‘Transformers: The Last Knight’ Review

Director: Michael Bay

Writers: Art Marcum, Matt Holloway and Ken Nolan

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Laura Haddock, Josh Duhamel, Isabela Moner, Jerrod Carmichael, Santiago Cabrera, Tony Hale, John Turturro and Anthony Hopkins

Voice Cast: Peter Cullen, Frank Welker, Erik Aadhal, John Goodman, Ken Watanabe, Omar Sy, John DiMaggio and Jim Carter

Synopsis: Humans and Transformers are at war, Optimus Prime is gone. The key to saving our future lies buried in the secrets of the past in the hidden history of Transformers on Earth.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

*Reviewer Note 2: There is a post-credit scene.*

 

Five, count them, five Transformers movie directed by Michael Bay have now cursed us been released, and I still can’t figure out why none of them have been any good. Sure, the first movie was okay, but since then the series has gone downhill. The lack of story, and really any sense of direction, make these movies really hard to follow, root for and really enjoy overall, yet, there are fans out there. The Last Knight, which is Michael Bay “last” movie in the series, is another entry of all style and no real substance.

The movie starts off on a somewhat good note setting it during The Dark Ages as King Arthur and his army in a midst of battle as they wait for Merlin, played by Stanley Tucci, who has already discovered the Transformers and pleads with them to help Arthur and his army. They do and give Merlin a staff, this beings the secret history and long place for the Transformers. We then cut 1600 years later and see Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) floating in space aimlessly only to get sucked into his broken home planet of Cyberton. There he meets Quintessa (Gemma Chan), who says he is the “Prime of Life” and tells Optimus he can have his home world back, but only if Earth is destroyed because of its hidden secret (spoiler territory which I won’t get into).

Then there is, of course, the human characters. We first meet teenager Izabella (Isabela Moner) who has her own Transfomers and is living in the fallen section of Chicago after the events of Dark of the Moon. She gets rescued by Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), now a fugitive from the government and famous for helping the Autbots that are still around, who now operates a junk yard where Autobots Bumblebee, Hound (John Goodman), Drift (Ken Watanabe), Crosshairs (John DiMaggio) and the Dinobots – the only scene we see them in – are hiding from new agency in TRF, who are hunting down Transformers and killing them.

Cade gets involved in the bigger scheme of things when he comes across a medallion that attracts the attention of Megatron (Frank Welker) and Sir Edmund Burton (Anthony Hopkins). Burton brings together Cade – with the help of his own Transformer butler Cogman (Jim Carter) – and an Oxford professor Vivian Wembley (Laura Haddock) who is an important part of not only the medallion’s history, but why Cyberton is coming to Earth. We also have Optimus Prime acting unlike himself.

So, as you can see Transformers: The Last Knight has a lot – A LOT – going on, and that makes it an even bigger mess than it already is. The problem, well at least one of them, is that The Last Knight is adding too much mythology and lore way to late in the game. Also, some of it doesn’t make any sense. We see in the trailers that the Transformers have been on Earth longer than we thought. They also been there for big events like World War II – which of course was never mentioned in the films, especially with Bumblebee, who gets his own little flashback scene attacking a Nazi headquarters. Which when you think about, if the Transformers were helping the Allies during the war, shouldn’t it have ended quicker?

It’s almost like the film is insulting us that they think we can’t remember anything from the previous movies. Because you know, Stanley Tucci was in the last film, but is only seen here are Merlin during the Dark Ages segment in the movie. Even the Dinobots, and even mini-Dinobots introduced here, which were made to be a big deal in the last movie film, are not even a factor here. Also, if the world didn’t completely known about Transformers before the events of the first movie, how come we see paintings of King Arthur with the three-headed Transformer behind him in Oxford? It’s just dumb how these movies just throw something for the sack of story and plot, logic and proper storytelling be damned.

Yeah, I know. You don’t watch a Transformers movie for its story and plot; you watch it for its action scenes. Look, even I’ll admit, the series so far has had some pretty descent and great action sequences, but that only takes you so far, and eventually it just becomes noise and incoherent action. It also says a lot that the best action piece in this movie is the fight that’s been promoted heavy in Bumblebee taking on Optimus Prime, and even with that said, we pretty much see almost most of it in the trailers and TV spots.

