Transformers: The Last Knight – A Review

Well, now we know why they pulled out of the Paris Agreement, don’t we? He knew this was the last Transformers Michael Bay was going to direct. Like half of the world’s carbon emissions have just gone down, so kudos sir on pulling out at the right time. We all know what happens if you don’t pull out in time…

“One hundred billion trillion planets in the cosmos. You want to know, don’t you, why they keep coming here?”

Anyway, the one key issue everyone wants to address is what the fuck was going on in the movie. Of course, by everyone I mean the one friend I have left, and that’s the homeless cat that sits in my balcony who gave me an inquisitive look when I asked her about the movie. But seriously, though, what on earth was happening in the movie? You take acting legends like Mark Wahlberg and Sir Anthony Hopkins and still manage to churn out a movie with a plot that even Homer would be like, “Homie, you on some dope shit”. Really, it was Diwali all the way through: the unnecessary lights and sounds, the shoddy backstory on why there were the lights and sounds and an old white guy who has finally lost his mind after years of eating liver with fava beans. Folks who read my reviews will know that I usually praise the shows or movies I write about but here, I implore you to join me in disparaging another story where a Hispanic takes refuge with a white man, and the government hunts them down. Okay, that might be a different movie but you see why that was the only part of this freak-show that seemed clear.

To begin with, the plot and the characters in the movie were as fluid and comfortable as bone on bone (you can add an “r” in there, if that’s your thing). It felt like in his attempt to give Transformers a proper finale (although we’d be glad if it ended 8 years ago), Bay tried almost too hard. Like I said, acting legends and the overwhelming action; 150 minutes and all he convinced us was that we’d need an entire TV show with only flashbacks to explain a plot that should be less complicated than why Rachel and Ross were so stupid. Glaring plot-holes were screaming at the audience while Michael Bay was blowing up cars, and the chemistry between the characters never really seemed convincing. Sir Anthony Hopkins was this person who knew almost everything about the Transformers when they first arrived and was part of a secret society and everything but his comprehension or part in earlier films or events was never acknowledged. He owned a C-3PO kinda butler who’d served his family for eons and yet, neither was he ever recognized or referred to before, but even his acquaintance with Seymour Simmons wasn’t mentioned. The latter, by the way, was gold as far the cathartic comic relief in every one of those movies was concerned and he gets a bit-part role as a guy who spends all his retirement money on making long-distance calls from Cuba to England.

“Don’t kill the messenger. Or the messenger will kill you!”

Far as the chemistry is concerned, well, there was none. It was like watching Romeo and Juliet where cousins were cast as leads and they had to kiss. You can see they’re incredibly uncomfortable with it, every dialogue seems forced and just weird but it’s only done because there’s a paying audience. Laura Haddock and Mark Wahlberg are terrific actors but there was tension was replaced by friction between them. A fundamental rule of almost any good movie or franchise or show is that the characters need credibility and chemistry, especially the lead roles. Of course, they didn’t actually seem like cousins but you could feel the lack of familiarity between the individuals working together. The robot butler and Bumblebee were more believable at a human level than they were, for god’s sake. Here, I want to go back to Hopkins’ role in the movie. You take a gem of an actor like him, his credibility, elegance, grace and charisma, and think “Gee, he’s gonna be pretty awesome in the movie.” Michael Bay, however, sees an opportunity to recreate Dustin Hoffman’s Rain Man and makes him a bumbling, old-aged man whose only real accomplishment is that he met Bumblebee when he was a little boy. Hopkins was a little boy, not Bee. Aww, but can you imagine a little Hot-Wheel-sized Corvette. But, I digress.  The point is that Hopkins was mis- and rather underused in Bay’s two and a half hour long masculine display of a finale.

The transformers themselves weren’t insulated from the plot-holes or lack of character development either. The whole Merlin and King Arthur thing explained a more recent intertwining of the machines’ and human fates but then, Quintessa just appeared out of the blue. The “creator” of transformers, despite her majestic title, deserved and really, really needed an introduction or something to that effect but that clearly lost out to Bay’s desire to show he can create more sound than the inauguration of a recent political figure’s incumbent term. That comparison doesn’t seem entirely fair. Okay, his desire to prove he can drown the sound of every other similar political figure’s inauguration. And it wasn’t just her: Decepticon leader and effectively, undying badass Megatron makes little more than a cameo in the movie, where his greatest accomplishment is sitting in a chair and spewing some flames at the beginning. His cronies were swept aside with minimal organic development or stories and his wrinkles (read: botched Botox job) were never touched upon, but they could’ve made a great development point in the movie. The moment where Optimus Prime jumps back to himself after becoming Nemesis Prime (note the pathetic attempt at connotation and wordplay) is when Bumblebee finally talks in his old voice, and stops Prime from delivering the “Finish him” blow. WHAT??!! That’s not how psychology and mind control by a goddess would work. It was as convincing as the scene in Batman v Superman where one doesn’t kill what seems like his until-that-moment-mortal-enemy because he finds that their moms shared the same name.

“Is this a kidnapping sort of situation, or is it her first Transformers experience?”

Sigh, I have mentioned this before but to throw some “intellectual” jargon at you again: almost any movie that has received acclaim or has been touted as a must-watch or an incredibly fun movie, by critics and fans alike, follows what I (in my infinite ignorance) like to call the Shakespeare-rule. In his plays, he’d have scenes where tension would build then there would be an explosion of the tension, and almost immediately after, a scene or a play on dialogue which had less tension, a little humor and was more relaxed. He understood, remarkably well, the audience’s need for a cathartic release (e.g., that Porter scene right after Macbeth kills Duncan). Some of the greatest movies, touted so by critics and general audiences, follow this method. Award-winning directors like Scorsese and Tarantino also, in their own way, follow this method. But this Transformers lacks the subtleties of a good movie and is forcibly intent on indiscriminately creating ruckus. Cars that don’t need to be destroyed, are destroyed; the Stonehenge is blown-up (you can hear the Scientologists gasp in terror, in case their alien overlords came back and get pissed off); time is a concept that only bothers, well, no one in that world. The movie has just so much going on, with so many elements needlessly thrown in, that it’s not a mystery why no character seems believable at a human level. I mean, I had to watch TMNT 2 after this just to see what real characters are like. Watching The Last Knight is like listening to Twinkle-Twinkle, Bohemian Rhapsody, Hotline Bling and (insert any terrible Bieber song) at the same time. At the end, you’re left feeling cheated and “what the fuck was going on” but because you’ve spent money on it, you write a review and try to make others spend money too so you don’t seem especially stupid. My efforts so far seem to have been in vain. However, there is a reason to watch this movie and it is a good one, too: a lot of us grew up with this franchise and it was fantastical in every way. Watch it for the nausea nostalgia and the fact that it may be the end for the Autobots for at least a while.

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