The Transformers movie franchise has never hidden how much it prides itself on style as opposed to substance. You know what you're getting into when you head to the cinema to take in Michael Bay in all of his explosive glory. It's robots, guns, fights that make your head spin, and some of the crudest jokes that leave you wondering how they made it into the final cut. All in all, they've always been popcorn flicks geared to be summer blockbusters. However, the box office returns for Transformers: The Last Knight have been less than impressive, indicating that Bay's stories have probably run their course with audiences.
Bay stated he won't be back for a sixth film as Paramount shifts towards spinoffs -- the first one featuring Bumblebee. However, even those need to be looked at closely because The Last Knight really delivers all the cinematic misses that a studio would want to steer clear of. This movie rolls on and on, with no clear direction, and lacks a lot of heart and soul. It's way off in terms of plot, casting and even the S.F.X. feels repetitive and boring. With that said, CBR decided to dive into 15 reasons this franchise needs to be powered down.
SPOILER WARNING: Major spoilers ahead for all Transformers movies
15 BUTCHERED OPTIMUS PRIME
Time and time again, Bay and his writers show that they have no clue how to write the leader of the Autobots. In the first installment, we admit he was stoic and virtuous, but things quickly went downhill from there as Optimus was crafted as a sword-wielding, guns-blazing sheriff. It seemed he derived pleasure from killing Decepticons, which is so far from his true character.
Bay gave him more weapons, the ability to fly into space and even pimped the colors of his truck when he transforms, so what's the next step? Let's have him come to Earth, brainwashed by a robot god, and then attempt genocide. Making him the robotic Hitler is the big plan? This new direction with him as a villain (Nemesis Prime) is insulting to the lore. Seeing him flip back to heroic mode (when Bumblebee had a Martha moment from Batman vs. Superman) compounded how silly this was.
14 THE UNICRON RETCON
This was an abysmal twist in the franchise and a true head-scratcher. Bay left avid fans confused by making Earth... Unicron. That's right folks! It is revealed that Quintessa, the aforementioned robot god who created all Autobots and Decepticons, wants to harness the power of her sworn enemy, Unicron, to rebuild Cybertron. It just so happens Unicron is Earth so that means, our planet needs to be eradicated.
Unicron is a world-eater, like Galactus, and was best represented in the 1986 animated movie, so why tinker with that formula? It was never explained how he became Earth, which would undoubtedly be crucial to that little thing called human evolution. This was a ridiculous reveal that was so unnatural and forced. It didn't even explain why all the robots kept coming to Earth, and as the post-credits showed, it was simply to keep Quintessa in play for a sequel.
13 OVERDOING THE RACISM
Throughout this franchise, we've endured a lot of racist jokes which shockingly grew by the film. It's as if the writers and Bay himself didn't care. There were stereotypical jokes towards black people (reminiscent of Skids and Mudflaps in the old films), as well as ones at the expense of Native Americans (delivered by Mark Wahlberg's Cade Yeager). There were also uncomfortable moments via redneck jibes that left audiences cringing.
Racism isn't funny, yet Bay continues to lead a writing team that wants to exploit this angle for laughs. So many of these jokes are tasteless and classless, and honestly, it leaves us wondering how Paramount green-lights these offensive barbs, especially towards minorities. Brits, French folks and Asians got theirs in this movie too, but because you make fun of everyone, doesn't mean it's right.
12 BORING CHARACTER DESIGNS
After the first couple movies, the character designs surprisingly got stale, pretty quickly. The last time Bay's team appeared to do something different visually was with Megatron's temporary conversion to Galvatron in Transformers: Age of Extinction, but other than that, this particular film lacked any kind of pizzazz. Quintessa looked like C.G.I. from a video game, Optimus wasn't even upgraded for his villainous turn, and Megatron looked like Ultron hit the gym hard!
Even the Decepticons he got out of jail looked bland. We didn't even get a glimpse of Unicron to salvage the day. You'd think that the robots would spot something on Earth every now and then to inspire minor upgrades here and there, especially if they're being hunted. The Last Knight lacked a lot of imagination and the designs are a stark reflection of this.
