Transformers: The Last Knight
When a movie is successful the studio inevitably tries to keep milking the cash cow. The next step to the udder of box office revenue is a sequel followed by a trilogy and if possible the Golden Fleece of cinema, the full-fledged franchise. while the horror genre is infamous for the sheer volume of reaching that level along with an unusual measure of longevity. A close contender must be action flicks. Several examples have even been resurrected after decades of inactivity creating a new archetype, the action hero with an AARP membership. One of the more recent popular franchises is the career-defining movies by director, Michael Bay. He took a popular line of toys from Hasbro, resurrecting its spinoff cartoon television show into a series of movies that have become the epitome of action films defined by excessive, over the top special effective with an unavoidable lack of plot or even a modicum of originality. The line of toys that enabled such a substantial collection of movies to exist was ‘The Transformers’. Although they seemingly appear to be mundane vehicles running the gamut from big rig trucks to Volkswagen beetles, they are sentient extraterrestrial warriors fighting to keep the universe, particularly planet earth, safe from their evil counterparts, ‘The Decepticons’. Both groups routinely rearrange their configuration transforming into anthropomorphic warrior robots. In most franchises a phenomenon referred to diminishing returns is in effect. Each successive instalment of a franchise receives predictably lower critical assessment to the point where film considered here, ‘Transformers: The Last Knight’, received an aggregate score of around 15%. What guaranteed the continued support of the studio is the fundamental fact that the franchise remains profitable. This latest offering did loss a considerable portion of the investment, but the bottom line oriented executives understand that the income from cable TV, streaming services and home media will likely make up the difference. Using the popular analogy of cinema as a dining experience there are time when you need a fine, five-star meal but other times the guilty pleasure of fast food fills your craving. It, might be the proverbial ‘all sizzle and no steak’ but it does appeal to the inner child lurking within.
There is a certain degree of liberation for a filmmaker such as Mr. Bey when his best-known work has become synonymous with bad movies driven by extraordinary special effects. He realizes that the normal constraints applying to maintain continuity no longer represent a professional or artistic criterion. All that matters is to satisfy the puerile expectations of the target demographic, teenage boys, augmented by adult men still dreaming of a carefree youth in the dark of the neighborhood theater. To this end, Mr. Bey threw caution, and plot consistency, to the wind taking the audience back in time to 484 CE, the period of the legendary King Arthur (Liam Garrigan). The King is shown leading his valent knights against the Saxons. To ensure their victory Merlin (Stanley Tucci) seeks the assistance from the Knights of Iacon, a group of twelve Transformers that were hidden on Earth. Apparently, our planet is a favorite place for sentient machines to hide. The Knights bestow on Merlin yet another powerful extraterrestrial artifact, staff. The Knights then change, combining themselves into a giant dragon with an appropriate Medieval name, Dragonstorm. With the creature’s assistance Merlin is victorious over the Saxon. Before the conclusion of this prologue, the Knights warn Merlin that one day something very evil will seek the staff. This is a standard plot device that conveniently connects the past to the present.
The story resumes two years after The Battle of Hong Kong; the climactic special effects showcase from the franchise’s previous installment. ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction.' Resulting from those events all the world governments have renounced the Transformers declaring them outside the protection of the law. The enforcement of this was given to the Transformer Reaction Force (TRF), formed to eradicate all Transformers and any alien robots. The TRF used members of the former elite CIA black ops unit known as Cemetery Wind. Any fan of the genre can easily predict the outline of the next pages of the script. Enormous metallic horns begin appearing around the globe. Near the battle ruined Chicago, a group of kids stumbles across a spaceship that contains one of the knights. As a TRF surveillance drone is about to locate them, a survivor the battle, Izabella, an orphaned girl, rescues the children and Transformers. She is with by her two faithful Transformer companions, Sqweeks and Canopy. They are small versions of Transformers constructed by sundry parts. The primary function of these characters is comic relief and toys ideally suited for marketing. They make their way to one of the persistent human characters, Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg). At this point, some of the pertinent cast members are inserted. The tracking device of fan favorite Transformer, Bumble Bee and a squad of Decepticons including Nitro Zeus, Dreadbot, Mohawk, and Onslaught. They were being detained, but their services were requested by Megatron, the brother of the leader of the Decepticons, and the brother of the Autobot leader, Optimus Prime. This sets the pieces on the board prepared for action. Normally this plot development is referred to as setting the chess board. Considering the over-simplicity of the storyline a checkerboard would be more actuate.
As is often the case with franchise degradation, the initial outing represents a sufficiently well-crafted movie to gather a core group of loyal fans. When the first sequel hits the cineplex, the quality is often close enough to its progenitor that with the story directly following the initial that the fans can allow themselves the relative luxury of self-delusion regarding the increasing downward spiral; This movie is considerable down that slippery slope of mediocrity that ultimately is given a perpetual among worst movie lists and notable Razzie winners. When a story possesses such a dearth of original material that a directorial choice to judiciously edit the movie to a concise account could have provided a substantially better experience. Instead the infamous Bay Bloat with a running time of 165. The theater tickets should have included a complimentary tube of Preparation-H. It is certain that only a minuscule portion of the estimated $216 Billion budget allocated to acquiring the services of a professional script doctor. Over six hundred of the closing credits are dedicated to Special Effects and Visual arts with close to a thousand more listing representing stuns, lighting and sound. The regrettable conclusion that is inevitable is that sitting in the dark watching that seemingly endless list of names scroll by is significantly more coherent and arguably more entertaining than the movie. The film is little more than a demo reel of the special effects companies that managed to secure their immediate financial security by winning the contracts to participate in the movie. Considering the expanded profit opportunities afforded by the numerous forms of home entertainment it is feasible that this is not the end of the franchise or Michael Bey’s commitment to the financial security of special effects wizards.