Has there been a film franchise that was inspired by children’s action figures that has had more success than Transformers? Regardless of the general public’s opinion of Michael Bay and his robot series, it has to be acknowledged that Optimus Prime and his team are part of cinematic history. As the fifth instalment revs up and rolls into theatres, the next question that needs to be asked is will this sci-fi adventure ever end? Trilogies were the standard for years, but with Star Wars and The Fast and the Furious as examples, there has been a paradigm shift and franchises can have a life of themselves and live eternally. The answer to the query on the longevity of Transformers will come down to whether audiences will continue to pay to see these robotic action heroes to continue to save earth.
For those who have not been following the convoy of transformative vehicles into cinemas, director Michael Bay decides to build upon this automobile world and journeys back to the dark ages. Delving into the mystical world of King Arthur, Merlin and the knights of the round table, he shows how the mechanical creatures have had a formative effect on mankind throughout history. Beginning with the passing of a magical sceptre and medallion into the hands of Merlin that leads to the link between these two worlds.
This passing of the baton has a rippling effect that travels throughout time and brings us back to the storyline of Transformers: Age of Extinction. Optimus Prime has left earth in search of Cybertron, in the search for his home planet. During his absence the human population has declared war on the robots. The Transformers Reaction Force (TRF) is working to hunt down the alien creatures, but the non-stop arrival of the metal beings has made their work difficult. During their battle for survival, Cade Yeager’s (Mark Wahlberg) maintains a robot refugee camp in the Badlands of South Dakota until the war comes to their front door when Megatron and the TRF find the embattled lot. While Bumble Bee and the team are on the run, the answers to their salvation can only be found in determining why more autobots are arriving on earth and what connection Yeager has to their metallic past. They partner with Sir Edmund Burton (Anthony Hopkins) and Professor Viviane Wembly (Laura Haddock) to uncover the ancient force that causes the magnetism that draws these two worlds together.
For fans of the action figures and this series, this description will be easy to follow. For those new to the Transformers caravan, it will be worthwhile to go back and experience the rest of the chapters of this series for the storyline to make sense. Not that putting in all of the viewing effort to get caught up on the series will make this story any clearer, but it will help to get audiences up to speed on the humanoid-type vehicles and why they care about humanity.
This is a film that only true fans could love, which must cause many to chomp at the bit to see the latest Michal Bay creation. This director has found characters and a formula that reach across the generations to fill theatres during the school holidays. Taking the story back to the origins of how the two worlds working together for good provides a different beginning to the familiar robot tale. Which does set up a fresh story vein that threads through the regular fare of computer generated effects, action sequences and explosions. It also allows for the inclusion of Anthony Hopkins, who brings a level of credibility to the thespian ranks. Yet even with the new beginnings and inclusion of the Academy Award winning actor cannot lift this franchise above a predictable franchise canon.
Similar to adding Charlize Theron to The Fast and the Furious franchise and having Dwayne Johnson heading up Baywatch, Mark Wahlberg’s star power cannot save the wincing that occurs through this poorly written script. This ‘going through the motions’ performance has the knowing look of someone who knows that audiences are really here for the explosions and cool cars. Transformers: The Last Knight delivers the same high standard of special effects, unbelievable story elements and bone-crushing sequences for the avid Transformers devotees, but little more than the cinematic equivalent of eating fairy floss (cotton candy). Seems good at first, but inevitably adds no nutritional value, is forgettable afterward, except for an uncomfortable stickiness.
But, don’t you worry, there will be a sequel…these robots seem incapable of dying.
REEL DIALOGUE: What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film?
By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. Hebrews 11:3
What is our fascination with the ‘origin’ story? Audiences continue to flock to cinemas to find out what one can know about our favourite superhero, action hero and cartoon characters. Why do we care where these fictitious figures came from or why they act the way that they do? The argument could be found in the make up of the human condition.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1
The answer could be that we are hardwired for story, especially knowing our own history. Humanity is not just about ‘the now,’ but knowing how we got here. From the meta-narrative of the existence of mankind to our own personal journey. Our interest in the past keeps historians in a job and keeps biographers, novelists and film directors busy with opportunities to share stories that will grab the hearts of men and women around the world. Some focus on the future or the present, but many of the answers to these queries can be answers in knowing where we have been.
The reason behind our love of the ‘origin’ story can be found in the desire to know our own past.
Passages to consider on this topic: Genesis 1-3. Colossians 1:16, Revelation 4:11
WATCH THE TRAILER