Transformers: The Last Knight (2017)

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© Paramount Pictures | Directed by Michael Bay | Starring Mark Wahlberg, Laura Haddock, Anthony Hopkins, Peter Cullen | D-

It almost seems futile to criticize Transformers: The Last Knight for being awful because it’s not trying to be good. Michael Bay knows how bad his directing is, and he doesn’t give a crap. His commitment to schlock is almost respectable, and I’m really tempted to respect the schlock itself for that.

Alas, the most fundamental criticism, which applies to the whole series, is how inappropriate this film is for a kids toy adaptation. It’s bad enough filmmaking for adults; it could even more ruinous introducing this crap to a child.

Then again, I have reservations about the idea behind Transformers in general, which is why I now want to distance myself from franchise. I mean, should kids really look up to a “good guy” named Crosshairs, whose very name puts a weapon into his identity? A crime-fighting superhero with an alter-ego who doesn’t have to fight crime is one thing; a robot who’s inherently built to fight other robots and look cool doing it is another thing.

I’ll give The Last Knight this: the crasser elements from the series have lessened. The sexual jokes, while there are still a couple of strong ones, are more likely to go over kids’ head than those from earlier entries, and female characters aren’t in-your-face exploited (aren’t in-your-face exploited) for eye candy. On the other hand, the Autobots’ personalities and the violence are just as mean-spirited and cynical as usual, even if the violence isn’t overly brutal like it’s been since Revenge of the Fallen.

One of the Autobots is such a sadist that I was like “Thank you!” when it appeared that Megatron killed him until he came back later.

Age of Extinction‘s returning protagonist Cade Yeager is definitely the most likable and engaging of the cast due to Mark Wahlberg’s charisma. It’s also nice to see Josh Duhamel return as Lennox, purely because he could have been, and should have been, a fine protagonist for the first trilogy.

The plot, however, is just about as big a mess as the editing, featuring a horrific amount of subplots and a backstory so ridiculous that it stretches disbelief by Transformers standards. …Should I be concerned about how easily I could sit through this?

For one, there are two main villains: the returning Megatron, whose turn from being reborn as Galvatron is unsurprisingly unexplained, and Quintessa, the apparent creator of the transformers who possesses Optimus into doing her will; if the film weren’t already fundamentally flawed, I’d be feeling more uneasy about the “turning against your own god” theme.

Megatron’s team of Decepticons are parodies of Decepticons. During their own special character introductions, complete with their names plastered on the screen like a high-tech Suicide Squad, I was trying to remember when I was hired to write them. I mean, one of them acts all ghetto and wears a gold chain. (Spoiler alert) Alas, my curiosity was short-lived when most of them are killed fifteen minutes later in their first action sequence. But hey, at least we got to know Mohawk’s, Onslaught’s, Berserker’s, and…Ghettocon’s names.

I don’t remember what Ghettocon’s actual name is, but if I had actually written that character, I totally would have named him Ghettocon.

Speaking of editing, the guilty pleasure of the opening sequence is cut short when a ramble delivered goofily by Stanley Tucci, playing not his character from Age of Extinction, shows every comment he makes through a different angle in rapid-fire progression. Why?!

Said editing might have been (might have been) a little more bearable had the film kept a more consistent aspect ratio. As both Imax and standard widescreen cameras were used in the production, it would have made sense to use Imax cameras for the action scenes, but there are dialogue scenes that are widescreen for the most part but feature random Imax shots, and there are action scenes that are Imax for the most part but feature random widescreen shots. Could they not stick to a consistent aspect ratio for five minutes?!

Gratuitous slow-motion is also everywhere, in action scenes and beyond. Just when it seems that introducing a polo match in slow-motion is self-indulgent, an Autobot is introduced whose guns shoot balls of slow-motion! (More accurately, they’re spherical force fields that slow down time, but “balls of slow-motion” sounds better.)

It wasn’t until the end of the second act, where all the various plotlines finally start coming together, where the film really grabbed me. Sure, while the apocalypse is imminent, I kept asking where the heck Mark Wahlberg got the beanie cap he’s suddenly wearing (which reminded me of Mark Wahlberg is wearing a hat), and while one major fight scene concludes as conveniently as a major fight scene from Batman v. Superman, the following character choices moved me in a way I haven’t been moved by these movies since the original.

Said scene from the original is the scene before the Autobots head to Hoover Dam. They discuss their plans, we find out what they’re willing to fight for, and when Optimus reveals what he’d do to save humanity…that part genuinely tugs on my heartstrings. It’s a fantastic scene, one that establishes Optimus as a voice of clear conscience before the sequels turn him into a vengeful sadist.

