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In Retrospective: The Transformers Series

Summer is in full swing, which means only one thing; Blockbuster season at the box office! Among the many releases during this time of the year are popcorn flicks. You know the type. Massive explosions, hot girls in skimpy outfits, angled camera shots, larger than life villains, and a story that is so mindlessly ridiculous that you’re better off just checking your brain at the door. And when it comes to popcorn flicks of a larger than life magnitude there is no better master of the art than filmmaker Michal Bay. Here I review the latest installment of the Transformers franchise Transformers: The Last Knight, as well as examine the franchise as a whole and highlight where it went wrong.

Over the last decade, the Transformers franchise has gained a reputation for all the hallmarks that make a summer blockbuster. Love them or hate them you can’t deny that the films have made a tremendous impact on the summer movie season, particularly at in box office numbers. However, the latest installment, Transformers: The Last Knight has performed quite poorly both domestically and abroad in certain key markets when compared to its predecessors. Domestically this is the lowest grossing film in the series. It has also seen a significant loss in its audience during its second week in several prominent markets. A small loss is acceptable and usually happens anyway, but not by a huge percentage. While the TF series gradually spiraled downwards regarding the quality of writing, it has always proudly embraced its reputation for being a sure cash grab at the box office with each film making more or as much as its previous installment. But one could argue that despite its repeated success over the years the series has flouted in a box office bubble of its own design. And like any bubble, it’s only a matter of time before it pops and everything comes crashing down.

While some people say the franchise as a whole has been total garbage, I argue that it hasnt. At least not entirely anyway. I still remember the opening day the first Transformers movie was released. It was 2007, Bluray and HD DVD were locked in a heated battle for dominance over the physical media market, Paris Hilton spent 23 days in jail, Britney Spears shocked the world by shaving her head. And the final installment to author J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter book series ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’ was released. 2007 was quite a year for controversies, scandals, and entertainment. But among those was awaiting a sleeping giant in the form of Michael Bay’s Transformers franchise. Despite some unsureness, TF proved to be a success both commercially and critically. It had a decently well-written plot that had a layer of depth but was also simple enough to be relatable by the majority of moviegoers. There was enough action to knock your socks off six ways come Sunday. But more importantly, it gave us characters that we connected with in some form. TF delivered on all the right elements in the right timing to connect with its audience for its time. All was right in the world, and for once a live action movie based on a kid’s product was a success… But then TF: Revenge of The Fallen was released. And thus so began its descent into eternal damnation.

Revenge of The Fallen took everything that was great about the first TF movie and essentially defecated all over it. Instead of growing and evolving these characters we were given an inferior plot that mostly shadowed by a mind numbing amount of action and cheap humor, followed by an excessive amount of fan-service of Megan Fox in suggestively angled shots. Then, of course, there were those stereotypic Autobots meant for tung and cheek laughs but ultimately came off as very offensive. What made it worse was that the film’s plot centralized around the relationship of the two lead protagonists and their attempt to repair their damaged relationship. Only to see it meant for nothing in the next sequel when actress Magen Fox was suddenly replaced by Victory Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley in Dark of The Moon due to some poorly worded choice of words by Fox at the time.

Her replacement was meant to continue the franchise without requiring her involvement, but instead signified a grim outlook on the cute and sometimes awkwardly corky courtship that began between the protagonists in the first TF. While DOTM was by no feet a great film, it was still a slight improvement from ROTF. And in my opinion, the franchise really should have concluded there with a complete reboot to overhaul the franchise back to its grassroots given some time… But nope! We got “Age of Extinction”; a sequel with no reason to exist except to pump out more bucks at the cinema.

Suddenly Shia LaBeouf’s Sam Witwicky was out and replaced with Mark Wahlberg as Cade Yeager. And look, I’m a fan of Wahlberg. There are quite a few of his films that I hold in high esteem. But a Transformers film is not one of them. That was a huge miscast by the studios in my opinion. Terrible acting, mundane plot and an over excessive use of explosions and female objectification. Simply put, Age of Extinction is 2 hours and 45 minutes of my life I will never get back again… And so finally this brings me to the main course of this article, TF: The Last Knight. The latest installment to what has come to feel like a never ending road of bad decisions for the franchise. For a film like “Transformers,” where Optimus Prime is a prominent figure featured in every trailer and poster, we end up seeing very little of him. The majority of Prime’s screen time are scenes already shown in the advertisement, which is a damn shame considering he is supposed to be the leader of the Autobots and the poster-child to the entire franchise. Not featuring your main face of the brand in the film would be the equivalence of a Batman movie that featured no Batman. Or a Spider-Man movie that didn’t even involve the web-head. Simply put, it’s a friggin bad idea! Instead, we are given an over abundance of Mark Wahlberg. Even Isabela Moner, who was given a strong presence in the advertisement as the new fresh face of the franchise was under-utilized. It is disappointing considering there was a great opportunity to use her character to connect viewers to someone they could relate to.

My only assumption to justify this travesty of a film, and greater tragedy of a franchise is that they either A: thought the audience was too stupid to comprehend a real story and character development. Or B: chose this as the least worse possible choice out of a slew terrible ideas. Which I certainly hope they went with the latter in this scenario. But I digress. One can only hope that TLK is the last of the franchise. But sadly it is not likely. And it is very plausible the franchise won’t be dead and done for many more years to come.