I attended an advance screening of Transformers: The Last Knight ahead of its Australian release. Before I go any further, I must point something out. I have never been a fan of the franchise. I only became interested in this latest instalment – the fifth in the series based on the popular Hasbro toys – when it was announced that Santiago Cabrera (who, as Aramis, was my favourite musketeer in BBC’s The Musketeers series) had been cast in the movie. I have seen the earlier movies and always felt each one could benefit from shaving off at least an hour off the screen time.
Putting aside the notion of cars that transform into super strong robots from another planet fighting some other super strong robots that have all somehow ended on Earth, The Last Knight drags one of the most-loved and popular mythologies of King Arthur and his faithful Knights into its apocalyptic battle. If you’re already a fan of the Transformers franchise, you will find everything oh-so-familiar: LOUD explosions, HUGE battles between the robots, lots of fast cars that might make Vin Diesel a tiny bit envious, the US Army trying to outgun the machines (at this point, I am not even sure if the military are the good guys or the bad guys anymore), female characters that are worse than the worst cliched character you have ever seen, and a human hero who could have won the battle on his own.My friends and I distinguish the different instalments in this franchise like this: Transformers (2007) starred Shia LeBeouf as a high school nerd and Megan Fox as a high school hottie who is an ace mechanic in hot pants and tight tops; Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009) saw Shia and Megan now no longer in high school but a proper couple; Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011) saw Shia get a hot new girlfriend in the form of a white-clad Rosie Huntington-Whiteley who never got a speck of dirt on her white outfits; and Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014) as the one where Shia is replaced by Mark Wahlberg who, let’s face it, is a more realistic man-on-a-mission anti-hero type who I would trust to save the world, should this need ever arise in real life.
Plot-what-plot comes to mind. But I shall do my best to explain where we’re at. In Transformers: The Last Knight, we find Cade Yeager (Wahlberg) hiding out in a junkyard with his Autobots. Optimus Prime is lost in space and humans no longer trust the Transformers. But we quickly find out that the history of the arrival of the Autobots on Earth from their home, Cybertron, dates all the way back to Arthurian times in the fifth century. Not only do we see King Arthur and his Knights fighting an epic battle (although I am not sure who they were fighting against), we see them win their battle with the help of a drunken Merlin and his magic staff, gifted to him by one of the ancient Autobots.
Fast forward to the twenty-first century and Megatron is trying to get his hands (wheels?) on this staff and a talisman that has now attached itself to Cade because, well, you probably guessed it, he is The Last Knight! Of course, he doesn’t know any of this but thanks to Sir Edmund Burton (Sir Anthony Hopkins) who kidnaps/recruits a sexy history professor named Vivian Wembley (Laura Haddock), all of this is slowly revealed to Cade.
I would go on but to do so would: a) spoil the movie too much and b) imply that I understood all of what was going on with the story. I should point out that there are other human cast members of note include Stanly Tucci (Merlin), Josh Duhamel (returning as Colonel Lennox), Santiago Cabrera (TRF Leader Santos), Glenn Morshower (returning as General Morshower) and Tony Hale (JPL Engineer).
Looking at the critical responses on Rotten Tomatoes for each of the earlier movies (57%, 19%, 35%, and 18% respectively), you would be hard-pressed to make sense of why movie studios keep giving director/producer Michael Bay more money to keep making these movies. Even when you look at the audience ratings for each in comparison (85%, 57%, 55% and 51%) you can see a gradual decline in their popularity. You could, of course, argue that as long as audiences are still excited about the franchise and willing to part with their cash to see this movie, the studio is making money so why not? As one critic wrote of The Last Knight: “…what (this movie) does prove is nothing matters anymore. I saw this movie. You will see this movie. Everyone will see this movie. And we will all be dumber together.”
I whole-heartedly agree. In the future, my friends and I may refer to this movie as “the one where they finally created a female character with brains but didn’t use them”. There was enough humour in the movie to make me laugh out loud and not fall asleep (of course, the endless loud explosions that shook our seats kept me wide awake, too). And frankly, as long as the studio gives Bay money to make more, he can afford better actors who will always lend just a tiny bit of credibility to an otherwise-nonsensical story. This is what popcorn movies are all about.
Transformers: The Last Knight, goes bigger and louder than before. For the first time, Bay has shot the film with IMAX 3D cameras. I wonder if some of the budget might have been better spent on improving some of the CGI though… The Last Knight opens across Australia on June 22.