Catasauqua Press

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Movie Review: Baby, you can drive ‘Transformers’

Friday, July 7, 2017 by PAUL WILLISTEIN pwillistein@tnonline.com in Focus

“Transformers: The Last Knight.”

Or is it?

“Transformers Universe: Bumblebee” is set for a June 2018 release. A sixth “Transformers” is set for a June 2019 release.

In this, the fifth movie, the Transformers don’t do all that much transforming. When they do transform, from cars and vehicles to Autobots, they mostly do so lurking behind a building support column or accompanied by flare effects.

The fascination with “Transformers” is to see them transform. Isn’t that what made the Hasbro toy so much fun to begin with?

Oh, and by the way, Transformers are among the original self-driving cars, not including Herbie in “The Love Bug,” 1967, and TV’s “My Mother The Car,” 1966-67, and “Knight Rider,” 1982-86.

“Transformers: The Last Knight” evokes the legend of King Arthur (Liam Garrigan) and the Knights of the Round Table. In the Transformers revision of the legend, Merlin the Wizard (Stanley Tucci) forges an alliance with the Knights of Iacon, 12 Transformers who hid on Earth. Merlin’s magic staff, given to him by the Knights, helps Arthur, aided by a dragon, to triumph over the Saxons.

In one of the lengthiest time-leap title cards in motion picture history, 1,600 years later, the international Transformer Reaction Force is tasked to eliminate Transformers from Earth.

The destroyed Chicago sports stadium (from “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” 2014) brings together Izabella (Isabela Moner) and Sqweeks (resembling the robot from “Short Circuit,” 1986), Bumblebee and Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), who’s given a talisman that Megatron, leader of the evil Decepticons, wants.

Meanwhile, Optimus Prime is on Cybertron, controlled by Quintessa, and headed for Earth in search of Merlin’s staff.

British Lord Sir Edmund Burton (Sir Anthony Hopkins), keeper of Transformers’ lore, is assisted by Cogman (a robot that looks so much like C-3PO from “Star Wars” that the screenplay includes a joke about it). Viviane Wembly (Laura Haddock) is an Oxford professor and descendant of Merlin (The resemblance is uncanny. Just kidding.).

In an attempt to circle the Arthurian mumbo-jumbo plot, the conflagration begins at Stonehenge. Yes, that Stonehenge (A Spinal Tap cameo would have been perfect.).

When on-screen, Wahlberg, Hopkins, Haddock and Moner are fine. The trouble is, they’re not on-screen enough. Instead, we get mind-numbing computer-generated animation mayhem.

Josh Duhamel, John Turturro, Santiago Cabrera, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, and Omar Sy are among those who have supporting roles as characters or who voice characters.

There’s too much story and too little character development in the screenplay by Art Marcum (screenplay, “Iron Man,” 2008); Matt Holloway (screenplay, “Iron Man”) and Ken Nolan (screenplay, “Black Hawk Down,” 2001) from a story by Akiva Goldsman (screenplays, “I Am Legend,” 2007; “The Da Vinci Code,” 2006; “I, Robot,” 2004; Oscar recipient, screenplay, “A Beautiful Mind,” 2001; “Batman Forever,” 1995), Marcum, Holloway and Nolan.

Director Michael Bay (director, “13 Hours,” 2016; and the four previous “Transformers”; “Pearl Harbor,” 2001; “Armageddon,” 1998; “Bad Boys,” 1995) keeps all the parts moving. Dialogue quips help relieve the tedium. The computer-generated imagery and action is spectacular. The settings at Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, England, are magnificent.

Even so, if the Transformers Universe is to be expanded ala the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the DC Extended Universe, better stories and more character development is needed. And the Transformers need to be allowed to transform.

“Transformers: The Last Knight,”MPAA Rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some Material May Be Inappropriate For Children Under 13) for violence and intense sequences of sci-fi action, language, and some innuendo; Genres: Action, Adventure, Science-Fiction; Run time: 2 hrs. 29 mins.; Distributed by Warner Bros.

Credit Readers Anonymous:Midway through “Transformers: The Last Knight” credits, which are unusually short, Quintessa (in human form) views a horn of Unicron. “Transformers: The Last Knight” was filmed in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Arizona, California and Michigan.

Box Office,June 30: Weekend box office results were unavailable because of the early July 4 Day holiday deadline for the Focus section.

Unreel,July 7:

“Spider-Man: Homecoming,”PG-13: Jon Watts directs Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr. and Marisa Tomei in the Action, Adventure, Science-Fiction film that takes place after “Captain America: Civil War” (2016). Peter Parker must balance high school life with his Spider-Man life.

“A Ghost Story,”R: David Lowery directs Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, McColm Cephas Jr. and Kenneisha Thompson in the Drama, Fantasy, Romance about a ghost returning to a suburban house to comfort his widow.

Two Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes