Transformers The Last Knight Review

The Plot

Optimus Prime searches the cosmos for the creators of the Transformers while back on earth mankind wages an increasingly desperate battle against both the heroic Autobots and evil Decpeticons. As hidden secrets of Transformers history are revealed it sets Earth and the planet Cybertron on a collision course that threatens the survival of both worlds.

The Good

Toy loving youngsters and die hard older fans will enjoy the typical promotional push that comes with another big screen instalment of Transformers. Even if the film almost inevitably doesn’t live up to the hype it’s still another huge public celebration of the much beloved franchise. Young audiences will obviously at least enjoy the loud carnage of fighting robots. While critics and more mature fanboys may once again be left vocally disappointed, in truth many young fans will be oblivious to their concerns and instead merely delight in seeing Bumblebee and Optimus Prime back on screen. While some franchises have consciously matured with their core audiences over time, Transformers remains committed to securing the giddy excitement of 6 year olds. Regardless of any other failings the film at least offers fan a scale of spectacle befitting a budget of hundreds of millions of dollars. Against that vast canvas of generic blockbuster grade destruction the film also offers a few rare treats such as a welcome Stanley Tucci cameo and a bigger dose of Robot Dinosaurs and Dragons.

The Bad

The Transformers film series under Michael Bay’s disappointingly persistent control continues to repeatedly make the same mistakes, ignoring consistent criticisms with a stubbornness fuelled by the sagas seemingly bulletproof financial success. The guaranteed box office returns delivered by global audiences hoping to finally see a film which delivers on the vast potential of the enduringly popular franchise merely emboldens Bay to carry on regardless. Once again leaving dejected anyone not seeking the most mindless explosion drenched CGI distractions.

Summer blockbusters can and arguably should be crowd pleasing fun, unfortunately there’s a vast array of shortcoming and obvious problems which largely prevent Bay’s Transformer’s saga from delivering that.

Bay’s myopic focus on CGI intricacies and excessive pyrotechnics at the expense of basic elements of storytelling remains a fundamental problem. As usual, human and robot characters alike are treated as disposable props moved clumsily through a story designed solely to facilitate a series of predetermined action set pieces. Mark Wahlberg still feels noticeably misplaced as the series leading man, bumbling through extraordinary adventures with mundane Bostonian bravado. Former Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins phones in a paycheck performance as an eccentric old plot device, while Bay’s latest token eye candy Laura Haddock struggle valiantly to maintain Oxford professor credibility in a bust boosting cocktail dress.

A serious criticism of Bay’s past Transformers films was that the robots were frequently based on heavy handed racial stereotypes. Bay himself has previously acknowledged these concerns and had vowed to ensure some of the most ‘offensive’ characters didn’t feature in future instalments. Unfortunately the new robots introduced in this film include a snooty British butler and the arrogant Hot Rod complete with an embarrassingly exaggerated French accent. They join a team of robots that already includes a sword wielding Samurai, a cockney hard man and a blustering big gutted American gun nut voiced gregariously by John Goodman.

Bay might offer the defence that it’s just a way of injecting identifiable personality into the alien robots and making the film more internationally accessible for global audiences. But like much of the film’s humour it’s hard to ignore the reality that it often feels lazy and perhaps even a little inappropriate. It would be easier to ignore these choices if the rest of the human cast wasn’t equally two dimensional and consistently drawn from cliché stereotypes.

Ironically for a franchise built almost exclusively around showing off the latest polished special effects wizardry the fact that the film was only partially shot for IMAX means that the aspect ratio changes frequently during scenes. Not everyone will notice this technical quirk but for anyone who does it’s an annoying distraction that worsens already surprisingly messy editing. The action sequences often feel noticeably disjointed as cameras cut between badly mismatched shots trying frantically to capture the practical effects of never-ending explosions, CGI of wildly varying quality and also advance the frequently jumbled narrative.

The film attempts to expand and rewrite the “mythology” of Transformers by integrating it with the overly familiar Arthurian legend of the Knights of the Round Table. Sadly it ultimately takes the franchise even further away from the winning original premise of the good Autobots fighting the evil Decepticons as ‘robots in disguise’. The ultimate result is a painfully long 150 minute mess packed with embarrassingly muddled subtext and woeful dialogue that fails utterly to be funny or dramatic with alarming consistency. The film lurches constantly between Bay’s trademark vacuous lingering shots and horrible shaky cam urgency both equally lacking in meaning or any hint of genuine emotion. There’s something innately hurried and seemingly half-finished about almost every aspect of the plot and production, producing an experience so mindless and joyless that it actually manages to become unforgivably undeniably boring.

The Ugly Truth

Anyone left disappointed by the past Transformers films will almost certainly leave cinemas yet again regretting the price of admission. If you truly want to see a different kind of Transformers film the only real alternative is to stay away this… It’s time to take the camera away from Michael Bay.

Review by Russell Nelson

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