As an “underground” artist, I go broke often. Sometimes I have to sacrifice comfort or nourishment to pay my rent.
Sometimes, I’m broke because I’m a total assclown who takes public transportation across town to see a $22 popcorn movie, alone. (I didn’t have enough for actual popcorn.)
Even while facing the consequences, I have no regrets.
It’s alright if you don’t understand this compulsion. It’s irrational. I accept that I have a lifelong obsession with a franchise of children’s toys. I’m far from the only one, which is why we’ve been graced with five mega-budget Michael Bay movies in the last ten years. I see myself like Bleeding Gums Murphy from The Simpsons, with his costly Faberge egg habit.
If you’re an outsider to Transformers, you can’t truly understand how it felt to see Optimus Prime and company fully-realized in live action, in 2007. As in 1986, when the classic animated film was released, it was as though the universe said “the things you’ve always loved have merit.” It was a reward for those of us who never stopped loving these transforming robots, even when they disappeared from 1990 to 1992. Even when they were all-new characters who turned into organic beasts. Even when they didn’t transform at all.
So every time one of these Paramount flicks hits theaters, I go. As with the toys, if I have the money, it’s no object. I am wholly convinced that these things are created just for me.
If you read my comics and site, you know this all too well. Revenge of the Fallen came out in 2009, and I still rave about Optimus ripping The Fallen’s face off. The only reason I don’t talk about Dark of the Moon more (it’s kinda my favorite) is because Shia LeBeouf made me want to throw up after Trump was elected. I got accustomed to fast-forwarding through his scenes long ago, but still; if you’re going to attack or deride Trump, don’t be a passive-aggressive worm about it. You know, like almost every actor in Hollywood.
Except the ones that do their job, like in The Last Knight. Mark Wahlberg even made a statement that entertainers should shut the fuck up when it comes to politics. I agree wholeheartedly with this. I don’t want to be lectured by people who tolerate Scientology, or can cry on cue. They’re actors. Have you ever eaten with one?
I am eternally cranky with harsh critics of Transformers movies. Imagine opening your presents on Christmas, while someone insists upon criticizing the size and quality of each one as you do. That’s what it’s like. I exit these films aglow, because I am assured of certain realities. To wit:
- It’s not profitable to give the audience the entire mythology in one movie.
- It is profitable to tease and spoon-feed the audience with bits of it, so they come back for the next round.
- The majority of the audience pays to see Optimus Prime and Megatron fight.
- The majority of the audience likes Bumblebee and doesn’t really care about any robots beyond him (and Optimus and Megatron).
- Due to the insane production cost, the plots and stories will not follow or repeat what has come before.
- Ditto; only so much of the running time will have the titular robots. They are insanely expensive toy-mongers.
- The dregs of the TF fandom are a bunch of sullen jerkoffs (as in any fandom), so the producers have to spread false information prior to release, to keep “fans” from fucking things up.
For me, it’s been Christmas for the past ten years.
Until #3, Dark of the Moon (2011), we’d only seen glimpses of the Transformer home planet, Cybertron, before it was torn to shreds in a “space bridge” malfunction. In The Last Knight, Cybertron returns to menace Earth, for intriguing and yet-to-be-fully-revealed reasons, in giant chunks. Bar none, the climax of TLK is the most incredible spectacle I’ve ever witnessed on a movie screen. Bar none.
Last Knight was shot in “native 3-D”, which means two cameras, one for each of your eyes. It opens with a medieval battle, wads of turf blasting into the air, and honest to god, I flinched at the debris. One could complain that the dramatic effect is reduced by the silliness of the dialogue, to which I would reply: Welcome to the world of Transformers. If you never noticed the silliness, you were a kid at the time. Beast Machines in 2000 was about as serious as it ever got, and it wasn’t a very popular incarnation. (Of course, I liked it. And bought most of the toys. The only TF line I ever hated was Animated, from 2008, with its cheap Cartoon Network-style design.)
Something very interesting happened this time around; Hasbro didn’t go overboard with the movie-based toys. Robots returning from previous films got “repaints/retools”; same toy, different paint and detailing. This was a smart move, to prevent “shelfwarming” (a legitimate problem, unlike “global warming”). Still, I detected some miscommunication, where a character who appeared for literal seconds received a fancy, expensive toy. The thing is, I still want the robot. There is endless precedent for this in the franchise, where a cameo leads to a desired object. Unicron was a big star in 1986, and he didn’t get a proper toy until 2003. Then, he got so many toys that the fans (not me) actually got sick of him. When Unicron got a mention in Last Knight, I cheered. He’s one of the most exciting aspects of the franchise.
Here’s a funny (not really) tangent for you: remember the movie Big, from 1988, with Tom Hanks? I can tell if you love Transformers by whether you liked Hanks’s boy-to-man character, or didn’t.
If you fondly recall Hanks dancing on giant piano keys in FAO Schwarz (RIP) with Robert Loggia, I know that you never really cared about Transformers. Not even GoBots.
If you’ve wanted to punch Tom Hanks for almost thirty years because he told a roomful of toy designers that a skyscraper that turns into a robot is “boring”, then you love Transformers as much as I do. Yeah, gee, a building that becomes a robot, why would that be exciting? We’ve seen entire cities turn into robots. It’s awesome, stupid. Way to blow your shot at the big time.
When you go see Transformers movies, you’re not there for the plot, or the rich character development, or the backstory. You are there for the spectacle. You don’t go to Godzilla films to learn the nuances of nuclear power. You’re there to see Godzilla fuck shit up. This is why I’m never disappointed. I was totally disappointed in Transformers: Animated, because it looked like it was done in a weekend, and time was spent on nonsense like “why do humans cry” and Optimus doing a double-take when a little girl tells him where babies come from. In Dark of the Moon, classic badguy Shockwave racked his gun arm, like a shotgun. For no other reason than it is awesome.
Of course I loved The Last Knight. It was a foregone conclusion for someone like me. The women look fantastic. Mark Wahlberg makes a great lunkhead, as always. Sir Anthony Hopkins gets to deliver exposition and run about with a human-sized robot butler, whom I hope will turn into a head in the next installment. (His toy does!) Hot Rod has a French accent, because why not? I predicted that he wouldn’t be able to say his own name, and he can’t! Come on, lighten up already!
Per tradition, images are blasted at your face before you have a moment to process them. The adorable Isabela Moner gets a companion that’s as cute as she is, plus baby Dinobots. Again- why not? Megatron enlists a new crew of baddies, and they all bite the dust in minutes. How much of every robot did we see in the 1986 animated film? Grab a stopwatch and tell me. If you’re not interested in the robots, then you won’t even realize how briefly they appear. What do you want them to do, sit down and have tea with you? We saw how well that went in the third one.
Steve Buscemi voices a junk-trader Autobot who has Starscream’s old head. It’s not damaged like it was before because if so, you wouldn’t know what the fuck it was. There are scenes under the ocean where the particulate matter in the water floats around your face. A bunch of robots combine into a three-headed dragon, or a big demonic robot. Anthony Hopkins has the watch that actually killed Hitler (it’s a nasty little Transformer), and there’s a learned English woman who provides serious eye candy. The image resolution is so high, I could see the end of her underwire gently poking into her cleavage.
I could go on and on. I don’t care what the detractors say. It was worth the twenty bucks.
(Even though, for the first time, there wasn’t an incredible opening title animation. I think they blew the wad on the final act.)