Wednesday 28 June 2017

Transformers - The Last Knight

Melancholy Bay Bee

Transformers - The Last Knight
2017 USA Directed by Michael Bay   
UK cinema release print.

Okay then. Here we are for another slice of well coordinated but ultimately bland Bay-hem. And it’s a bit of a shame because he’s obviously a very competent director and knows how to construct, shoot and edit action scenes that cram a lot into them without, for the most part in this one, losing you in the edit.

I’ve said this before on this blog but I’ll do so again now... I think the very first Transformers movie that he directed, 10 years ago, was absolutely brilliant and I consider it a modern action classic. I had no idea who the Transformers were (they were somewhat ‘after my time’ when I was a kid) and I really didn’t want to see that first one but I was dragged along to a screening by someone who was a lot more invested in the experience than I was and I was totally lost to the movie. It was a blast. It also had an absolutely classic score by Steve Jablonsky. Imagine my surprise and continued disappointment, then, when all of the sequels, often sharing some of the same cast and crew of this first one, were all so hard to watch.

I’m sorry to say that, even with the added experience and gravitas that Sir Anthony Hopkins brings to his role in this fifth (and possibly final) installment, he was not able to save the film or lift it out of the muddy puddle it seems so desperate to be clawing its way out of.

Actually, there are a lot of reasons why this film should work so lets take a look at those first.

I mentioned Anthony Hopkins was in this right? He, of course, adds a certain amount of weight to the film but he can only go as far as the script constraints will allow. Ditto for Mark Wahlberg who, once again, acquits himself very well and proves himself to be one of the more interesting actors out there today. He is also backed up by his new romantic interest Laura Haddock, his new surrogate daughter played by Isabela Moner (Nicola Peltz did not return after playing the character’s actual daughter in Transformers - Age Of Extinction (reviewed here) and Josh Duhamel reprising his role as Lennox from some (I think most) of the other movies. They’re all very good and, for the most part, don’t let themselves get upstaged by the effects.

Another thing which is good about this one is that it really does try to make as much sense out of the speeding juggernaut that the franchise has become as possible and tries hard to construct a story that makes sense with all the previous installments, tying them up into a perfect bundle. At the end of the last movie we had main Transformer good guy Optimus Prime leaving Earth to seek his creator and they pretty much pick up the story from there. Admittedly, they also add in some kind of weird war between Transformers in his absence and Wahlberg’s character is in nowhere like the happy place which was seemingly in his near future after the previous installment... choosing, instead, a fugitive's life on the run from new ‘misguided good turned accidentally evil because he’s playing for the wrong team’ Lennox and his squad of Transformer destroyers.

The film also, kinda, ties up where those medieval Transformers from the last movie came from and also mentions the Witwikky’s part in the history of Transformers' on Earth... going so far as to show a truly stupid photo of Shia La Beouf when he was in ‘crazy’ mode from an earlier film. I guess that’s Michael Bay’s not so subtle way of getting a little  bit of revenge after La Beouf quit the series... or maybe it’s just a cute in-joke, I don’t know.

So we have a plot filled with the secret legacy of Transformers and a script involving Mark Wahlberg being chosen by a bit of alien tech to be 'the last knight'. We also have a nice little prologue with King Arthur, Lancelot and Merlin defeating their enemies when Merlin strikes a deal with some Transformers to make a huge dragon machine. Actually, that sequence is a bit confusing/problematic because only a descendent of Merlin can wield a certain object in modern day to help defeat the Decepticon’s evil plot and Merlin is played here by Stanley Tucci, who had a prominent role in the last movie as a completely different character in modern times. So all the way through you are waiting for that character to show up and reveal they are the descendent of Merlin but... no, they don’t. Merlin’s descendent turns out to be another character but... I won’t reveal which one because, you never know, you may actually want to go see this movie.

Okay, that’s the good stuff mostly out of the way.

The bad stuff?

Well the script might be okay in terms of tying everything together but the dialogue is pretty awful, it has to be said. I couldn’t believe these great actors were being asked to speak some of these terrible lines and, especially in the case of the great Anthony Hopkins, I was embarrassed at some of the stuff they were getting him to do. Truly cringeworthy and somehow beneath him is the take away I got here. Special mention to the also great Wahlberg, though, for managing to get some of those lines sounding pretty natural and for injecting his scenes with a certain amount of credibility, for sure.

One thing which could have been great is the return of John Turturro to the series (after his strange absence in the last film). The performance is quite literally phoned in, however, as he doesn’t share any of his very brief scenes with any of the other human characters, instead spending his entire time on the phone to Anthony Hopkins. It looked almost like these were added scenes after part of the cut maybe wasn’t working but I’m just guessing there and that may not have been the case.

I think the bad dialogue combined with the excesses of the action scenes kinda drag the movie down quite a bit, to be honest. The special effects are all fantastic and the action scenes quite rollicking but they all just kinda squash together with no highs or lows in between sequences and I honestly found myself almost drifting off to sleep at one point while the movie was being at its most noisy.

Steve Jablonsky’s score is kinda okay but, from what I could hear of it, joins his sequel scores as being nowhere near the classic that his first Transformers score was (which still gets a heck of a lot of spins per year on my turntable to this day). However, as might be expected, a lot of it is buried under the sound effects so I won’t be able to apprise the score properly until the CD comes out next month and that’s far too late for this review.

And that’s all I’ve got to say about Tranformers - The Last Night, to be honest. It’s big and noisy and there’s lots of movement on screen and if you like seeing heavy metal behemoths bashing each other up with as little emotional context as possible, well... there’s certainly room in this world for that kind of cinema and I wouldn’t blame you for indulging in that kinda large slice of escapism one bit. As for me, it’s nowhere near the classic that the first movie was and it’s not something I’d revisit anytime soon, truth be told. Unlike the first movie, this one shares the same qualities as the other sequels in that they're really not ‘more than meets the eye.’

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