11 THE WOEFUL OLD GUARD
This rivalry between Quintessa and the Knights wasn't fleshed out properly -- all we know is they hate each other, and she needed their staff to harness Unicron's energy. Why did they despise each other? Why would the robots turn on their god? Why did she become so vengeful? If we understood this dynamic, things might make sense, but their beef was nothing but a plot device Bay asked the audience to accept without question.
We didn't know what made the Knights heroic and as they pummeled Optimus, the group came off more as judge, jury and executioner. Seeing them disagree with Quintessa's philosophies could have added so much sense and really stood out when they came to oppose her and her Infernocons. If we saw more of their ark crashing with Quintessa in pursuit, then we would have had a great starting point. Sadly, it wasn't to be.
10 NO HANDLE ON YOUNGSTERS
Bay's movies have never shown that they understand or relate to young individuals. The earlier ones painted teens as sexpots or loose cannons, as seen with characters played by Shia LeBeouf, Megan Fox and Nicole Peltz (Cade Yeager's daughter). This time, it's about kids, and Bay decides to make them hardened, having them use foul language and painting them as obnoxious.
Does he believe in the positive spirit or innocence of youngsters? Apparently not. Isabela Moner's dramatic depiction of Izabella, a street-wise girl, was one of the few redeeming points here, but the others we came across as trying too hard to be badass, or were neurotic and cowardly, spun up as comedic fodder. Also, despite seeing that she could handle herself, having Izabella stow away on an apocalyptic mission showed Bay just opted for shock value. Seriously, enough of the teenage soldiers!
9 ACTION SEQUENCES TANKED
If it's one thing you can count on this franchise to deliver, it's a bombastic spectacle, especially in the final act. But in The Last Knight, the action sequences were unoriginal and shockingly tanked. In fact, all the money shots were the ones we saw in the trailer. There weren't jaw-dropping moments that left us in awe as some of the old movies did. Everything felt by-the-numbers and it was clear Bay's artistic drive was gone.
There could have been some creative redemption had we seen Quintessa evolve or Unicron come to the fore, but that didn't happen. Even Cybertron looked bleak and unimpressive, as well as things like the Infernocons or the Dinobots, who could have been used more to deliver a worthwhile impact. The human soldiers, the Autobots, Decepticons and the Knights (apart from Dragonstorm) also floundered and gave us brawls that felt mundane.
8 OVER-SEXUALIZED THEMES
Bay did this with all the women who came before in the franchise. Megan Fox, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Nicola Peltz were all objectified sexually thanks to a plethora of lewd body shots while in scantily clad-clothing. What makes this even creepier is that sometimes, these girls are high school teens! This time around, Haddock's character gets her share as she's constantly framed to accentuate her push-up bra.
There are also a few camera angles that are pretty suggestive for 15 year-old Isabel Moner, so we'd really like Bay and his team of cinematographers to ease up. At least they show that they're equal in their objectification with some uncalled for scenes with Wahlberg's physique. It just wouldn't be a Michael Bay film without cheap, sexual jokes: whether it be these gratuitous shots or framing scenes to give the impression characters are hooking up.
7 LACK OF DECEPTICON THREAT
Why bother to have them at all in the film? They weren't intimidating and didn't offer a lick of resistance to the Autobots. When the military struck their secret deal with Megatron to help sniff out the Autobots, he asked for a crew to help him. Bay played them up as rogues to fear, yet within five minutes, when they went up against the Autobots, they were more or less destroyed. Even at the end, they failed to register any casualties and were quickly reduced to scrap iron.
The Infernocons got more air-time than them, and even Megatron felt like a very peripheral character. Once more, Optimus treated him like discarded material in the junk yard and left us wondering if Bay truly understood the rivalry between these two factions. The Decepticons lacked firepower and were nothing more than wasted flunkies.
6 FAILED ATTEMPTS AT HUMOR
This franchise has failed repeatedly in its comedic attempts. Apart from the racist tones that don't register as funny at all, Bay and his writers try to chuck joke after joke in, losing the balance of humor and action. They don't know when to properly use comedy because when they do, they usually offset serious moments that require us to be absorbed in the dramatic affair at hand.
