Michael Bay’s controversial robot franchise prepares to transform into a truly immersive IMAX experience this summer…
The Transformers franchise has been the joke of Hollywood in recent years and has earned an embarrassment of criticism from reviewers for its lack of any real depth, character development and over reliance on totally unnecessary explosive action. However, with every new sequel comes an overwhelming box office revenue which spurs the saga on and only helps to solidify its foundations within the walls of our cinema auditoriums.
upon the launch of its motion picture series in 2007, the franchise had the benefit of a devoted fan base manufactured from the success of the immensely popular animated television series and a fan favourite animated movie that depicted a race of transforming machines waging a war of supremacy. The Autobots fought to vanquish the evil forces of the Decepticons, who intended to plunder the Earth for its resources before returning to overthrow their home planet of Cybertron. The series was a hit with children of all ages and went on to boast an impressive four series catalogue of episodes culminating with Transformers: The Movie, a feature-length artistic animated film which capitalized upon the rising style of Manga themed animation.
It was in 2007, that director Michael Bay (The Rock, Bad Boys) joined forces with cinematic maestro Steven Spielberg to bring modern audiences the tale of the transforming robots, and in doing so, propelled the franchise into the upper echelons of Hollywood’s highest earners. The movie served as the perfect incubator to propagate a series of motion pictures, which were as bold as they were explosive, but with every entry came a tirade of condemnation highlighting both the inadequacies of Bay’s directorial style and his misuse of the franchise’s most beloved characters.
Four successful movies and a plethora of criticism later, we are now on course for the release of the fifth entry into the franchise with Transformers: The Last Knight.
Being an avid movie lover, I was fortunate enough to be invited to a special sneak-peek screening of some of the incredible footage from the new movie at the Empire IMAX cinema in the heart of London’s famous Leicester Square. The exciting footage, introduced by Michael Bay himself was the first imagery released from the movie and was a worldwide exclusive accessible only by a select few. The movie is the first of its kind to ever be fully filmed in IMAX 3D, guaranteeing a truly immersive cinematic experience when the movie arrives upon our screens on June 23rd. The footage afforded us a fascinating insight into the production of the IMAX 3D experience and how the movie is filmed; shot by shot with two mounted cameras capturing the same footage, but from different angles.
It is an impressive format, one that defies the common belief that the 3D experience has run its course and will fade into extinction within the next few years. Unfortunately, many of the images we were privy too were unfinished with the CGI composition of the Transformers themselves incomplete, but that did not detract from what was an incredible look at an exciting summer blockbuster.
The footage began with a battle, a period war set in the time of King Arthur and his knights of the round table and revealed a side of Transformers I had not expected. This was a gritty time piece conflict with every sword stroke, flaming boulder and every arrow perforation as visceral as it was realistic. It was impressive. The narration explained that King Arthur, whilst being under the guidance of Merlin the Magician, also had the support of twelve knights from the planet Cybertron, all of who were devoted to fighting alongside him and the Knights Templar. The footage revealed a Cybertronian vessel buried amongst the rocky hills of the English countryside and circling the air around it was a three-headed robotic dragon breathing fire as Merlin, sat atop a chestnut coloured steed, raced away from the scene.
The footage then revealed the modern remains of a football stadium located in the heart of America, which had been destroyed during the conflict of the previous movies. A young girl had taken refuge amongst the wreckage and had appointed herself as a custodian of the last remaining Transformers and had aided with their repair.
And this is where the problems start…
In what can only be described as a carbon copy of ED-209, lifted straight out of the original Robocop, a horde of machine robot defenders swarm the stadium and proceed to eliminate the Transformers. It reveals that humanity is now targeting the robot warriors and is hell bent on their elimination. When all seems lost, Mark Wahlberg’s Cade, a returning character from the previous movie Age of Extinction, arrives alongside his Autobot defender Bumblebee to save the day; rescuing the young girl from harm. We learn that Cade is now in possession of a junk yard where many of the remaining Transformers are now in hiding. Cade is soon pursued by what can only be described as Tie Fighter shaped drones lifted straight out of Star Wars. They hound our intrepid hero until he is rescued by a butler droid known as Cogman. We learn that Cogman works for Sir Anthony Hopkins’ character, who has procured the original land where the famous round table of King Arthur still stands.
Hopkins’ mansion, located in the heart of the English countryside is home to many of the Transformers, including animated series fan favourite “Hot Rod” who has now been alarmingly bestowed with a French accent. The extent of the Transformers mythology and their connection to the knights of the round table is then revealed before the scene gave way to reveal the lifeless form of Optimus Prime who is floating in space. A delicate female voice then calls to the Autobot leader and asks him if he would like to meet his maker. Then, his lifeless eyes reactivate and turn a shade of purple, a distinct change from his customary blue.
He simply replies YES!
Optimus Prime is then seen returning to earth…before attacking his brethren of loyal Autobots who are confounded by his sudden return. The sequences climaxed with Prime battling with Bumblebee in a duel to the death before revealing the sinister leader of the Decepticons, Megatron holding the severed head of another Transformer. The footage then concluded with the movie’s full length trailer until the screen faded to black and triggered an eruption of applause from the auditorium. It was a jovial crowd, one happy with the amazing footage that had been revealed.
On the surface, Transformers: The Last Knight seems to have done the impossible in developing a legitimate storyline which walks hand in hand with the visceral and realistic battle sequences of the crusades. However, as is always the case with Michael Bay, there are several inadequacies that cannot be ignored. The fact that the filmmakers have plagiarised ED-209 from Robocop and the Tie Fighter from Star Wars feels like an insult to the properties they have taken them from. The character of Hot Rod, one that in Transformers mythology went on to become the Autobots next great leader, has suffered a great indignity with his character’s deformation, which to many fans and purists alike will be a very bitter pill to swallow.
As is always the case with the Transformers movie franchise, there are moments of incredible highs, and in equal quantity, moments of utter despair for the legions of Transformers fans around the world. They have endured their favourite characters’ mistreatment by the director and the studio for more than ten years and will now be forced to do so once again with Hot Rod. However, this cannot dissuade me from endorsing its content.
Transformers: The Last Knight looks incredible.
It’s visual vividness alone will undoubtedly be regarded as cinematic brilliance at its best and being the only movie event of the year to be filmed entirely in IMAX 3D, we are promised an incredible rollercoaster ride. Being the first Transformers movie to demonstrate a genuine plot and a true mythology is an enticing prospect and one that true Transformers fans will embrace. Whether it can persuade the aggrieved sections of the fan base to return to the fold is debatable but one thing is certain…this entry into the series truly is More Than Meets The Eye!
Head to the IMAX on June 23rd to find out for yourself!
Transform and roll out!
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