Short thoughts on Transformers: The Last Knight (no spoilers)
So… it’s the best of the sequels. And yes, low bar. Full acknowledgement of that.
The robots are almost all characters. They may not be deep characters, but they have personalities, most get a line or two. They’re around a lot more than the plot actually demands them to be. Barricade gets more involved dialogue. Hound is there a LOT. I genuinely liked the new Decepticons when they were around. And there’s a handful of bots just… around. They have no plot importance, they’re just… there. Hanging out. I like that. There’s very little gratuitous robot death as well.
The grossness is in severe remission. The leering gaze on female bits, the “ethnic people being loud = funny”, all that tone is largely gone. Izabela speaks Spanish at several points and it is never a joke, it’s just her causally speaking Spanish. Hell, there’s even a line where a character takes a swipe at Cade on saying something “kinda racist” and it’s very much a “yep, dude’s right” moment and Cade shuts up.
Anthony Hopkins is funny. He’s clearly having a ball and they’re letting him just… say things. I never thought Hopkins flipping someone the bird would be so entertaining, but there it is. Isabela Moner is gonna go places, she acts her damn heart out in this. And Cogman… oh Cogman.
And the core story is… not bad. I mean it’s dumb, yeah, but did you see the name on the franchise when you walked in? It shows more thought and bits of old TF lore get mixed in, which is nice. And the shots are more pulled out and it’s easier to make out the action.
Buuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuut. These improvements and fun bits end up highlighting easily all these movies’ major problems: HOW the story is told. The editing is a graceless kludge. The story flow is awful, the tone all over the map (it ping-pongs between silly and dead serious WAY too much and in poorly-chosen times a LOT). Plot points big and small are all given the same leaden perfunctory THUD of a delivery, and the overindulgent action scenes again go way too long, which makes it hard to keep any sense of what’s important in your head. There a big SPOILER that’s almost offhandedly revealed with no fanfare (or explanation to the uninitiated) like half an hour in, then revealed AGAIN in the middle of an action sequence, AND THEN tease-revealed in a mid-credits bit. Characters once again just kinda drop in and out without much explanation.
All in all… I liked this more than all but the first, but this one FRUSTRATES me more than any of the others because I can see an okay movie buried in there that perhaps a damn good editor could salvage. And I mean “okay” beyond the “Transformers media” grade-curve, because hoooolllly hell you gotta grade most TF media on a curve. If the series could lean into the “self-aware stupid” zone that TLK veers into at points, but pull it off with some grace and charm (the recent The Fast & The Furious sequels and The Running Man are good places to look that would match TF well), it could be a good dumb-fun romp.
But as it is, it’s just a big Katamari of scenes slammed together, full of delightful bits, but once again less than the sum of its parts.