Tansformers The Last Knight - This Transformers Movie Never Discovers Rocks
Dir: Michael Bay
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Laura Haddock, Josh Duhamal, John Turturrro, Stanley Tucci, Isabella Moner
First off, this is no Fast 5. We said recently that, as dubious as we were of a fifth Transformers movie, (and we were pretty dubious about the first 4) the F&Fs only really got good with the fifth outing, so we weren’t writing this off. Lightning does not strike twice fifth time around here – but it also isn’t the worst thing Michel Bay and his Trans team have ever committed.
What Bay and co are seeking to do here is to reinvent the very mythology of their series, to “Earth” it, literally, and to reinvent it. It’s a noble intention, just a shame that it’s handled in such a cack-handed way. “And Anthony Hopkins.”
Initially though it sets out its stall with an Arthurian sequence which is kind of a mix between an all-out Braveheart, and Monty Python – by the time (very quickly BTW) that Stanley Tucci’s dreadful Merlin (sorry, Stanley, but you know we’re right!) tells the audience he’s “sozzled”, you know the gags in this movie are not going to fly. And, one by one as the film unfolds over its lengthy two and a half hour run – they don’t.
This may seem like a minor point to make in what is essentially a mega-budget action-fest, but it’s a crucial one. Whilst Bay may very well know how to edit an action sequence within an inch of its life, he struggles to break those relentless moments. And when he pauses for a gag – no, nothing, not a damn raising of the corner of the lip. And for this we must credit the script – or, more accurately, discredit.
Despite listing four writers (there were likely a roomful more), not a one of them knows how to write a decent gag. And this film wants those moments, desires those quotable Arnold one-liners of yore as much as it does the state of the art fx of now. So much so that Bay, as a director, more than once undermines everything he has already established in a scene to land the zinger…but land they do not. If anything they undermine not just the action and any possible emotion of a scene, but the very basic nature of the characters themselves.
Which brings us to – “the characters themselves.” There really aren’t any here. Certainly not in any way we could recognise as human beings. Wahlberg does a lot of sliding, whilst “And Anthony Hopkins” does a lot of Basil Exposition in that tone he does so well but now by rote, where you know it’s supposed to bear great import, but the dialogue just constantly deflates it. (Compare and contrast Hopkins charged with a similar task in this year’s Westworld and work out which one he spent counting the money on.)
And the constant references to other and better movies become a bit trying – from Robocop and Empire Strikes Back at the beginning to Aliens and even Bay's own, and far superior, Armageddon towards the end – all of which it manages to pale by comparison to.
There are things that work to a degree here though – and we’ll come back to them, But here is the final – and probably most significant gripe. As adept as Bay is at keeping action moving in such an overwhelming, relentless manner – the man has no sense of pace! Yes, for the most part, there is no time to catch your breath, but after a while you don’t really want to be breathing in this atmosphere. Michael’s Bay action sequences do not heighten the senses – first they dull them, then they bludgeon them to death. By the final act, we don’t care – about character, or about event. We are – and this is the thing that should make you gasp – bored.
Finally – and this may seem a perverse thing to say at this point – it’s not the worst Transformers film we’ve ever seen (don’t ask us to choose!) Bay has certainly improved his female characters – Haddock and young Moner are actually important to the plot here, and both deliver the best performances the film has to offer (Haddock especially deserves more.) And at times it is intermittently entertaining. Albeit in a mind numbing way.
But for a film concerned with saving humanity, it displays very little of same. So, another Transformers movie, then.
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