the series’ original star, Shia LaBeouf, to Bay’s reputation for over-heated bombast sequences. Perhaps if they had just stuck to fewer characters, the film would be more enjoyable, like the children involved in the beginning were a distraction (including Isabella) and some of the Autobots & Decepticons in minor roles were really not interesting. Even John Turturo‘s returning character of Seymour felt forced to be included. The only worthy characters that I felt have significant importance other than Cade were Edmund Burton and Viviane. The Autobots that were also worthwhile to see were Cogman, Hot Rod, Bumblebee unfortunately our favorite, Optimus Prime was sadly underused in this film. Quintesson, the creator of all the Transformers looked cool; however, she was not as powerful as she seemed. She really did not do much to make an impact on the story. The final fight between her and Optimus Prime was pointless because she was defeated in practically one hit. What was the point of her? It was good to see Megatron again, especially with a new menacing design, but I am still confused about how Galvatron from ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’ go back to being Megatron, minus all the new cool powers he had gained? No explanation or anything was provided. The less said about the remaining Decepticons, who were introduced in a ‘Suicide Squad’ style, the better. For a film titled after giant robots, you would think there would be more focus on them. Bay once again chose to forego his expensive artificial crafted creations for his real- life actors. I just ask why? The series has always had human components, but not as the main focus. Remember the last film & the number of subplots the film had? Yeah, it gives me shudders too, unfortunately, the storyboard writers didn’t listen to the last set of reviews, because this one too once again is jam packed with multiple stories all trying to wedge their way to the front. Part treasure hunt, part emerging threat, part character testing for Optimus on top of all the character issues floating around, was just too much to grasp and the unifying factor tying all of them together was weak again. Certainly, the series have never been strong stories, but with their continuing focus on deconstructed plots, the series is losing a chunk of an audience. The acting was very well in aspects, Mark Wahlberg is his awesome self, confused and hunking around, while Laura Haddock looks gorgeous & plays her part very well. Jerrod Carmichael is hilarious, while Santiago Cabrera & Isabela Moner are alright. Among the recurring cast, Josh Duhamel seems misplaced, and there’s also John Turturro reprising his recurring role as Agent Simmons, who has been hunkered down in Cuba wearing a daily uniform of shorts, socks and sandals and is massively entertaining in his supporting role. Stanley Tucci is underused as Merlin, there’s no hint that his character from Age of Extinction has any direct link to Merlin here but perhaps that’s something to be explored further down the line. The casting of Sir Anthony Hopkins was a genius move! Bringing his unparalleled talent into the mix and delivering his lines with killer comic timing, the legend is nothing short of brilliant & seems to be having a blast here. The voice talent of Peter Cullen, Frank Welker, Gemma Chan, Erik Aadahl, John Goodman, Ken Watanabe, Jim Carter, Steve Buscemi & Omar Sy continue to be inspiring. On the whole, ‘Transformers: The Last Knight’ is a typical summer blockbuster which despite its horrendous plot line is worth a watch for its extravagant visual appeal.
Directed – Michael Bay
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 149 minutes