My wife and I have this little tiff whenever we go to the store. I like to grab the brand name item off the shelf because names are important and they bring a level of quality to them. My wife prefers to grab the off-brand because it’s the same thing with a different label. Time and time again we go back and forth on this, until she bought an off-brand mouthwash. After a few days of using it, I went in for my obligatory kiss goodbye, and the next thing she says is that she’s going to the store for my usual mouthwash. In my mind, that’s the way things are supposed to go: show loyalty a brand and they pay you back by doing what they promise. Names mean something, and should they be respected, they will return that respect in kind.
Humans and Transformers are at war – you know, the same war they have been in since the beginning of the series – only this time no Transformer is safe, unless they are part of the core group. Optimus Prime is gone, yup gone. Remember how he flew into space at the end of the last movie? Well, something went wrong and he is just floating through space like a rock. You would think that if he flew off into space on his own he would have had an idea of how to do it for the long run or taken one of the many spaceships Transformers seem to need to get around.
The key to saving our future lies buried in the secrets of the past, and they mean “The Dark Ages”. We know this because they tell you, at great length, about the hidden history of Transformers on Earth. On top of all of that, we learn that Sam Witwicky from the first few movies actually gets his surname from an order of Witwikians whom are charged with protecting the Transformer’s secrets (Coincidence?! No, it’s lack of imagination). King Arthur and Merlin worked with Transformer Knights. When? In the Dark Ages. We just covered this. Cybertron, which turns out wasn’t destroyed as we thought in the last few movies, is back with a vengeance, and Unicron is what you least expect it to be. Sounds like a lot right? It sure it, and it comes flying at you faster than overused 3d sight gags.
It’s hard to judge the performances in Transformers: The Last Knight, as there is so much story being told and the pacing is out of control, but I will try. Mark Wahlberg reprises his role as Cade Yeager, a failed inventor from Texas who hasn’t been with a woman in a while (it’s part of the story. So, yes, it matters). Wahlberg doesn’t have a lot of to do in this, but he sure does look good doing action stuff. He has the charm working overtime for him, and he reads his lines with emotion. There isn’t a lot more you can ask from the guy.
Laura Haddock joins us in this outing as Vivian Wembley, and surprise! She isn’t the usual Victoria’s Secret or Guess model hired off a runway somewhere and thrown in front of a camera. Haddock can act, knows how to move on camera, and made me really wish they gave her a lot more to do as her charm and command were high. Isabela Moner plays Izabella (Big stretch right? Like the “z” and the extra “l” will prove she wasn’t an afterthought), an orphaned fourteen year-old girl who wants to fight Decepticons to avenge her parents. Surprisingly, Isabela was really one of the brightest parts of the movie. You buy her pain, she has a great attitude, she’s strong, but ultimately it’s another missed opportunity to build something greater. The actor makes the role, she just wasnt utilized enough in this story.
Now, finally, on to Sir Anthony Hopkins. Who does he owe money to? Why is he here? Is he at a stage in his career where he just wants to have fun and hurl insults with playful abandon? These are all important questions to ask as this isn’t his usual job. It’s a good thing we have him in this movie as he is a good source of comedy, and if you missed something he will surely narrate it for you. Hopkins is the Lord of Exposition.
Now it’s time for me to remind everyone that this is a Transformers movie. I’m reminding everyone because you will forget about halfway through the movie when you realize you have spent a lot of time with Cade, Izi, the military, Vivian, so on and so forth. Throughout the movie people keep asking “Where is Optimus?!” or proclaiming “Optimus will be here!!” and all I wanted to do is yell back “When Damnit?! I’ve been sitting here for two hours!”
It’s silly to me that the Transformers are nothing more than props or background set dressing. It’s their movie! Tell their story! The Transformers’ aesthetics is one of the few things these movies seem to do right with very few exceptions. Each one of the models used for the Autobots and Decepticons were just works of brilliance in art. Minor gripe would be that the animal based Transformers should seem more like metallic versions of the animals they represent, and less like twisted wire sculptures, they are supposed to be in disguise after all.
Transformers: The Last Knight is a perfect example of what happens when you choose style over substance. It doesn’t trust its audience, it moves too fast to give your actors a chance to do their jobs, and it forgets who the stars of the movie should really be. Something else is evident, we clearly have a creative team – led by Michael Bay – who just want to use the name and look of Transformers, and mold their own thing from it. In theory that isn’t a bad thing to do, but in practice we have yet to see much in pop culture succeed at doing that.
Inevitably, what we end up with in Transformers 5 is a name brand label, on an off-market product.
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Hopkins, Laura Haddock, Josh Duhamel
Written by Art Marcum, Matt Holloway, and Ken Nolan
Directed by Michael Bay