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MOVIE REVIEW: Does Rolling Out to TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT Mean More of the Same or is There More Than Meets the Eye?

 

Imitating 101: How “not” to exactly mimic a pose.

 

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try, and try again. This line of thinking describes the Michael Bay directed Transformers franchise to a near perfect tee… in the quality control department that is. Like its predecessors, the latest installment, Transformers: The Last Knight, attempts to improve upon what came before it. It achieves this objective with a varying degree of success. Albeit very limited success.

Financially, every film has found its way into the black both in domestic and international waters. On the creative side however, critics and Transformers fans alike (myself excluded), have dragged almost every film through the proverbial coals. The main theme trending through those complaints is excess. Be it over-sexualization of the lead female roles, over-the-top corniness, runtime, explosions, neurotic characters, or an over-abundance of slow-motion lens flare shots that would make even make J.J. Abrams wince; the consensus usually involves there being too much of too many things (and usually all at once.)

 

Is there anything more indulgent than the Outlaw kneeling down to pose with an over-sized Optimus Prime theater stand?

 

As I have argued in past Transformers film reviews, the first film has been, and still is, the best installment of the franchise in large part due to the fact it is less indulgent with regards to just about everything when compared to its follow-ups.

So where does The Last Knight succeed and where does it descend into mind-cringing nonsense? You can continue reading my spoiler free overview below for all the heavy metal details.

 

“AUTOBOTS, ROLL OUT!”

Animated Origins:
Except for the original (and even that is debatable), the Transformers films haven’t been notorious for their tight or cohesive plots. The Last Knight attempts to remedy this by introducing Cybertron and other elements found in the animated iteration of the property, most notably the animated movie of 1986. While not an exact retelling, enough is revealed to finally make things interesting in this universe. Dare I say even a cliffhanger is offered up during the end credits.

 

Still the best Transformers movie, and no CGI was required.

 

IMAX 3D Transforms the Experience:
If there’s one thing Bay knows, it’s how movie goers like to see things get blown up, and the latest installment delivers in spades. Despite being five films deep, the visuals of robots changing into modes of transportation are still jaw-dropping and the grandiose sets are a sight to behold. The Last Knight is also the first film that was recorded entirely using  IMAX 3D cameras. Fortunately, due to close proximity, I was able to take in a viewing via IMAX 3D. All I can say is, if you have an IMAX theater within Ubering distance, don’t hesitate to take in a showing in the premium format. You won’t be disappointed (with the visual presentation anyways.)

 

As per the norm, I have no clue what Im trying to accomplish here.

 

Heart that can Melt Metal:
Not many people mention the heart-string pulling moments of the Transformers movie franchise, mostly because it’s the one thing Bay doesn’t overdose on. However, when he does throw some emotion into the mix, the results can be satisfying. Surprisingly, some of the best moments involved big screen newcomer, Isabela Moner (Izabella).

 

Not sure if shes crying because she’s in a Bay film, or regretting she’s in one.

 

Sir Anthony Hopkins:
If there is someone on the planet that doesn’t love Sir Anthony Hopkins, they have yet to be located. All the more reason I was shocked when I first heard, over a year ago now, he was joining the cast of Transformers: The Last Knight. To put it mildly, the casting was a major coup for the film franchise that had a reputation for being as serious as a traveling circus. Thus it was no surprise, Hopkins’ veteran acting chops and demeanor brought a gravity to the latest sequel that few others could even dream of providing. Just as enjoyable, the knighted actor was given the green-light to show a feisty, humorous side rarely on display in most of his other films.

 

The “real” last knight.