Even though I blast watching watching The Last Knight‘s final act of Bayhem, where various conflicting factions, both human and robot, join together to save Earth, the movie as a whole gave me an appreciation for how relatively small-scale the original Transformers is, which still isn’t good, especially the ruinous teen movie elements, but The Last Knight makes it look like The Avengers.

It’s not that I want anybody to take this as a recommendation, but I had fun watching The Last Knight with my friends, even if watching it with friends was why it was so fun. It was also nostalgic to see Optimus Prime and Megatron together onscreen again, and there were a couple of name drops that had me geeking out. How much more Bayhem I can take for the sixth movie, however, is yet to be seen; Bay may have said that this is his last one, but judging by how he ends this one, I highly doubt his word.

 

(Spoiler alert: I otta coin the term Martha-ing: where two heroes are fighting each other until one of them, while pinned down, says something that totally snaps the other hero out of it.)

Finding Myself

Whelp, I guess it hasn’t been too long since I made this blogging hiatus. Heck, I was still writing reviews and articles (including another, and more personally reassuring, Star Wars critique) at Catholic Wannabe Critic during the hiatus.

However, a hiatus that I was already taking turned out to be even more important: the hiatus from absurdlyawesome.

As I assume you know, I wasn’t proud of the way I ended my overarching Transformers storyline. My sensibilities and tastes were different when I started that final series, so rewatching the first episode a couple years later, the cynical characterizations of the Autobots is really off-putting for me, but my fans loved the series nonetheless.

And I suppose that’s what “The Absurdly Awesome Finale”‘s main problem was: I was making it for the fans. I’m not interested in Transformers anymore, except for a disposable viewing of The Last Knight; that’s why I ended my reign with Transformers, if through a series nobody asked for. I did try to launch a Patreon for my channel afterwards if it meant profiting from making more Transformers videos, but it failed.

Then on June 4th, I found out through a Facebook memory that my favorite overlooked video, “Three Big Baddies”, the sequel to “Two Big Baddies” where Loki, Bane, and Sentinel Prime try to find payment for the efforts they put into their failed evil deeds, turned four years old, and I realized how proud I still am of that video. It’s not only funny, but the range of pop culture icons it spoofs makes it really geeky, featuring something for everyone.

So I realized that it wasn’t stop-motion that I was getting tired of; it was being known for Transformers. I want to make more videos like “Three Big Baddies”, and in order to make what I’m passionate about, I gotta stop caring about what other people think; I gotta risk alienating people (just living as a Catholic comes with that risk). I need to make this stuff for me. I mean, yes, I want to make it to share it with others, but even if I can’t find an audience for it, at least I can be proud of it, even if there are transformers on the side.

That’s why I’m leaving behind (not deleting) the absurdlyawesome label and posting any subsequent stop-motion videos on my personal Youtube channel. These videos will no longer be part of their own thing but rather part of my quest to reconcile T. Martin the Catholic critic with T. Martin the funny stop-motion animator by labelling myself as neither a ‘critic’ nor a ‘youtuber’ but a ‘pop culture hobbyist’, as in, I make a hobby out of keeping up with pop culture (of course, what I find praiseworthy through that label is influenced by my first label, ‘child of God’).

Particularly why I don’t want to be a ‘youtuber’ is because I’m camera shy. I mean, I can put on performances on-camera (even ones that are quite silly as you’d see from the live-action videos I’ve posted so far), but I’d rather people get to know me by meeting me personally. Expressing myself instead through this blog helps my online persona stay a little more impersonal.

So, I’ll be posting the links to each new video on this blog. As for reviews and articles, I might as well start posting those here too; no need to complicate stuff by posting things on two different sites (though the stuff I’ve already posted on Catholic Wannabe Critic will stay on Catholic Wannabe Critic, just as the stuff on absurdlyawesome will stay on absurdlyawesome). Plus, the new template I’ve found for this blog works well for both reviews and regular posts.

I’ve also found Twitter to be an effective way of expressing myself, especially my sense of humor (through posts such as this).

I just want to stop compartmentalizing and be me through any online platform. Of course, if I ever make it to the film industry, there are times where I’m gonna have to be myself on-camera, but I’m far from there. Until then, I’ll be producing stuff as a pop culture enthusiast, such as the upcoming “Four Big Baddies” (and yes, there are reasons why Loki and Sentinel aren’t there):

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