A new feature from from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at “Transformers: the Last Night,” “The Hero’s” tale of redemption and the underwater terror of “47 Metres Down.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the big weekend movies including the eye scorching visuals of “Transformers: the Last Night,” “The Hero’s” tale of redemption and the underwater terror of “47 Metres Down.”
Familiar but fresh. If you are a Hollywood executive you probably say these words a hundred times a day. In pitch meetings and story conferences those f-words are a mantra in a town that never met an idea it couldn’t recycle.
Convinced that audiences will only respond to variations on brands they are already familiar with, this summer the studios are offering freshened up versions of The Mummy, Amityville Horror and Spider-Man among others. Hollywood, the Nation’s Blue Bin. The biggest and loudest of the bunch will likely be Transformers: The Last Knight, the fifth film based on the toys created by Hasbro and Tomy.
Once again directed by Michael Bay, the movie reportedly cost a budget-busting $260 million. The special effects-laden story of humans vs. Transformers and a mysterious artifact is on track to make multi-millions domestically and worldwide, one of the few aging tentpole films to beat audience blockbuster fatigue.
It’s familiar but fresh.
In the familiar department you have Mark Wahlberg as star, the return of heroic Autobot leader Optimus Prime and director Bay’s trademarked bombast. He makes action orgy movies for audiences who crave a rumbling theatre seat. His Transformers films engage three of the five senses — only smell and taste are exempt — that leave viewers with scorched eyes and ringing ears and his audience eat up his gladiatorial sense of spectacle.
Freshening up the story is the addition of screen legend (and Marvel Cinematic Universe actor) Anthony Hopkins as an astronomer and historian knowledgeable in the history of the Transformers on Earth and a healthy dose of Arthurian myth woven into the story.
It sounds like the perfect mix of familiar and fresh but there are no guarantees in the blockbuster business. Recently, despite the presence of Tom Cruise and two — count ’em, two — classic horror characters, critics, audiences and the box office met The Mummy with a collective yawn. Although it has done better business overseas one pundit suggested the movie’s poor showing “stems from being an antiquated property paired with an antiquated star.”
Now there’s a statement that’ll send the collective shivers that were so sorely missing from The Mummy down the backs of studio executives. Perhaps the revamped story of an ancient malevolent evil wasn’t familiar or fresh enough for audiences. Or perhaps it’s because potential moviegoers sensed the cynicism in The Mummy. Bundling Cruise and legendary monsters in the movie with a few laughs, some typical blockbuster action and a CGI climax that wouldn’t be out of place in an Avengers movie, felt like a carefully constructed exercise in marketing first and a movie second.
The blockbuster business is a big one with high risk and reward. It didn’t work for Cruise and Co.’s The Mummy or Dwayne Johnson’s raunchy Baywatch reboot, but the Autobots have been good producers for Hollywood. Transformers: The Last Knight, wedged into a summer packed to the gills with big-budget blockbusters, likely won’t make the coin of its predecessors but Michael Bay doesn’t seem worried.
Although The Last Knight will be his last Transformers as director, he says the film lays the groundwork and backstory for 14 upcoming movies. At the rate they’re going, that’s almost 30 more years of Bumblebee and Megatron. That’s a lot of bot battles, and a lot of freshening up.
Audiences complain that Hollywood has no new ideas, that everything is a rebrand, reboot or remake. “They don’t make ‘em like they used to!” they say.
The “Transformers” franchise should encapsulate everything that is wrong with summer blockbusters. It’s a story based on a line of toys, it values spectacle over story and the paper thin characters feel more like place holders for the action than real people and yet, here we are on episode five, with (according to director Michael Bay) fourteen more in the pipeline.
In fact, they do make ‘em like they used to. You could be forgiven for experiencing déjà vu while watching “Transformers: The Last Knight.” The “Transformers” movies are remarkably consistent. They are heavy metal filmmaking, all bluster and retina roasting visuals and people eat them up.
People go see “Transformers” for the robots—their transformation scenes remain the coolest thing about the series—and the new movie doesn’t disappoint, creating a new backstory for its mechanical stars. According to the new movie the Transformers were friendly with King Arthur and the Knights of the Roundtable and fought the Nazis during World War II.
A decade into Bay’s franchise good guy leader of the Autobots Optimus Prime has high tailed it back to his home planet Cybertron. Humans are at war with the Transformers—“Two species at war, one flesh, one metal.”—and the future of the world is at stake. As a short prologue with King Arthur suggests, the key to Earth’s survival lies in the secret history of the Transformers and a 1600-year-old secret artefact. To unlock this mystery enter Autobot ally, inventor and single father Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), Transformers historian and English lord Sir Edmund Exposition (Anthony Hopkins)—he’s got some mansplainin’ to do!—Oxford University Professor of English Literature (and descendant of the most famous wizard of all time other than Harry Potter) Viviane Wembly (Laura Haddock) and Autobot Bumblebee (voice of Erik Aadahi).
Director Michael Bay has finally taken the Transformers where they always should’ve been, to the Realm of the Ridiculous. Any movie based on a line of toys is bound to be silly but this may be one of the silliest films ever made. From a prologue set in the Middle Ages and robots hanging out on Cuban beaches to a wisecracking Merlin the Magician and a 700-year-old opera singing robot, this is wacky stuff.
Is it good stuff, you may ask? It doesn’t take itself as seriously as some of the other entries in the series, so that’s good but like the other “Transformers” movies, it’s too long and gets lost in an orgy of action and gravity defying stunts.
Hopkins seems to be having fun cavorting with his sassy C-3PO wannabe Cogman (Jim Carter) but it’s a thankless job. He’s there mostly to provide the convoluted backstory. As a member of the secret society to protect the history of Transformers, which also includes suck luminaries as Harriet Tubman and Stephen Hawking among others, he’s the keeper of the info and boy, does he over share. He scrolls through hundreds of years of nonsensical Transformers history but at least he does says thing like, “It was alien power or as they knew it in those days, magic,” in his distinctive Hannibal Lecter voice.
It’s all a bit much. With a story this convoluted why bother with the story at all? Those who want to see the Transformers battle will not be disappointed. The chunks of metal are cooler and than ever before and when Hopkins isn’t explaining what’s going on the robots are going at it.
“Transformers: The Last Knight” is Bay’s farewell to the franchise as director (he’ll stay on as a producer) and he has not held back. It’s heavy metal filmmaking, loud and proud, like a drum solo that goes on for just a hair too long.