Thursday, June 22, 2017

“Transformers: The Last Knight” – A run-on sentence, but with explosions.

I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is Transformers: The Last Knight is the third best (and third worst) movie in the franchise. The bad news is it’s still a Transformers sequel. Yes, you read that right and you are wrong – the first Transformers movie is one of the best popcorn flicks ever. One of these days, I’m going to write a defense of that movie, but for now, I’ll just point out that 57% of critics on Rotten Tomatoes (and 85% of audience members) thought it was more good than bad. Movies two, four, and five all sit in the teens and movie three mustered a semi-respectable 35%.

I’m not going to argue that The Last Knight is even remotely decent, but I’ve read some early reviews written by critics who are calling the fifth installment the worst of the franchise, which is demonstrably wrong. The second movie, Revenge of the Fallen, is the worst of the franchise and it’s not even close. Revenge of the Fallen featured racist caricatures of black people dressed as Autobots, two different scenes with a dog fucking another dog, a tiny Decepticon humping Megan Fox’s leg, John Turturro in a jock strap, wrecking ball testicles on a transformer, John Turturro describing the testicles, Shia Labeouf’s mom running around campus high on pot brownies, and a human transformer with a tentacle probe extending out of her ass while raping Sam in his dorm room. Yes, The Last Knight contains a pile of terrible, but if you are ranking the movies of the franchise from best to worst it goes:

Transformers.
Eight negative orders of magnitude.
Dark of the Moon.
Rock bottom.
The Last Knight.
Age of Extinction.
Five hundred feet of crap.
Revenge of the Fallen.

One of the calmer scenes of the film.

The screening of The Last Knight was fun for me because I took a friend who had never seen a Transformers movie and his reaction after the film was priceless. “That was the most incoherent movie I have ever seen,” he said. “Welcome to Transformers-land,” I replied. And he was right. The Last Knight is a two hour and twenty-nine minute kludge of bad dialogue, explosions, and Anthony Hopkins trading insults with his robot butler. I have to believe the way this movie got written was a bunch of studio executives saying things like:

Exec #1: People love Game of Thrones, what if we had a dragon transformer!?

Exec #2: Dude, what if it had three heads?!

Exec #2: (to despondent writer): Come on, write it down!

Exec #1: People love Downton Abbey, too.

Exec #2: Two words - transformer butler.

Exec #1: Two more words – hot English chick.

Despondent writer: That’s three words.

Exec #1: That’s why you’re the writer and we’re the idea men.

Despondent writer: *kills self with pen*

I hope the despondent writer killed whichever exec thought up baby dinosaurs before turning the pen on himself.

(SPOILER ALERT. Does it really count as a spoiler if the movie is complete nonsense?)

The main plot of the movie is one we’ve seen before - reconstituting Cybertron (the Transformers’ home planet). A flying medusa transformer named Quintessa (Gemma Chan) captures Optimus Prime (Peter Cullenn) and forces him to become evil (Nemesis Prime, please tell me you are laughing now) by stroking his face and turning his eyes purple. Don’t worry. He’ll snap out of it when he hears Bumblebee’s true voice (I am not making this up). Quintessa’s plan is to fly the shell of Cybertron to Earth (which she says is inhabited by a planet-sized transformer named Unicron), reclaim her magic staff that created all the Transformers and which was stolen 1,600 years earlier by twelve knights (wait for it), and suck all the energy out of Earth to make Cybertron whole again. In order to buy into this plot you have to forget about the All Spark being the creator of the transformers (movie one) and that Megatron had to open a portal to bring Cybertron to Earth (movie three) because he forgot Quintessa existed. Like I said in my review of Age of Extinction, they’ve had plenty of time to write a coherent narrative for the franchise, but the studio and Michael Bay can’t see past the new toys they want to sell and the sets they want to blow up.