The real problem is that Transformers shouldn’t be this bad. It’s actually hurts to even think about how bad these movies are. The human characters aren’t interesting enough, cringe-worthy humor and stupid – and I mean take you out of the movie stupid – puns, and once again, stereotypical/slightly racist robots that serve no purpose other than trying to get a laugh or connect with a young audience. Seriously, there are Decepticons here that get introduced similar to a scene ripped right out of Suicide Squad, which could have been fun but the Decepticons and Megatron do absolutely NOTHING in this movie. Are they in it? Yes, but do they serve a purpose? No. Not even close, but you forget they’re in this because they disappear for half an hour or longer. Also, the introduction of Hot Rod (voiced by Omar Sy) is wasted here as he doesn’t really serve a real purpose other than having another fan favorite Autobot and showing off his power of slowing down time.

But going back to the humans, Wahlberg looks like he’s at least trying in some scenes, but this could be his last movie. Laura Haddock comes off as snobby when she’s teaching her students, and while her family history is important to the film, that fact that she doesn’t know it makes no sense since it’s pretty much her job. Josh Duhamel comes back as Lennox from the first three movies, and honestly, doesn’t do much – so his character remains the same. Isabela Moner as Izabella plays the tough teenager wants to help the Autobots, but while her character plays a big role in the first act, her character just doesn’t matter for the rest of the movie. Finally, Anthony Hopkins – poor, poor Anthony Hopkins. Hopkins at least adds some star power to the film and rambles on for long periods of time giving off five minute exposition’s dumps. His role is suppose to feel important, but sometimes it just sounds like an old man rambling, which is a shame considering its Hopkins. He also has a dumb sub-plot with the returning John Turturro that goes on for far too long.

So let’s get to Optimus Prime, who has been the center of the promotional material since he goes “evil.” He also disappears once he gets saved from space. Optimus spends the first half of the movie – where he has about ten minutes (if that) screen time – with Quintessa and is gone for the whole second half of the film to finally appear in the final act to have that fight – and yes – become good again. Is that a spoiler? Come on, we all know he wasn’t going to stay evil.

All in all, Transformers: The Last Knight is more or less of the same thing from the other movies. If you’re a fan, you may like it, but if you’re like me, The Last Knight may finally be the last straw. Its one thing to make a bad Transformers movie, it’s another thing to continue to make them thinking they’re good. The adding of mythology and lore does not do the movie any favors as it’s already bloated enough with nonsense action. However, you know what the biggest problem is? Despite it being the last Michael Bay movie – maybe – he can’t help himself from adding a post-credit scene to story he won’t – potentially – be involved in anymore. If Bay truly wanted to leave the series, he would have left the new director enough room to do their own story and thing. But no. Finally, let’s face it, I can sit here and write “this movie is a steaming pile of combined shits that you only fuel by buying a ticket,” but The Last Knight will still make a crap ton of money.

Transformers: The Last Knight

2 out of 5

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‘Noah’ Review

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Dir: Darren Aronofsky
Cast: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Douglas Booth, and Anthony Hopkins
Synopsis: A man is chosen by God to undertake a momentous mission of rescue before an apocalyptic flood destroys the world.

 
*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review of this interruption of the biblical tale.*

 
Whatever your faith or how much you believe or don’t believe in the story itself, the tale of Noah is inherently a tough one – this is a story involving just about all of humanity wiped out, all at once. And this film doesn’t shy away from that at all, both in the grand scale of those killed by the floods and also in smaller, more intimate and, arguably, more disturbing ways. There is one scene in particular where Noah makes a choice that is frankly shocking to see. Director Darren Aronofsky and Russell Crowe walk a delicate line here with audience sympathy, yet manage to convey that this is a man doing what he truly believes must be done, no matter how difficult it is to comprehend at face value. According to Aronofsky, and something I come to see as well, Noah is person that suffers from the ultimate survivor’s guilt. This movie touches on that but also asks another question, what happens when you give a man an extremely life changing mission?

 

The opening (including some text onscreen that, essentially, gives you the grand scale of things with some cool Aronosfky visuals) establishes that God, here called “The Creator”, is certainly believed in by everyone, but also has gone so long that it’s assumed he long abandoned or moved on from the people he put on the Earth. The exception to this, of course, is Noah (Crowe) who begins to have visions sent to him by the Creator, warning that thanks to humanity’s misdeeds, the end is coming, in the form of a great flood.

