More than meets the why? The cinematic slurry that is Transformers: The Last Knight
Captain Fireball sinks to new depths of unwatchable action as the transformers franchise lumbers on
In the world of modern day blockbusters there is a phrase you hear a lot.
Every action film has to have a few. A trailer moment is something larger-than-life. The hero escaping just as the explosion blooms behind her. The car careering off the cliff. The quest for trailer-worthy moments is now so critical it begins in the screenplay stage.
But with Transformers: The Last Knight director Michael Bay has done something remarkable. Something he has been building to for his entire career. He's made a trailer that's 2 and a half hours long.
There are no pauses to reflect, no quietude. No slivers of humanity.
All replaced with a never ending orgy of metallic destruction, accompanied by the sound of a thousand buildings falling.
Now with a title such as The Last Knight you might dare to hope this is final installment in Michael Bay's opus. But in fact Transformers #5 could be the beginning of a new avalanche of awfulness. Bay reportedly staffed a writers room where screenwriters dreamt up as many as 14 new Transformer treatments. Prequels, sequels, perhaps Bumblebee: The Early Years. All are waiting in the wings depending on the performance of The Last Knight.
Which brings us to the plot of this installment, not that Bay paid much attention to it, but I supposed we should attempt a cursory description.
We begin in the Dark Ages which is brightened up by the constant rain of fireballs as we learn transformers have been on Earth for centuries. Soon Stanley Tucci stumbles into view playing Merlin, a drunk wizard who talks to a transforming dragon. As mind-boggling as that last statement is, this is all just a setup for the appearance of a magical staff that holds the key to whether the planet Cybertron will destroy Earth.
Flash forward to the modern day where Transformers are illegal and hunted by the government while a plucky 14 year-old girl named Izabella hides in a junkyard with other refugee robots.
You might think stateless cybertronic citizens would be an apt metaphor for the state of our planet, but then you`d be forgetting this a Michael Bay production.
Instead Izabella tags along to find Mark Wahlberg phoning it in as Cade Yeager, the robot freedom fighter who begins a treasure hunt to find the magical staff.
Now this is generally the point in the review where people start angrily typing things such as "COME ON ELI, IT'S JUST A MOVIE."
The fact is I grew up on Transformers. I enjoyed the cartoons, the toys (my favourite is Cosmos) and even the first few films, which had streak of screwball comedy, under the unrepentant misogyny. But there are basic levels of competence and comprehension that Michael Bay is annihilating in his quest to make the loudest film ever.
The script reads like it was written by a group of 12 year olds who just learned to swear. There are jumps in logic and pacing that make Transformers 5 feel like a scrambled music video.
Like a frat boy given 260 million dollars to play with, Bay strives to make the military men mighty, and the women foxy, while he mocks the scientists with their foolish facts and figures.
The unsung Canadian hero
But standing stoically in this cyclone of crapitude is an actor named Peter Cullen. Cullen is the voice of Optimus Prime, the leader of the Autobots. Born in Montreal, he has been the voice of the talking truck since the early '80s.
At the Calgary Comic Expo in 2015, Cullen explained how his brother Larry inspired the voice. Larry was a Marine who had fought in battle. He had seen real action and received medals for his valour. So when Cullen was standing in the voice booth for the first time and looking at his script, he thought about what Larry said about being a real hero who was "strong enough to be gentle."
So at the heart of this Bay-sian black hole of computer graphics and fascistic filmmaking is a Canadian channeling a hero virtuous enough to be gentle. My only hope is that Peter Cullen survives Michael Bay's latest cinematic slurry.
Rating: 1 star out of 5 (for Stanley Tucci and the sheer chutzpah of playing drunk Merlin.)