I’m one of those merry few who actually enjoys the Transformers movies. Well, the first three. I love the first three. Yes, even the second one. I just have to look past some of the more embarrassing aspects. They definitely play to the lowest common denominator. But they look incredible like any Michael Bay movie. I actually believe these CGI giant robots exist in the physical world around all the cool ‘splosions.
The fourth one, Age of Extinction, is where they lost me. They jettisoned the entire human cast, who I actually enjoyed for the most part, even Shia. Marky Mark really did not wow me as a lead character, and I really couldn’t stand his bratty teenager daughter and her non-teenage boyfriend who has to carry around a laminated card to prove he’s not a child molester. What the hell was that?! Was that supposed to be funny? Cute? Amusing? Oh brother.
I also couldn’t stand the fact that the Autobots were hated and hunted by humanity. My favorite aspect of the original trilogy was seeing the humans fighting alongside the Autobots, even with official military involvement. It just made the entire tone dark and nasty and not fun in the way the first three were.
The biggest disappointment though was the bait and the switch of the Dinobots. All the advertising featured them prominently. And in a 2 hour 45 minute movie (why was it so long?!), they only appear in the last 15 minutes, and don’t even speak! That was the main selling point for me, and it ended up being almost completely irrelevant. Instead there were two different completely unconnected plots going on; the alien bounty hunter Lockdown hunting Prime and the humans making their own robots. Neither story was particularly interesting, and I just really could not stand the US government hunting and killing Autobots.
So I went into the fifth one with lowered expectations, particularly after the terrible reviews. But these movies always get terrible reviews. I’m delighted to say that The Last Knight is definitely better than Age of Extinction, but I still prefer the first three. This one manages to sidestep the ‘humans hunting Autobots’ angle for the most part, thankfully. They brought back a bunch of the minor human characters from the original trilogy (not Shia of course) which went a long way towards making me feel like this movie mattered to the larger story. The storyline is much more interesting, but it still had some narrative choices I really did not care for.
Unfortunately like the second movie where Prime “died”, Optimus is barely in this movie, and when he is, it’s as a brainwashed villain. I’m actually glad this ended up being not very important or long in tooth, because I really could not have taken an entire movie of Evil Prime. And thankfully he was forced into this role and did not choose it.
The movie starts out pretty well. We’re introduced to a spirited teenage homeless girl living with fugitive Autobots who falls into Marky Mark’s orbit. We get to see Cade living with the Autobots, most importantly the Dinobots and their adorable baby versions. I could not get enough of seeing the baby Dinobots running around. Seriously. Unfortunately, after the first act the movie takes a bizarre turn. The narrative then just follows Cade, and the other Autobots (most importantly, the Dinobots!) just disappear for most of the movie. And that teenage girl who was our POV character? She just disappears for over half the movie without explanation! Very strange choices.
The middle act of the movie most involves Cade running around in England with Anthony Hopkins and a beautiful British professor who are related to Shia’s character. Another bizarre choice, since we never find out what happened to Sam Witwicky. There’s also a surprising lack of robot action for a long, long time.
I won’t speak about the ending, but it’s a damn impressive spectacle almost as thrilling as the Battle of Chicago in the third film, which for me remains the high point of the franchise. I also enjoyed the idea of the villain being the creator of the Transformer race, though sadly we learn very little about her and she doesn’t get much screen time. The story does end in a very interesting place though. I didn’t love this movie, but I am excited for the sixth one!