Transformers: The Last Knight - Michael's Review
#1
I saw the movie this morning. As action / adventure movies go it was okay but very long. I can see why it is doing better overseas than in the USA. I have not read any of the critics' reviews but while there are some cool things in the movie it does present some problems.

I think the Michael Bay / Transformers relationship is growing a bit stale. The movie does have a feeling of finality to it and maybe this is Bay's way of saying he is ready to step away from the franchise. It kind of "ties up" some loose ends while leaving some things open-ended.

We meet a few old friends, including Josh Duhamel as Colonel William Lennox. He was a Captain in the first "Transformers" movie and despite the sense of time passing in these films he is still young enough to be leading troops into the field. In fact, Glenn Morshower is back as General Morshower. He also played Colonel Sharp in the first movie so he is his own Doppelganger in more ways than one. None of these guys has aged enough to be forced into retirement, but it feels like an entire generation of Earth time has passed.

The first movie was released in 2007 so the actors are certainly young enough to reprise their roles. I don't have a problem with these guys being in the movie. They handle Bay's cut-and-chop directorial style very well and they are now staples of the franchise. But their presence in the story is disconcerting.

And that leads me to the main problem with "Transformers: The Last Knight". The story moves so fast that it omits a lot of necessary explanation. If you are not familiar with the film franchise history I would be surprised if much of the movie makes any sense. And even as someone who has watched the previous four movies many times I found myself wondering what happened to a few items of fact. I never watched the animated films and so I don't consider them to be part of this live action franchise. We were always led to believe that the live action franchise can stand on its own and Bay has done a pretty good job of ensuring that is so.

But there are clear and obvious gaps of continuity in this story. In some cases you feel a loss as some actors from previous movies did not return in any capacity. Shia Lebeouf makes it into the film in the form of a picture on a wall. It engenders a laugh from the audience but not much of an emotional connection to the prior movies.

Sir Anthony Hopkins introduces an entirely new sub-plot to the franchise. I don't know if any of that is lifted from the animated movies or if it's new, but it's a confusing sub-plot that requires a lot of exposition. It doesn't help that the exposition is filled with repartee and flirtatious banter between Mark Wahlberg (Cade Yeager) and Laura Haddock (Vivian Wembley). Yeager's daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) only appears in the story as a voice on a phone. I don't know if she was too busy to come back or if Bay decided to cut back on young girls in hot pants.

Isabella Moner is the new "young girl". She plays Izabella and she is too young to be a sex symbol. I'm not entirely sure of what she adds to the story although she does kind of bridge another character into a significant role. If that is the only reason why Bay brought this young character into the movie, it seems to me he could have found a better way to make the significant moment happen.

Stanley Tucci comes back in the most unlikely role possible. I thought they were going to connect his new character with his old character from the fourth movie (Joshua Joyce) but there doesn't seem to be the slightest intention of doing so.

Optimus Prime is captured and enslaved by the creator of Cybertron, the "mad goddess" Quintessa (Gemma Chan). It's not clear, by the end of the movie, if she really did create Cybertron. She is certainly very powerful but where you have one embodied "god" there is usually an implied pantheon behind him or her in these kinds of stories. I get the impression that Quintessa is not the only one of her kind but not because of anything the characters say.

Earth turns out to have a more ominous aspect in this film and that is not fully explained. In fact, a lot of the ominous stuff is just left hanging in the background until you get to the end credits so you know there is another movie coming provided this one is successful. And, sure, Bay could direct it but as I said, it is starting to feel like he is growing tired or at least running out of creative energy for this franchise.

There is plenty of action that almost makes sense. One of the things that marks the Transformers movies is the way Michael Bay cuts his scenes together. There is so little transition and the characters speak in such rapid clips that if you don't watch each movie 2-3 times you may never fully grasp the significance of any one scene. Bay crams a lot of details in the 30-second and 1-minute discussions between Morshower and Lennox. It would help ME if Bay took a little more time to let these characters explain their parts in the movie better. I'm not sure if that is the right way to put it, but it just feels like he was cramming as many characters into each scene as possible.

The US special forces are joined this time by British special forces, which I thought was pretty cool. Up until now the US has been sending its military all over the world with impunity but the Brits get off their stodgy old duffs and put some highly effective forces into the field. Of course, there is no explanation of how Megatron is not concerned by the presences of enemy forces in what is a critical location for the movie's plot.

Speaking of which, although we learn well ahead of time where the main action is going to occur we really get no explanation for what is going on. We just kind of bring everyone together for a big smash pounding and you have a huge battle sequence unfolding. To make things even more confusing, you have a room full of scientists in the background who are advising the military and this one idiotic scientist keeps yelling stuff about "Physics, not fairy tales!" at General Morshower, who makes some of the most implausible decisions on the basis of who is shouting at him and what is blowing up.

Everything goes wrong and right at just the best possible moments. The whole thing is a well-plotted choreography, which makes it completely surreal. You have two planets (once again!) coming close together without creating gravitational havoc across the Earth, a 14-year-old girl charging into combat without armor or any kind of protection, and US Ospreys flinging about (as usual) without actually harming anyone. In fact, it's hard to feel a sense of loss for the humans because if any die in this movie their deaths are treated like subliminal methods.

Autobots and Decepticons come and go like flies on a summer day hovering around a basket of hamburgers. There are almost no important Autobot characters except for Optimus, Bumble Bee, and Megatron and, to be honest, none of them actually gets a lot of screen time. Optimus gets the least screen time and part of that time he is Nemesis.

It's all a bit overwhelming but I wouldn't say I came out of the theater disappointed. I sort of knew what I was getting into and Bay did not disappoint my expectations. But I was hoping he would exceed them and that he did not do.
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