*NOTE: Before I start this review, I would like to thank Novo Cinemas for inviting me to the premiere of this film.*
The Transformers movies have always been, and I have to preface that I dislike using this term, a ‘guilty pleasure’ of mine. In fact, the first film in the franchise – 2007’s Transformers is one that I consider a legitimately good science-fiction film and for all the criticisms they receive (a lot of which, I’m not going to argue with), I’ve found the first 3 films in this now 5 film, Michael Bay-directed franchise, legitimately entertaining as spectacle-driven blockbusters that are best viewed by not thinking too much about what you’re seeing.
However, even with this mentality, the last one to be released and the 4th one in the franchise – ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction‘ was one that I struggled to get through. Mindless action is one thing, but the film did something that, atleast in my humble opinion, was far worse than being merely mindless.
It was boring.
The most ironic thing about the film being that the action sequences were just a long dreadful slog and a far cry from being the exciting and relatively memorable set-pieces of the first film. Age of Extinction was also the one where I felt that perhaps Michael Bay himself has started to get disinterested with the franchise. In short, the film was terrible.
Needless to say, I wasn’t going into ‘Transformers: The Last Knight’ with the highest of expectations. Which I guess was a good thing because while not without it’s lion’s share of flaws, The Last Knight is a film that I felt was a considerable improvement over its predecessor, although it still isn’t anywhere close to being as entertaining as any of the first 3.
The visual effects in the film are top-notch as usual (You have the ever-reliable ‘Industrial Light & Magic’ to thank for that) and the cinematography, when Michael Bay finally decides to hold his camera down instead of shaking it around, is actually quite impressive. For these two factors alone, I would advise watching the film in IMAX. The third act of the film is quite fun to watch as well. Yes, it’s still a bunch of robots fighting each other with a bunch of Michael Bay trademarked Explosions (i.e. Explosions with a lot of sparks in them for some reason) but this time around, it felt quite a bit more coherent.
There is humor in this film, but unlike the truly cringe-worthy humor in the last one (Or even in the second film for that matter), I felt the humor here to be improved. A particular scene mocking the series’ sometimes ill-fitting ‘epic’ nature of the music was quite amusing, given its self-deprecating nature. (However, it must be said that Steve Jablonsky’s score for these films have always been consistently good-great)
The plot this time around, while truly bonkers, was also one that felt to be perhaps one of the more engaging stories these films have offered. And this is where my problems with the film begins. The plot had a lot of potential to be fleshed out but unfortunately, the film rarely focuses on it and decides to just use it as background fodder to fast forward to the next action scene. Some familiar characters with internal conflicts are introduced but never really given any sort of meaningful resolution.
Furthermore, it just seems like, the further we are into this franchise, the more these films give the humans importance over the titular Transformers. In fact, there was an entire stretch of this where the Autobots (or the evil Decepticons for that matter) are nowhere to be seen and instead we’re stuck with Mark Wahlberg’s and Laura Haddock’s characters in an underwater submarine.
This is just baffling to me.
Of course, All this could be forgiven if the human characters were interesting at all and surprise! they’re not. Hell, none of the human characters in the film (Including Anthony Hopkins who’s in this purely as an exposition-spouting machine) comes close to how entertaining Shia LaBoeuf’s Sam Witwicky was in the first three films. This is made even more noticeable when the interactions between the Transformers themselves, when they’re not spouting off lines like “I AM MEGATRON” or “I AM NEMESIS PRIME!” or “I AM OPTIMUS PRIME!”, are actually some of the more entertaining parts of the film. So much so that I dream of a day that we see a Transformers movie in the vein of the recent (and excellent) ‘Planet of the Apes’ films where these characters and their internal politics and conflicts are taken seriously and done justice. That being said, I must admit that seeing Optimus Prime in action is always a blast and at the very least, the film delivers on that front. Peter Cullen’s iconic voice as Prime certainly helps matters as well.
Overall, I’m pretty lukewarm about the film. It has quite a few really entertaining moments (most of them in the final act) but unfortunately, those moments are few and far between.
However, it is made abundantly clear that this franchise is in desperate need of some reinvention and I sincerely hope the next instalment is the one that does so, especially given Michael Bay’s supposed exit from the franchise. That’s not a slight on Michael Bay however, as I legitimately believe him to be a good director. In fact, I’ve enjoyed all his recent, non-Transformers fare; with ‘13 hours’ even being one of my favourite films of 2016 and I hope to see more such films from him rather than sequels in a franchise that I don’t think he necessarily enjoys.