 

With the aid of his grandfather, Methuselah (Hopkins, although he is only referred to as Grandfather by everyone in Noah’s family and Noah himself), Noah realizes he is meant to build a massive Ark, which will hold animals and Noah’s own family, all of whom will be the key to re-starting society all over again. Although Noah takes pride in his task at the outset, he starts to doubt if anyone, including his family, is worthy of being saved

 

Noah is assisted by his family from the start, including his wife, Naameh (Connelly) and his sons, the oldest Shem (Booth), the middle child Ham (Lerman) and the youngest Japheth (McHugh Carroll). And then there’s Ila (Watson), who they saved as a little girl and raise among their family – where she and Shem are romantically involved.

 

This version of Noah is obviously a different interpretation told than before. Besides Noah’s family, Noah is helped by others in the form of the Watchers, angels that are envisioned as giant rock creatures trapped in their current form as a punishment by the Creator. The Watchers have an angelic light inside them that makes their eyes and mouth glow, making them feel like something out of Lord of the Rings. The design is interesting as they’re so massive they kind of just lunge around but when its time to take action and protect the Ark, they become one of the highlights of the film, even though we never really get to know their names expect for Og (voiced by Frank Langella) and Samyaza (voiced by Nick Nolte).

 

The cast for the most part really works. Crowe can convey toughness and determination and is, for this interpretation, the right guy to play someone as focused as Noah is, who will not let anything get in his way. He also gets to show some other pretty intense emotions as the film continues and Noah begins to believe that perhaps the Creator’s intentions are even more difficult than it seemed, on a personal level. He’s also a bit of a badass. We see Noah early on defend himself from three attackers and when the Ark is under attack from Tubal-cain (the always reliable Ray Winestone) and his army, he does what he has to do to complete his mission.

 

As for the other men in the film, Lerman who plays Ham is the most conflicted amongst Noah’s sons, and has some understandable concerns and jealousies. Ham’s conflict brings him into the growing struggle between Noah and Tubal-cain, a villain who also has a unique position in the film. He does do awful things but he says things in such away you almost feel wrong agreeing with him. Douglas Booth’s Shem, the oldest son, isn’t given a lot to do but protect Watson’s Ila. Finally, Anthony Hopkins for the short amount of screen time he has does his usual best

 

But beside Crowe and Winstone, the women really do take center stage here. More specifically Emma Watson as Ila. Thanks to being attacked as a child she is unable to have children – something that is a concern to her given that she is the future of mankind. Watson holds her own with Crowe and have some great chemistry together, especially near the end. But, Watson is excellent at conveying Ila feelings as she looks at her place in this family. Jennifer Connelly’s Naameh, doesn’t have much to do at first, but Connelly stands out in one particular scene near the end as Naameh stands up to Noah; for the first time believing her husband, who she has supported for so long, is the wrong about a decision he’s making.

 

Not shockingly, Aronofsky’s visuals are gorgeous, highlighted by a sequence in which we see the Creation Story play out in a dynamic, thrilling manner, that expertly mixes time-lapse photography with special effects.

 

There are some iffy CGI at points (mostly with the animals but considering the scale of this project it’s kind of okay) and, despite its huge scale, Noah does have some moments where it hits some bumps. As I mentioned earlier, the promotional material surprisingly hasn’t given away much. We actually see and spend a good chuck of time in the Ark. Here is where the movie slows down a bit, but with great acting scenes and the dilemmas the characters, mostly Noah, have to make it adds some tense and emotional sequences that make the time in the Ark worth while.

 

All in all, Noah will, obviously, play very differently depending on how you interpret the Bible or even care about religion. Some will probably find it boring or uninteresting, which is fine, but given the bold approach that Aronofsky takes I hope people appreciate the movie just for what it is (I know, that’s asking a lot).

 

Noah
4 out of 5

‘Thor: The Dark World’ Review

Dir: Alan Taylor

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Christopher Eccleston, Jaimie Alexander, Idris Elba, Kat Dennings, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Stellan Skarsgard, Rene Russo and Anthony Hopkins

Synopsis: Faced with an enemy that even Odin and Asgard cannot withstand, Thor must embark on his most perilous and personal journey yet, one that will reunite him with Jane Foster and force him to sacrifice everything to save us all

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a non-spoiler review as always.  But I will say this, as with every Marvel movie, STAY FOR THE CREDITS! There will be a mid-credits and after credits scene.  Also if you watch the movie in 3D, you will get to see a 5 minutes preview of Captain America: The Winter Soldier*

 

Thor was probably the biggest question mark as to whether fans would understand the character enough to sit and watch a movie based on him.  Some were surprised when they saw the movie on how good it was (or bad for others) but once every one knew what the character was about and saw him team up with their other heroes they embraced him with open arms.  This continues most of the new found love for the character and changes things up.

