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– by Nick Doll

Tonight was the Transformers: The Last Knight fan event and I was in attendance, just for you! The event featured about twenty minutes of footage the film. It was a series of clips jumping from scene to scene in chronological order and all of it appeared to be first act material; basically all exposition with some Michael Bay action interspersed. Let’s get into it in detail now, keeping in mind some of this material may prove to be Spoilers if you want to enter the film with a blank slate in June.

The footage began with an introduction from Michael Bay. He explained the famed writer’s room, twelve writers he locked away in a room for a month, resulting in fourteen different stories! This is what encouraged him to direct his fifth and final Transformers film, explained Bay. Make no mistake, Bay again reiterated that The Last Knight would be his last turn in the directors chair for the franchise, though excuse me if I’m not entirely convinced. Bay stressed that this is the only film of 2017 shot in native 3D, as he is “keeping 3D alive.”

After the obligatory director introduction, reminding us the effects were not all finished (they clearly weren’t in about 2 shots), we were off to the time of King Arthur, in a scene best described as Bay’s version of the opening battle in Gladiator. There was plenty of practical fighting between two armies, with the addition of CG fireballs being catapulted into the battle. King Arthur and his knights wait for Merlin, who Lancelot suggests may be just crazy. Cut to Merlin, younger than I’ve ever seen him portrayed in a film, saying he just needs one more drink, only to finish off an entire bottle in a comical single shot. He rides his horse along majestic grassy hills, with Dragonstorm, a Cybertronian Knight (more on that later) in the form of a three-headed dragon, flying above.

Then we’re off to “the present,” whenever that is supposed to be. Four boys, basically flat knock-offs of the kids from Super 8 or Stranger Things, sneak into a restricted area full of “dead robots.” When they find a living Transformer, they are saved by Izabella (“with a Z,” she wants you to know) played by Isabela Moner (with an ‘S’), and her BB-8 looking Autobot pal Sqweeks. She has been living in the zone, but upon the boys’ arrival, human made robots begin attacking, killing her protector Canopy, who looks so much like Bumblebee that I thought it was him… until Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) and the real Bumblebee show up. They save the children from the attack and we’re whisked off to the next scene.

Cade is based at a salvage yard where he can best hide the surviving Transformers. Desi (Jerrod Carmichael) is working for him, trying to turn the salvage yard into a campus of some sort (they weren’t very clear). The pair discuss Cade’s fugitive status when, would you believe it, a drone shows up and they must make a getaway to an abandoned town with Izabella. As the trio runs for their lives they are hunted by drones that look like Darth Vader’s tie-fighter. During their escape, they encounter the proper, human-sized, British Transformer Cogburn. Cogburn tells Cade he is the chosen one as he hands him an artifact that attaches itself to Cade’s arm. From there, Cade must leave Izabella, Desi, Sqweeks, and the rest of the Autobots and travel alone with Bumblebee to jolly ole’ England.

Cogburn brings them to Sir Edmund Burton (Anthony Hopkins), a babbling man who at first seems mad, but magically begins to make perfect sense. He lives in a great castle guarded by a deteriorating Transformer with “dementia,” who takes the form of a WWII era Tank. As they speak, Vivian Wembley (Laura Haddock) is delivered rather rudely by her car, the Autobot Hot Rod, in what is her first experience with a Transformer. Vivian is a professor at the University of Oxford and her father seems to be of some significance, even if we don’t know why. Burton shows them the original round table from Camelot, explaining it was surrounded not only by human nights from Camelot, but also the Knights of Cybertron, so many centuries ago. Burton mentions there is one “Last Knight,” who I assume is Cade, him being the chosen one and all. After that, it’s basically the trailer you’ve already seen complete with evil Optimus Prime and a really cool shot of the Transformer tanks fighting Nazis.

Everything is about what I expect from a Transformers film. If you hate the franchise, don’t expect The Last Knight to change your mind. The tone did seem very jokey compared to any other Transformers film. They’ve always had a degree of humor, but everyone was cracking wise from the boys in the restricted zone to Cogburn. The beginning really did focus heavily on kids until Cade arrived, in what seems to be an attempt to aim this film at an even younger audience than the previous installments. But once Cade shows up, it began to feel like an actual Transformers/Michael Bay movie with big explosions and some quick spurts of action. It wasn’t cut together as the final film will be, but the tone of the scenes with the children did clash with the more classic Transformers material that followed.

As always, the finished shots looked magnificent. One thing I can never criticize this franchise for are the special effects. The dialogue was pretty weak; many character seemed like parodies or copies of archetypes from other popular films, including the boys, Izabella, and even Anthony Hopkins’ Burton. The filmmakers appear to be attempting to duplicate the popularity of Rey and BB-8 from Star Wars: The Force Awakens with Izabella and Sqweeks.

At times, the humor was questionable and some racial stereotypes came on a bit strong. It’s hard to judge the the story and flow of the film, as we saw clips that weren’t even cut into full scenes, but I am disappointed that an entire writers room can’t write better dialogue.  On the other hand, I really enjoyed the King Arthur material and the quick looks at the WWII era battles. This is what seems to set the film apart from the others, as everything else was Transformers as usual. Neither worse nor better than what has come before. 

Did you attend one of the Transformers: The Last Knight fan events across the country? What were your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below!

Transformers: The Last Knight hits cinemas June 23, 2017.

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