This movie might have been okay had it just stuck with the main plot of Quintessa/Cybertron vs Unicron, but, like I said, kludge. The movie kicks off with King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table fighting a battle against some barbarians. Merlin (Stanley Tucci, who apparently loved being in the fourth movie so much he decided to slum it again as a completely different character) drunkenly stumbles to a cave where the twelve transformer knights are hanging out and he begs them for help in the battle. They give him Quintessa’s staff, transform and combine into a three-headed dragon, and kill all the barbarians. Sooo, why did they give him the staff? Also, King Arthur? Really?

(Side note: hilariously, The Last Knight isn’t the worst movie featuring King Arthur this year.)

Yes, that's really King Arthur.

Fast forward to present day and a new military outfit is hunting transformers down and killing them. Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), Bumblebee, and a couple other Autobots are fighting them and hiding in a junk yard, but this doesn’t matter to the plot. There’s also a teenage girl (Isabela Moner) who is friends with an R2-D2 rip-off who seems like she will be a main character, but ends up being worthless, annoying, and doesn’t matter to the plot. Anthony Hopkins plays Sir Edmund Burton, the keeper of the secret history of transformers on Earth, who has been waiting his whole life for the transformer apocalypse, but ends up serving as matchmaker to Cade and the hot English chick, Vivian (Laura Haddock). Sir Edmund doesn’t matter to the plot at all, but he is important because he provides 99% of the exposition in this film. Vivian only matters in that her DNA (she’s related to Merlin) makes her the only thing that can activate the staff…except for every transformer. There are also dinobots that don’t fight in the climactic battle for some reason, baby dinobots for no reason, a bunch of giant horns popping out of the ground that get talked about a lot then forgotten halfway through the movie, a talisman that is supposed to be the key to the staff but that spends most of the movie molesting Cade except for the one time it becomes a sword for ten seconds, Josh Duhamel yelling military jargon, John Turturro yelling about scrotum books, and a sassy robot butler that won’t even make a decent toy. Yeah, I know that was a run-on sentence and if I lost you during that paragraph, that’s the joke of this movie.

Continuing the absurdity, do you know what a deus ex machina is? It’s when something appears in the movie for no reason other than to be a convenient plot device to solve a problem. Exhibit number one - since Bumblebee has been with this franchise since the beginning and killing him would hurt toy sales, he is suddenly able to rebuild himself after being torn to shreds. Picture the T1000 rebuilding itself after being frozen and shot into a million pieces. Exhibit number two - another transformer can create time bubbles around things in order to freeze them. Like with Bumblebee, this allows any good guy to be saved at any time and any bad guy stopped just in time to prevent them from doing something bad. This may be the deus of all machinas. Picture that poor despondent writer killing himself.

Robot butler.

The amazing thing about this film is that it makes two and a half hours feel like a week. Since the movie doesn’t give a shit about any of the characters (human or robot) enough to even begin to develop them or make you care about them, nearly all of the screen time is devoted to explosions, CGI pixels fighting with each other, Anthony Hopkins explaining something (to be fair, Hopkins appears to be having the time of his life in this film), and the overly used and familiar stock footage of military hardware that Michael Bay almost certainly jerks off to.

As you finish reading, there are two things I want you to keep in mind. One, the marketing for this film is lying to you. Every trailer is yelling about The Last Knight being the last chapter, but that is complete bullshit. The film has a mid-credits scene that guarantees more Transformers films. Two, this film is not the worst movie of the year, but it’s in the running. If you just want to see transformers transforming, sweet cars, Mark Wahlberg shirtless, Laura Haddock melting your eyes in her stripper dress (to quote Cade Yeager), or two-plus hours of fireballs, have at it. But at least you can rest assured that nothing in this movie is openly trying to fuck something else in this movie. Well, unless you count the French transformer sexually harassing Vivian, but still - only third-worst.

Rating: You should ask for all of your money back, but you won’t listen. If you’ve seen any of the Transformers sequels, you’ve seen them all, and I know that because the last two films grossed $1.1 billion EACH.

1 comment:

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