Thursday, 22 June 2017

Transformers: The Last Knight

"The imminent destruction of everything we know and love has begun."

With the release of ‘The Last Knight’, all in all Michael Bay has stolen 761 minutes of my life over the course of the last ten years. Granted there’s the often used excuse of “the first ‘Transformers’ wasn’t that bad’ and indeed it was not but at the same time it is not good enough to warrant the truly abysmal nature of its subsequent sequels. A shred of me hoped that ‘The Last Knight’ might actually embrace the inherent ridiculous of the franchise given that there were talks of Arthurian legends and Nazis in this one. But alas, no, it’s the exact same goddamn movie again!

Humans are at war with the Transformers, and Optimus Prime is gone. The key to saving the future lies buried in the secrets of the past and the hidden history of Transformers on Earth. Now, it's up to the unlikely alliance of Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), Bumblebee, an English lord (Anthony Hopkins) and an Oxford professor (Laura Haddock) to save the world.

Right, screw a casual intro because there’s too much to talk about. ‘Transformers: The Last Knight’ is without question one of the most painful cinematic experiences I’ve sat through in some time. It may not objectively be the worst film I have seen this year or even the worst of this franchise but it’s still a hateful, diabolical abomination that stands as a testament to everything that is wrong with modern filmmaking. I know I just gave a plot summary in the paragraph above but in all honesty this movie has a plot which is beat by beat identical to its four predecessors. Autobots are looking for an ancient artefact that can turn the tide of the war, Deceptacons want to stop them, most humans are sceptical of the Transformers but one unlikely outcast human helps them, there’s a fuck-ton of product placement, racial stereotypes, sexist undertones veteran actors being humiliated, and a rare mix of being ridiculously convoluted as well as idiotically simplistic.

The characters are about as flat and unengaging as they come. Bay employs the cheapest tactics of trying to establish the characters and some of them almost don’t fail. But then later in the movie each character will do something unbelievably moronic or irrational. None have any discernible motivation, distinction or depth of any kind and before you say “no one goes to a Transformers movie to see the humans”, the description I just gave applies to the machines as well as the people. In regards to the Transformers specifically though, they have such little presence in the movie that even those simply wishing to see a movie about giant fighting robots will be disappointed. There are so many long stretches of the movie that just feature one expositional monologue after another that it becomes boring. Every now and then the movie attempts to deliver a moment that it has convinced itself is humorous, but these moments fall flat every single time.

It goes without saying of course that the story is completely nonsensical both due to the script and Bay’s unique visual language of never being able to convey a single discernible plot point to the audience. He places such an extreme emphasis on every single shot that it becomes impossible for the viewer to latch onto what is and isn’t important to the overall story, what will and won’t be recalled later as well as simply what is going on at that exact moment. The story amounts to a rough order of half-hearted plot points that are either ignored completely or picked up again randomly and much later into the movie, glued to a series of rapidly escalating action sequences that I don’t care about.

But for all its similarities to the previous instalments of the franchise, ‘The Last Knight’ manages to find new and distinct ways to be terrible, ways that I could never have even of anticipated and ways that I’m still struggling to fathom even now. The movie seems to have been shot in three different aspect ratios. Filmmakers like Chris Nolan and Wes Anderson have done that to evoke a specific mood from scene to scene or inject a unique cinematic quality to it, which is not what Bay is doing here. Anderson and Nolan make an effort to disguise those ratio changes through editing or scene transitions but Bay clearly doesn’t have time for that nonsense as he just slaps it haphazardly into the movie to a point where a shot/reverse shot within the same scene can have a completely different screen format to the image that proceeded it. Even if you are watching the film in a format that reduces this issue, the framing and composition of each opposing shot is so wildly off due to the erratic ratio changes that that it becomes impossible to ignore. I’m almost tempted to list it as a deliberate creative decision because I can’t comprehend the idea of someone overlooking that….but then I remembered that this is Michael Bay we are talking about.

'The Last Knight’ also seems to blatantly plagiarise something from every successful blockbuster of the past few years as well. There are character dynamics and personalities that feel like a poor imitation of ones that can be found in ‘Star Wars’. I noticed a car chase that looked as if it had been lifted straight from a ‘Fast and Furious’ movie. I'm entirely convinced they stole the "Anthony Hopkins talks philosophically about robots" trick from 'Westworld'. They even ripped off the style of character intros from ‘Suicide Squad’. Why would anyone in their right mind want to steal something from ‘Suicide Squad’?

I will say that it’s not quite as terrible as ‘Age of Extinction’ for having a shorter runtime which eases it’s pacing and makes it feel like less of a torturous endeavour (it’s still an hour and a half too long though). It’s also better than ‘Revenge of the Fallen’ because unlike that film it isn’t shot entirely in close-up, though it is still just as mind numbingly bombastic. But these improvements are not deliberate, it just so happens that this disaster of filmmaking is slightly more bearable than those other disasters of filmmaking. Nothing within these films is done with a deliberate bearing on quality, it’s all just a marketing tool designed to rip cash from your pockets with as little effort as humanly possible. It’s the epitome of cynical and lazy filmmaking.

Loud noises, followed by more loud noises, concluding with other loud noises, forever; the sequel.

Result: 2/10

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