I have a feeling this is a wasted column. Let’s be honest; you’ve already made your mind up about this movie. Most of you probably did so without even seeing it. So, why should I bother? Maybe there’s one person out there who actually cares what I think, regardless of their own opinion? Probably not. But I should go ahead and write it, just in case!
So, yes, here we are with Transformers: The Last Knight, the fifth film in the franchise helmed by Michael Bay based on the Hasbro toy line from the eighties. The films aren’t particularly well-regarded among film geeks but they have tended to play well with the masses and have made lots of money for Paramount.
(On an interesting side note, I just got back from Orlando, where I finally got the chance to check out the new Transformers ride at Universal Studios. I love Universal Studios, but I was disappointed by this particular ride. It used the exact same format and technology as the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man ride at their neighboring Islands of Adventure park, with no apparent technological advances, even though the Spider-Man ride is well over a decade older than the Transformers ride. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is amazing, though, and the two accompanying rides are better – especially The Forbidden Journey.)
The film is already massively underperforming in North America (I had a private showing, today), though it’s doing respectable business in the rest of the world. That’s not altogether different from the last installment, Age of Extinction (the best film of the franchise), and speaks more to American sensibilities than anything else. Americans will sit and binge-watch 120 episodes of a television show with a single bathroom break but balk at the idea of a fourth or fifth film in a franchise. This film could be the legitimate greatest movie of all time and three-quarters of Americans would declare that it sucked and subject anyone who liked it to online bullying that would make Randy Marsh proud. But, as I pointed out in this column, it’s not all about America, anymore.
Having said that, Transformers: The Last Knight is not the greatest movie of all-time. The story, here, is that the Decepticons are hoping to use an ancient artifact located on (you guessed it) Earth in order to suck the life out of the planet and restore their home world of Cybertron. Along the way, there is a much-publicized heel turn by Optimus Prime, hoping to inject a fresh little twist into the proceedings.
It doesn’t help much. Yes, narratively speaking, there is some new stuff going on in The Last Knight, but it unfolds at such a plodding pace and with such lifeless delivery that I actually once found myself thinking back to the Simpsons ride at Universal Studios. The movie is, simply put, obnoxiously boring. Exposition is necessary in all films, but it needs to be done in a way that is every bit as entertaining as the big action set pieces are. Sometimes, the dialogue is even more interesting, such as in all three Iron Man films. In The Last Knight, from a very large cast, only Mark Wahlberg, Laura Haddock, and Isabela Moner exhibit any semblance of charisma. Unfortunately, most of the information pertinent to the overarching narrative is delivered by all of the other characters, with those three simply reacting to those revelations. And, regarding those other characters, their dialogue is uninspired and so are their performances. It’s a deadly combination. Even Anthony Hopkins lazily limps along throughout the movie, bringing ultimately nothing to the proceedings. The lame, unfunny humor that permeated earlier series installments (other than Age of Extinction) makes a partial return, though it’s not as sophomoric nor as frequent as it once was, so I suppose that’s something. I found myself just waiting for the big battle at the end, not even caring about why it was happening.
Even worse, once the big battle arrives, it’s almost as boring as the rest of the film. With maybe one brief exception, there is nothing fresh or even remotely memorable to see. On top of that, due to the lackluster writing and sleepy performances, there is virtually no personal connection to the battle, so there’s nothing in which to emotionally invest. Admittedly, Optimus Prime is still great (so is Quintessa and their brief scenes on Cybertron are the highlight of the film), but he’s taken out of nearly the entire movie, scoring maybe twenty minutes of screen time out of the unnecessarily bloated 149 minutes.
I stand by my claim that Age of Extinction is actually pretty good and jettisoned nearly everything that people had complained about regarding the series up to that point. I had hoped that trend would continue, but – alas – it was not to be. The Optimus Prime arc had some potential but it was largely ignored in favor of everything else that audiences don’t care about. The series jumped from my favorite installment to now my least-favorite. Take this information and do as you will with it. But don’t forget that Wonder Woman is still showing, right down the hall.
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