To any kid who grew up in the ’80s, the Transformers is held in high esteem as it evokes strong feelings of nostalgia.
The cartoon of that decade, dubbed by fans as Generation 1 or G1, had the original versions of Prime and Megatron and the rest of the Autobots and Decepticons. There have been many changes over the years, with the movie versions proving to be the most recognized one to today’s audience.These movies, including and especially this latest entry, “The Last Knight,” are a long way from their G1 ancestor.
Visually, “Transformers” movies rarely disappoint. Many of the fan favorites Prime and Bumblebee show up, and they’ve never looked better. Another fan favorite, Hot Rod, finally gets his screen debut, though sounding more French than he ever did in the cartoons. The quality of the animation and special effects are beyond reproach, thanks to the wizards at Industrial Light and Magic, who have been the lead effects supplier since the first movie. Supporting them because of the complexity of the shots are the Moving Picture Company, Scanline VFX, Atomic Fiction, and Base FX.
However, as good as it looks, it feels a bit carried away. At two and a half hours, watching it feels like the story could have been told in perhaps two thirds of the time. There was a joke that went around when the first “Transformers” movie came out: “How are you going to top transforming robot cars racing along a highway, doing a hundred miles an hour?’’ The answer of course was, “You put even more transforming robot cars racing along a high way at two hundred miles an hour.”
While admittedly only mildly funny, the joke does illustrate the path the ‘Transformers’ movies have been on. They’ve gotten bigger and louder, but not much deeper. Sure, a movie about sentient robotic organisms hiding out on our planet doesn’t bring to mind great drama or oration, but good plot and character development always helps.
The plot in this film is still a bit of a stretch, although the twists the filmmakers put on well-known Transformer’s lore and characters spark enough interest to keep one watching. The characterization, however has somewhat improved. In an earlier film of the franchise, I didn’t care if Cade Yeager’s (played by Mark Wahlberg) daughter survived the day or not. I just wasn’t invested and I knew few people who were.
Now at least, there’s some gravitas and emotion with Cade and Izabella, a runaway he ends up adopting on the fly played by Isabela Moner. It also helped that veteran actors like John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Ken Watanabe, and Jim Carter lend their voices to robots such as Hound, Daytrader, Drift, and Cogman.
But the one who really sold the movie was Sir Edmund Burton, a secret-keeper played by Anthony Hopkins. He can take any premise, no matter how outlandish, and make you believe it to be not only plausible, but the most important thing in this world. His relationship with his robotic manservant, Cogman, and his back and forth between John Turturro – who he never shares any screen time with – is particularly inspired and funny.
“Transformers: The Last Knight” is a popcorn movie that delivers the goods on action, and eye candy. While not particularly cerebral, it is a step up from its predecessor, and so acts as a good sign for the franchise. The movie series finally found some heart, something missing since Bumblebee cam onscreen in the first movie.
The film ends with a set-up for a sixth installment, and one can only wait and see if they can find that special balance between visuals and emotional impact that will lift it from fun, blockbuster pop-corn movie, to a film to be looked back on decades from now with fondness and nostalgia.
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