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Transformers: The Last Knight (3D Blu-ray Review)

26 Sep, 2017 By: John Latchem

Street 9/26/17
Sci-Fi Action
Box Office $130.17 million
$29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $49.99 3D BD, $49.99 UHD BD
Rated ‘PG-13’ for violence and intense sequences of sci-fi action, language, and some innuendo
Stars Mark Wahlberg, Laura Haddock, Josh Duhamel, Anthony Hopkins, Isabela Moner, Jerrod Carmichael, Stanley Tucci, John Turturro, Glenn Morshower.

Even for fans of Michael Bay’s “Transformers” movies, it becomes increasingly difficult to deny that each passing film seems to be accentuating all the traits that the franchise’s detractors complain about. These films aren’t so much an adaptation of the classic 1980s cartoon or the toy line its target audience grew up with, but a testosterone-fueled re-interpretation of it, combining the action sensibilities of “Fast & Furious” with the sci-fi mechanics of an Independence Day to produce a series of films that, like “Pirates of the Caribbean,” seem to relish in the endless intricacies of their plots.

So much new backstory emerges in each film it becomes nearly impossible to sort it out, and it’s not like the movies are demanding to be taken seriously enough to justify its audience thinking too hard about how it all fits together.

Among the myriad making-of featurettes on the Blu-ray is an interesting piece involving the writer’s room assembled to craft a mythology on which to build further “Transformers” movie adventures. In trying to settle on the story for the fifth film, one group describes tying the Transformers to King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Another suggests showing the Transformers secretly fighting in World War II. Eventually it all gets tossed in the blender and smushed around.

One thing these movies have continued to do is unveil more and more instances of Transformers influencing Earth’s past, like a series of alternative history fiction. Before it was hiding giant weapons in the pyramids, or motivating our missions to the moon. Here, we learn of a council of Transformer knights who crashed on Earth thousands of years ago and ended up helping King Arthur by giving Merlin a powerful staff they stole from their creator to prevent her evil schemes.

Present-day events find Optimus Prime encountering his home planet of Cybertron after embarking on a mission to find his creator at the end of the previous film. He finds her, she wants the staff back, and she reprograms Prime into an evil killing machine to find it. Her plan is to use the staff to drain Earth’s resources to create the power needed to restore Cybertron.

The story takes on a Da Vinci Code vibe as it ropes in the human characters into the search for the staff, with Anthony Hopkins dragged into it as a foul-mouthed coot who has been keeping the secrets of Transformer interactions with humanity all these years. Then there are other characters who don’t seem to have much to do other than provide a name on the marquis to appeal to an untapped demographic. (But at least they stayed out of China.)

There are lots of neat references to Transformers mythology that fans should enjoy, as long as they aren’t expecting much in the way of fleshed-out classic Transformers stories. Even established characters are becoming caricatures in the face of Bay’s aggressive nature. For all of Nemesis Prime’s declarations of his desire to kill everyone in his way, he doesn’t sound much different than the “good” Optimus vowing to kill his enemies too. Even the Autobots spend a good portion of their downtime trying to blow each other up. Did the good vs. evil parable from the cartoons and toys get lost in translation along the way?

The film has its moments. The action is good and the special effects can be exhilarating, leading to some impressive 3D experiences as it all unfolds. It certainly can be a beautiful film to look at, particularly when the setting moves to the lush greens of the English countryside.

It’s almost as entertaining, though, just to watch the 85-minutes or so of behind-the-scenes featurettes as the filmmakers try to piece all these elements into a single film. There are some good bits about the military training and the actual Navy SEALs used in the film to lend authenticity. But hardcore Transformers fans might be more interested by the “Motors and Magic” piece in which the various Transformers characters are profiled while the visual effects team discusses why they were designed the way they were.

About the Author: John Latchem

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