“Robots in disguise”
For many years, that’s long been the thrilling pitch and sell with the Transformers franchise. I won’t soon forget how much a younger me enjoyed the first Transformers film, and animated versions of the property. It’s a compelling premise, this idea that the technology we’ve grown so attached to is secretly alive as alien robots. But for some reason, with each subsequent entry into the Transformers film universe, Michael Bay manages to muck it up even more.
As listed above, I am not someone who goes into Transformers films, or any films for that matter, expecting to hate them. I want every film to succeed and do good, because then it just means a more exciting year for those of us who love the medium so much. But I can’t bite my tongue when films are bad, and I certainly can’t sit quietly when films are awful.
Transformers: The Last Knight’s plot seems easy enough to follow, but that’s where they get you. The premise is this: after the Battle for Chicago and several other major events involving our robotic heroes, the Autobot legion has gone into hiding and are considered outcasts. But there’s a threat brewing, one that could destroy Earth (or Unicron), and a powerful sorceress working against the Autobots.
The Last Knight completely loses everything that made the franchise remotely enjoyable. Mark Wahlberg, while fun, has never been a suitable replacement for Shia LeBouf’s Sam Witwicky. The little kids that the movie centers so much in the trailer are barely in the film, and their roles are considerably underwritten. Bay’s half-baked attempt at a strong female character was something I’m sure he expected to be a firecracker, but fizzles out the moment the character speaks.
And it’s not the young actress, Isabela Moner’s fault. She does a fine job with what she’s given, and I wouldn’t mind seeing her in future projects. But her character is so tragically underwritten and woven thoughtlessly into the story that I’m not sure we needed her at all. This feels like an attempt to capitalize on all the success women are having right now in the film industry – and it doesn’t work.
Anthony Hopkins, while entertaining, is wasted here. He’s pretty much there so the movie can say, “We got Anthony Hopkins!” He has a few good lines, but for the most part, the movie doesn’t need him either.
And that’s what’s so frustrating about The Last Knight. The movie seems to feel like it has to have a thousand things going on at once to be compelling and sophisticated (which at this point I feel Transformers should just give up on). Therefore, the movie feels long-winded and crazy convoluted. It stretches the story out to fit a near three hour running time, and the third act, while visually eye-popping (which, of course, is Transformers‘ sweet spot), is boring and a waste of time.
And that’s the buzzword for the review of not only The Last Knight, but the Transformers franchise as a whole: a waste of everyone involved’s time. Michael Bay gets ridiculous paychecks from these films, but the way the box office is slipping, he might not even have that going for him. Mark Wahlberg gets a starring role, but even he can’t overcome the hokey, trying-too-hard dialogue. And with each entry, the franchise further taints the possibility of characters like Optimus Prime and Bumblebee regaining any credibility in the future.
Yeah, I said it – regaining credibility. The Transformers used to be fun, exciting characters that held commentary on real world technology and could have gone in sophisticated directions. If they ever decide to reboot, I would be hesitantly excited, because I think Transformers can work. And I don’t need every franchise to be deep and political. Sometimes I do just want to go to the movies, recline my seat, stuff popcorn in my mouth, suck down an ICEE through a long straw, and get lost in a flick. But Transformers isn’t good for even that anymore. It’s simply become the franchise that refuses to die.