Why break us out of this for a laugh? It's not even a funny joke, so why bother? There are only so many shots of potty-humor, body-humor and dumbed-down battles of the wits that we can take. The entire cast from the Autobots to Wahlberg to Haddock to John Turturro milked this to death until we got fed up. The biggest fail came with Anthony Hopkins and his C-3P0-esque robot, Cogman, who both struggled to muster laughs.
5 LACKED FIGHT CHOREOGRAPHY
Bay's films have a lot of shooting and explosions, but we get quite a bit of robots fighting robots, even if the special effects leave us confused because everything happens in such a flash. This time around, the brawls lack even more spark. It's more about going in guns blazing, which Bumblebee especially obliges. It would have been nice to see Nemesis Prime in a clash of swords with his samurai brethren, Drift, but it wasn't to be.
Instead, it's all about rapid-fire bedlam, but what's disappointing is that not even this was done well. The stunts and choreography felt so... human. Megatron getting kicked out of a spaceship and Quintessa getting shot into oblivion (apparently) were so anticlimactic. Bay didn't even give himself a chance to impress us with battling bots like movies such as Pacific Rim or Power Rangers did.
4 MUCKED UP THE VILLAINS
Megatron could have been swapped out for any other Decepticon and you wouldn't have noticed. His callback to Starscream actually made us wish he returned to the fold. His alliance with Quintessa further emphasized that Bay had no clue how to handle them and just teamed them up like a Saturday morning cartoon. This partnership didn't fit the other puzzle pieces, as things felt like random heads popping up to work together with no real rationale.
Megatron survived the finale similar to the four movies prior, so we're sure he'll be rehashed for the sixth film. Quintessa was shown to be alive in the post-credits, planning another Unicron scheme, so there wasn't really any resolution with the villains. So, in the end, no one was defeated. This all took place to reinstate Cybertron as a player and have the humans stop hunting the Autobots. Looks like the villains were just a means of friendship therapy.
3 FOCUSED ON HUMANS TOO MUCH
We're not sure why Bay wants to focus on humans as the central figures in these stories, especially as it's a revolving door as to who returns. This was evident with how he shaped the legacy of the Witwickys and even with the military units who either befriend or hunt robots. Here, he continues to harp on this dynamic, making Cade and Isabel such crucial parts of the mythos. We don't mind them taking the forefront at times, but the robot war shouldn't depend on them.
Linking the robots back to historical times such as the Dark Ages and even World War I also felt like an unnecessary push to foster a relationship with mankind. We're happy seeing them as accidents that landed on modern Earth, bringing a war with them. Humans should now let them handle it because these battles are clearly too big for us.
2 THE CONVOLUTED PLOT
The plot was a convoluted mess. The movie was all over the place and didn't know what it wanted to be because at times it was heading into the realm of sci-fi, only to turn into a glorified treasure hunt. It felt like Indiana Jones meets National Treasure meets King Arthur, but in a really awful way.
Bay's Transformers flicks are usually simple-minded but this movie crammed in a lot. We had no chance to connect with the characters -- not the humans, and surely not any of the robots. He has struggled with character narratives before, but usually covers it up via a rollercoaster plot that built to a huge finale. Here, he couldn't even do that. Artifacts of power from the old films, Sentinel Prime and The Fallen, weren't even tied back in so clearly. He's got too many ideas on his mind to maintain continuity.
1 THAT UNINSPIRING ENDING
This ending bombed for a lot of reasons. First off, having Quintessa pop up at the end observing Unicron's horns with the humans hints that she's going to continue her quest to rebuild Cybertron. Also, it teases yet another human-villain alliance, because surely not all humans will adore the Autobots. Megatron's still around with his Decepticons, which summed things up as a big push towards a war for the new Cybertron.
This wasn't a bad idea but the execution felt way off. We also saw Optimus accepted back into everyone's good graces just like that! We'd still like to know what's up with the remaining Knights and the Dinobots. They all felt like plot devices as opposed to characters, and the rushed ending didn't help things. Bay just wanted to let us know that humans and Autobots are friends again and we should tune in next time for more planet-devouring.
Let us know in the comments if you think this movie killed off the Transformers franchise or if it's still on life-support!