Saturday, 24 June 2017

Review: Transformers - The Last Knight

Name: Transformers: The Last Knight (2D) / Student Responsible: Michael Bay / Age: 12 (advisory) /Studied: 10 years / Projects Completed: 5 / Latest Project Length: 149 minutes
This has been a difficult year for Michael as he struggles to find coherence in his creative activities. Never the highest achiever in his peer-group, he has nonetheless been a conscientious student in the past, delivering projects to the best of his ability. Recent years have seen him coast into unfocused laziness however, an attitude resurgent in his end-of-year project, The Last Knight. While we wouldn't expect the fifth part of his ongoing series to be a vie for critical acclaim alone, after watching the performance we weren't sure who it was actually aimed at. If Michael is to succeed in his chosen field, he needs to spend more time thinking about why his projects exist, rather than just how to complete them.

Performance in specific areas:

Attendance: C-
Whilst Michael has succeeded in the relative non-achievement of engaging the theatre department's Mark McMark for a second consecutive production, it has been noted that the performer only initially became involved because of the director's falling out with prior collaborators Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox from years 3 and 2, respectively. In his latest presentation, Michael seems incredibly self-satisfied to have secured returning supporting cast-members from earlier productions, namely Josh Duhamel, John Turturro and Glenn Morshower. This charitable act of continuity on Michael's part is undercut slightly given that LaBeouf and Fox either haven't been asked to reprise or just aren't interested, although the former's image is presented as a photograph at one point, presumably as a move in some manner of theatrical tit-for-tat. In addition to all this, the film sees the return of the Megatron character, but voiced by the music department's Mr. Frank Welker, as it apears Hugo Weaving has changed his phone number.

Design Work: B-
Michael's main mechanical-cast look visually impressive as always, and the director has managed to abstain from following the film's female characters around at bottom-height, this time. However, sunsets and lensflare continue to be a problem, and the filmmaker's boastful use of Imax cameras throughout means that the 99.9% of cinema audiences who won't be watching on the proprietary format will still be subjected to an aspect ratio which isn't even as wide as 16:9, never mind the generally expected 2.35:1. Because the school auditorium's side-curtains were not operational at the time of our performance, the examination panel could actually see two sets of black bars at the picture's sides as a result.

Physical Education: B
The Last Knight establishes in its first act a ticking countdown-timer of three days. The story's principal characters manage to stay alert, active and energetic for that entire duration despite apparently going nowhere near a wink of sleep. Extra points are awarded in this category for the same characters' resourceful good hygiene in having frequent changes of clothes, despite both having been effectively kidnapped on the fly in the first twenty minutes.

Chemistry: C
With the exception of Anthony Hopkins who overacts gleefully in every single scene of his, the vast majority of exchanges here consist of cast members awaiting their delivery cues, be that the director shouting 'action', someone else's line of script or just a prop thrown into shot by a runner to simulate some robots fighting off-camera. While there is little-to-no meaningful interaction between the human characters, this doesn't actually matter in The Last Knight.

Physics: C
Whilst Michael has a broad grasp of gravity, he continues to be unsure of basic time/distance travel calculations, the resulting actions of a 20+ tonne machine walking upright over a muddy field, and the impactful introduction of a moon-sized object within the Earth's atmosphere and onto the planet's surface. Mr Spielberg has offered Michael extra tuition on these and further items on several occasions, to no avail.

Logical Reasoning:
See Physics.

Sociology: C-
For a film with a concept of robot-smacks-robot, the population is far too high. Outside of the core cast of Mark McMark, Laura Haddock and Anthony Hopkins, the story introduces significant numbers of tertiary (human) characters who are apparently forgotten about until they're wheeled in to deliver exposition at some later point.

Creative Writing: D
Michael has been assisted by four writers here, all apparently obsessed with sassy, comedic bickering but encumbered with a cast unable to deliver it. People in closed rooms shout at each other as general conversation. The narrative makes no sense, the script is awful, the characters are flimsy, the cast lack direction and the direction lacks coherence. The Last Knight ends up like a two-and-a-half-hour cutscene from a video game nobody needs to play.

