‘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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‘American Ultra’ Review

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Dir: Nima Nourizadeh

Writer(s): Max Landis

Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Topher Grace, Connie Britton, Walton Goggins, Tony Hale, John Leguizamo and Bill Pullman

Synopsis: A stoner – who is in fact a government agent – is marked as a liability and targeted for extermination. But he’s too well-trained and too high for them to handle.

 

 

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

 

 

When you think of movies with stoner leads you don’t really imagine there is going to be any action in it, or at least hardcore action. That is not the case with American Ultra, in fact, it works almost the opposite. It’s an action film with stoners in it. It’s a rather odd mix considering the action in the film is very heighten at times and albeit a bit shocking at times, but it always makes sense when you see the events of the film and how the movie operates.

 

American Ultra follows Mike Powell (Eisenberg), a stoner working in a convenience store in Liman, West Virginia with his girlfriend Phoebe (Stewart). The two are happily in love, however Mike was part of a failed CIA operation called “Wise Man” and ambitious upstart CIA agent Adrian Yates (Grace) plans on wiping away everyone in the program, which includes Mike. When the program’s former head Victoria Lasseter (Britton) goes against the agency and actives him, the town is put into lockdown and Mike’s programming starts to go into effect, making him a lethal and trained killer. Now with Yates and his own program assets try to kill Mike, he must protect himself and Phoebe from getting killed.

 

I wasn’t really expecting much from this to be honest. I thought it would be a dumb fun action comedy, and while it is that for the most part, there is something about it that sets it apart from other action comedies. The other reason I wasn’t looking forward to it that much was I’m a little tired of Jesse Eisenberg playing the stoner/deadbeat-like character. Thankfully, here it isn’t too distracting. Sure he goes on some stereotypical-like dialogue, but Eisenberg’s deadpan and rapid delivery make it work, especially with the great chemistry he has with Stewart. I will say though, that his rambling does get a bit old during some points.

 

03

 

The rest of the cast works too and all have their shared moments to shine. Kristen Stewart – who is still probably shaking off the Twilight hate from fans – is pretty good here, playing Mike’s girlfriend Phoebe, who loves and supports him and thankfully there is more to her character than that, but is hurt a bit by becoming a de-factor-o damsel in distress in the last act of the movie. Topher Grace is weirdly miscast as the films villain. Although it makes some sense, as he’s trying to prove himself, there is a weird disconnect since because he’s more humorous than bossy.

 

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It’s actually Walton Goggins, who is as reliable as always, that plays more of the villain role as the asset Laugher, for reasons you can probably imagine. Connie Britton looks to be having some fun playing her serious CIA agent, but at the same time has a protective side of her as she tries to help Mike get through everything. John Leguizamo plays Mike’s drug dealer Rose and has some funny moments, but is nothing more than a minor character, and the same can be said for Tony Hale who plays another CIA agent, Petey, caught in the middle of the power struggle between Britton’s Lasseter and Grace’s Yates. Finally, Bill Pullman pops up in a cameo performance that doesn’t really serve too much purpose other than being another government official.

 

While the film is highly enjoyable, American Ultra does take a hit early on as it does something that kind takes away from the enjoyment of the film as it “rewinds” everything. In some cases it works in films, but only if they do it as a final ta-da moment in the final few minutes, but not the very start of the film. Also, the film’s tone is a bit scattered. The film goes from action-comedy to spy espionage film, and the flip flop is a bit jarring at times, especially with the heighten and hyperactive violence in the film.

 

As for the action, the scenes are great to watch unfold. Yes, they might be a bit violent or jarring for some people, but considering what the movie is, I’m not surprised by how the violence is approached. A highlight is definitely the final act supermarket sequence.

 

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All in all, American Ultra isn’t that bad of a film. Yes, there are some jarring things about it tone wise, and while the rewind aspect hurts the film, the enjoyment of watching the events unfold in real time is enough to make you forget that to some extent. If anything, the chemistry between Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart is enough to keep you entertained.

 

American Ultra

4 out of 5