The film kicks off with a prologue that finds Thor’s grandfather doing battle with an army of Dark Elves, led by Malekith (Eccleston), an angry elf who is hellbent on plunging the world into darkness with a powerful weapon called The Aether.  Thor’s grandfather ends up getting the Aether and hides it causing Malekith and a small portion of his army to hide.  Fast forward to present day, and Thor (Hemsworth) with Sif (Alexander) and The Warriors Three; Hogun (Tadanobu Asano), Volstagg (Ray Stevenson) and Fandral (Zachary Levi, who replaces Josh Dallas) are busy cleaning up chaos in the nine realms.  Even though Thor is winning the adoration of his people and being groomed to be the new king, his heart is still with Jane Foster (Portman).

Speaking of Jane, she’s in London dealing with the fact that Thor hasn’t been around to see her since the events of the first movie.  She and Darcy (Dennings) find some weird going-ons and eventually leads to Malekith being awaken.  Of course while all that is going on, Loki (Hiddleston) is being held prisoner in the dungeons of Asgard for his crimes in Thor and The Avengers by Odin (Hopkins).

Bringing in Alan Taylor as the new director does give the movie a whole new look.  Not to knock on Kenneth Branagh but Taylor brings in that Game of Thrones style that works since the movie does go into the city life of Asgard, something the first movie didn’t do.  The movie’s battle scenes also have a different feel that really work for this movie.

The first half of Thor: The Dark World, is really all about the production design.  It’s an interesting blend of medieval style and futuristic space weapons that surprisingly works.  It also gives us the focal point of the movie about the Convergence, an event that has all the nine realms aligning and where the Aether is the strongest for Malekith to use.

The second half is where all the stakes are raised and where most of the pay offs are.  Thor has no choice but to free Loki and work with him to stop Malekith from using the Aether.  Of course seeing Thor and Loki together are the best scenes in the movie.  We’ve already seen their relationship develop in two movies now and when they come together it instantly clicks and makes sense.  However, we see some of the strains and some acceptances in their relationship that kind of make you wish they put them together sooner.

The movie does have its flaws. Some scenes probably over stay their welcomes just a tad long and there seemed to be a set up for a love triangle that doesn’t really play out in the end that well (if you’re a fan of the comics you’ll know it when you see it).  I’m pretty sure people will be a bit disappointed that there isn’t enough Loki in the movie but lets remember, this is a Thor movie and not a Loki movie.  Don’t get me wrong I love what Hiddleston has done with Loki and I love how he plays the character he’s not the focal point in the movie.

As for Hemsworth, he has truly made Thor his own.  Hemsworth gives Thor the perfect balance of arrogance – without being cocky – humility and maturely.  He knows what he wants and who he loves and will do anything to protect them even if it means he has to sacrifice himself.  Thor is a man of action and here he proves it.

In connection with that some of the supporting characters don’t really get to do much.  The Warriors Three become the Warriors Two with Fandral and Volstagg getting more screen time.  Sif shows off more her badassery this time but other than that she almost does nothing else as does Idris Elba as Heimdall, he actually gets to do some action this time around.  Stellan Skarsgard takes an interesting turn with his Dr. Erik Selvig character.  Rene Russo as Thor and Loki’s mother Frigga gets some cool moments that I would have loved to see more of and Hopkins as Odin this time around really just walks and sits around and doesn’t capture the powerful ruler he was in the first movie.

On the villain side, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje who plays Algrim/Kurse is intense and a bit terrifying at times and is the right hand man of Christopher Eccleston’s Malekith.  Eccleston is under some heavy makeup and at times can come off as terrifying and a real threat but other times he’s just an obstacle in the way.

One of the things that really took me by surprise is the humor in the movie.  Don’t let this surprise you since Marvel has been injecting more humor in their movies as of late.  However, the humor doesn’t take away from the seriousness of the movie.  There are many big dramatic moments in the movie that make this movie really work along side the humor.

All in all, Thor: The Dark World is a fun, humor, and action filled sequel that, although its small flaws, does make me want to see more Thor adventures in the future.

 

Thor: The Dark World

4 out of 5