English Language: E
"The judgement… is death!" cries one executioner-robot during the film's finale. No, the sentence would be death. The 'judgement' would be guilty. And this is a character with a computer for a brain, remember…

Geography: Unclassified
This is where we have serious concerns with Michael's performance at our school. Although operating in a fictional, non-documentary capacity, The Last Knight has such a basic disregard for its locations that we have refused to award a mark for this module. Bay may believe his core audience is too young to think about the internal logic of the film, but to even hold children in educational contempt is nothing short of shameful.

The problems which were noted included (but were not limited to):

• Mark McMark's chauffeured aeroplane arrives at the United Kingdom and actually touches its wheels down on the While Cliffs of Dover, the implication being that his host Anthony Hopkins lives in his castle in Dover. Otherwise, why would the vehicle have landed in Dover? After several scenes of messy exposition, it's revealed that this castle is actually about three minutes drive away from Westminster in London (which is in actual fact 85 miles away from Dover), and also about five minutes drive from the Radcliffe Camera in Oxford (which is 59 miles from Westminster, and 144 miles away from Dover). Audiences in England (especially the Southern counties) will be acutely aware of this disparity.

• In fact, if the aeroplane is flying in from America (which is to the west of Britain, if we remember correctly), why would it be seen approaching the White Cliffs of Dover (which are located on the south-east coast)? The plane would be skirting over Cornwall at an absolute push, which is still hundreds of miles away from London. The only time you see those cliffs is if you're coming in from Calais, France.

• Additionally, Hopkins' jaunt into the capital takes him within walking distance of "Trinity Library", as it's named in the script. While this is is not geographically described in the film, it is nonetheless revealed to be the very famous library of Trinity College in Dublin, which is 369 miles from London.

• The exterior of Oxfordshire's Blenheim Palace has been filmed as a Nazi stronghold in a Second World War flashback-sequence, and while the building is not intended to be its actual self, Michael has nonetheless chosen a very visually distinctive landmark already associated with that war (being the birthplace of one Winston Churchill) to pretend is somewhere else completely. Presumably he could not find any other old buildings in England to film outside of.

• Back in London, the film implies that one can just walk up to the front door of 10 Downing Street (one cannot), and then that there's a 'secret back door' entrance in the Strand, which is about half a mile away and in the opposite direction to the one in which Anthony Hopkins walks off.

• And our most contested moment might have been where Hopkins instructs McMark to liberate a submarine from "the Naval Museum", which in London can only realistically mean Greenwich. This action is duly performed and the craft is seen cruising under London's Tower Bridge having travelled eight and a half miles up-river for no reason whatsoever, before next emerging at the foot of Dover's White Cliffs in what can only have been a coastal-skirting waste of time. Here is that every-second-counts journey on a map:
Transformers: The Geography of Michael Bay

There IS a (slim) chance that the Naval Museum which Hopkins refers to is the one in Portsmouth (where the scene was actually filmed), but given that's 73 miles south-west of London, this wouldn't explain why the submarine is then spotted at Tower Bridge before arriving back at Dover...

For audiences with even a basic grasp of UK landmarks or geography, this film is going to be unwatchable.

We appear to have reached Peak Bay; The Last Knight is absolute cinematic gibberish. It is the school's recommendation that Michael should leave to pursue more varied projects in the wider world, allowing other students to experiment, flourish and learn from his follies.

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
Transformers: Age of Extinction. It is like that one.

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
If you must.
Although I'll warn you now: I had a headache by the time we get to Mark McMark's junkyard twenty minutes in, and it did not shift until I was back out in the street after the film. Never before have I welcomed the tranquility of rush-hour traffic

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
In Michael Bay's head, it probably does.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
By no means, although it's oddly harmless considering everything that's wrong with it.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Oh, probably not. For everything I've written*1, I didn't actively hate The Last Knight. Apart from anything else I didn't have a chance to, I spent too much time trying to work out what the actual fuck was going on.

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
I may be mistaken, but I believe the film actually opens with one, melded into some other sound-effects. Not that I'm going to watch it again to make certain, of course.

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: That Uncredited First Order General / Stormtrooper from The Force Awakens / Rogue One is in this. Yes, of course that counts.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 I hope you're impressed, by the way, that I've gone this far through the review without needing a single footnote.
I know I am. [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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