Transformers films used to entertaining spectacles about alien robots hidden on Earth. They were never great films but they were great cinematic experiences. One thing they all shared though was some semblance of coherence. A story that, although way out there, kind of made sense. This one is a mess. A lazy, nonsensical mess.
I have to open by saying that the start of the film was surprisingly impressive. As the stars of the Paramount Logo took their positions, fiery projectiles flew overhead. The camera pivoted and we watched them come crashing down into Saxon soldiers in Medieval England during a huge battle. Being a Michael Bay picture there was obviously liberal use of pyrotechnics but it set the tone for a potentially thrilling experience. Sadly it only lasted until the first line of dialogue, perhaps a whole 90 seconds in, and I began to realise that the next two and a half hours of my life were going to be one narrative car crash after another.
There are so many issues on so many levels that it is difficult to know where to begin. For instance when showing Mark Wahlberg around his castle in England, Anthony Hopkins mentions that ‘this is the watch that killed Hitler’. There is no explanation and it is never mentioned again after that moment. Shortly after there is a needless and entirely unrelated Nazi cutscene that added nothing that couldn’t be said with words and I’m convinced was just used as padding for the budget. The $217 million production budget.
Another baffling Hopkins moment was when he was refused entry into 10 Downing Street, attempting to meet the Prime Minister. Upon this refusal he simply said that he’ll use the other entrance then, the secret one, which naturally comes out into the exact room he needs to be with the exact person he needs to see. Once inside he sits down and waits to be noticed, as if the alien planet on a crash course with Earth will just pause until he is ready to continue.
As that alien planet, Cybertron, reaches Earth, we see its anchors run along the surface of the Moon with one destroying the Lunar Landing area. Something which bothered me was how the American flag wasn’t bleached white from the Sun’s. This was probably for two reasons. Firstly, the Transformers films are all about American patriotism, the American Military and the strength of the American people. The second, and most important reason, is that Michael Bay and his crew just don’t care. They know that no matter how insultingly poor the film is, people will still flock to it.
In preparation for this film, it seems that Bay was presented with five or six different scripts. Instead of choosing just one, he picked the opening of one, a few pages from another, and so on before telling the writers to make the ending work. There are twelve knight Transformers who are supposedly among the greatest of their kind but barely get seen. They merge together to form a quite impressive looking three-headed dragon but when one gets killed later on they someone still manage to make the same three-headed dragon. Another transformer we meet has a gun that can slow down time within a certain range of where it is shot. Again we have no explanation of how or where it is from and no other character human or robot is even interested.
Michael Bay has always faced criticism for his films, but retorts that he makes them for teenagers. But do teenagers care about King Arthur anymore? Or about Suicide Squad knock-off character introductions? Or Stonehenge? Or even Transformers?