 

 

“DECEPTICONS RETREAT”

Neurotic Robot Syndrome:
When a films’ Saturday morning cartoon counterpart from the 1980’s carries itself with more maturity than the live-action film 33-years it’s elder, there is something glaringly wrong. When you’ve had 5 times to get it right and it only gets worse? It might be time to blow it all up (literally) and go back to the drawing board. Call me an originalist, but I long for the Generation One days of the 80’s. The property may be based on transforming alien robots, but at least all the robots took their situation seriously back then and none of them were truly annoying. With the exception of Optimus Prime, Megatron and Bumblebee, the writers (and presumably Bay) have managed to turn every robot character in this live Transformers universe into an obnoxiously annoying caricature you wouldn’t want to spend more than 30 seconds around. Making a robot likeable doesn’t require going overboard in the personality department. It only serves to make the robots more annoying than Steve Urkel every time they speak.

 

A butler Transformer that, well, doesn’t transform.

 

Neurotic Human Syndrome:
Do a majority of people really act this way when the world is coming to an end? Much like the robot problem mentioned above, in each of the last four Transformers flicks, the writers have felt it necessary to have at least two, if not more, human actors take on the neurotic Woody Allen role. Sadly, The Last Knight keeps consistent with that trend. Furthermore, it feels as if a large chunk of the other cast members are told to also try and make light of their situation as much as humanly possible. This results in several attempts at humor that come across forced, and more importantly, rattle the audience out of the seriousness of the earth’s impending destruction. I’m all about well-timed and well placed humor, but trying to plaster it wherever possible does more harm then good.

 

Sadly, he should have called his agent 4 sequels ago.

 

Runtime:
Another one of Bay’s Achilles Heels is his desire to make his films into all day marathon viewing events. While his intentions may be good (in wanting to give viewers the most bang for their buck), filling the film with unnecessary scenes or extending out acts beyond their usefulness only serve to drag down the more important parts of the film. There were more than a few times during The Last Knight when I felt a scene could have been shortened or cut altogether. I’m no film editor, but when the audience starts noticing things like that, it’s a pretty good indicator the movie can be tightened up a bit.

Editing:
Keeping on the theme of cutting and shortening, there was a scene or two that seemed to be edited and cut abnormally short. Even if it was just me suffering from my own delusional hallucinations, I did feel there was quite a bit of unnecessary jumping around within the flick. It was obvious enough to the point where the flow seemed abnormally choppy. There is of course quite a bit going on in a Bayformer film, however this one was a bit rougher around the edges than past sequels.’

 

More than meets the glowing purple eyes.

 

So what’s the final verdict you ask? If I told you Transformers: The Last Knight was more of the same, I’d be right and wrong in one fell swoop of a sentence. In most ways, Bay and company have just given us another chapter of crazy robot personalities clashing with crazy human personalities, only to come together at the end to defy the laws of physics in order to save the world. Bay blows stuff up with the best of them, and it’s on full display again this go around as well. In spite of its predictable shortcomings, this new addition to the Transformers universe does happen to give the audience a slightly more interesting storyline, with a cliffhanger to boot. Add in the charming gravitas of Anthony Hopkins, and wrap it up in the shell of the first movie ever to be filmed in full with IMAX 3D cameras, and you’ve got one doozy of a popcorn movie to take in should you have the better part of three hours to kill.

 

Introducing Ashley, the newest Geek Outlaw fan and the latest addition to the blog’s photographer stable. (Until she finds out how much it pays.)

 

Ultimately however, this film won’t do anything in the least to appease die hard Transformer fans. That day sailed after the first film, but it may come again with the upcoming Bumblebee spin-off film which will take place in 1985, right around the time the G1 Transformers first hit the pop culture scene (and will NOT involve Bay.). Alas, asking me to rank the live action films at this point is a chore akin to achieving peace in the Middle East. It ain’t gonna happen. You can thank that on the been-there-done-that paint-by-numbers schematic of each installment. If you were going to force me to compare this to past entries of the franchise, I’d hesitantly admit it falls somewhere smack dab in the middle. Even supporters of the current Bayformers may find the series getting a bit long in the tooth, and inevitably struggle to decide where The Last Knight falls when ordered from worst to first.

Nevertheless, if you roll out to the theater with zero expectations, you may find a movie that contains more than meets the eye. Or, your eyes will inform you that you’ve seen this show before… four other times.

 

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