Trailer Review

‘Transformers: The Last Knight’ (2017). Trailer Review

Trailers are crash landing onto our screens like so many stars this month, and now we have a first look at the latest instalment of the Transformers series.

Setting aside the stereotypical conventions audiences associate with these films (yes, I did find myself counting the lens flares and explosions), this trailer seems narratively and aesthetically darker than some of the previous Transformer footage of earlier releases. So what is Bay bringing to the table this time?


Poster from imdb.com, © Bay.

A voiceover tells us a modern, grim fairy tale: throughout time, species, cultures and brothers have battled long and hard for supremacy above their peers. With this struggle comes violence, with violence comes bloodshed, with bloodshed comes anger and remorse and a bitter desire for vengeance. As the mellifluous voice speaks, montage after montage of battles throughout the centuries fill the screen: war, it seems, is an inescapably human venture. We are born from it, we give birth to it, we are reborn into the battle handed down to us from previous generations.

I’m not just focussing on this visceral theme because it is the establishing narrative of the trailer, but because of the suggested theme of this film: knights, battles and heroes.

t-1Still taken from imdb.com, © Bay.

Bay’s next venture into the Transformers universe is littered with metaphors: the mechanical dragon flying over an unknown clifftop seascape, a knight on horseback galloping along not far behind; armies astride destriers plunging into battle; brothers in arms fighting with and for one another against the opposing forces; a longsword motif appears numerous times, each time punctuating a critical moment in the trailer. Even the ominous declaration “Two worlds colliding, only one survives” suggests narrative imagery of two challengers battling for victory.

There is a decidedly Arthurian feel to this trailer, even Optimus Prime’s physical form appears to have been moulded in the image of a knight in full plate armour, his sword and shield drawn in constant readiness for warfare. There must be a reason we have been introduced to the epic struggles of armies going back to the medieval period, an era of myths and legends where fables aren’t necessarily fictional stories to keep children on the straight and narrow. A quest of some sort is certain, though whether we will find narrative parallels with the necessity to retrieve an ancient artefact of godly power is still in the air.

Evolution is another concept slammed home with the Didacticism Hammer. Evolution of weapons, evolution of warfare, but not necessarily the evolution of peace. Violence of action and violence of emotion compete for the top rung in this trailer: of course we have the usual splendour of high velocity explosions, bomb blasts and techno-carnage that we have come to expect from Bay’s universe, but the fierce determination in the crying girl’s eyes as she declares her desire to fight is as vibrant as the special effects.

So let’s look at characterization in this trailer.

t-2Still taken from imdb.com, © Bay.

I opened this review with the voiceover, and I think I’ll begin with this once again.
Anthony Hopkins has an iconic tone, and has provided as many chills with his purring conversations as Hannibal Lecter as he has nostalgic thrills narrating the popular Christmas film ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ (2000). There is a stereotype at play here: if a film needs an experienced, scholarly, older voice for a role, hire a Brit. It seems Hopkins is the British talent of choice this time, and he seems quite the perfect fit for the eccentric though dignified academic in this film. His gravitas is his charm, and there is no small amount of character allusion to the guardian wizard Merlin when the trailer reveals the as yet anonymous Hopkins standing at a Round Table replica. How Hopkins intends on interpreting the dynamics of the Knights of the Round Table will be made clearer as time passes, I’m sure, but Hopkin’s relationship to the narrative is intriguing. Stuffy, loveable old academic who is actually a Guardian of Earth? Genuine stuffy, loveable academic whose theories are ridiculed until his work is proven true?

t-3Still taken from imdb.com, © Bay.

The remaining characters fall into the typical action-film dynamic of Family Against All Odds: though not necessarily related by blood, the prominent characters in this feature will inevitably form powerful bonds after facing drastically unfair odds and ultimately, bravely succeeding in their endeavours (I’m calling it now- they always win the Battle, but is this film going to be the end of the War too?). One young girl determinedly breaks her way through gender stereotypes, acting with passion as well as with masculine aggression towards those who would seek to hurt her or those she cares about, man or autobot. Mark Wahlberg brings the patriarchal fire, embodying the convention of sole saviour and military leader as he shelters the weak and emboldens the weary.

Background characters come and go in this trailer, but the focus placed on those key individuals suggests that they will form the emotional, physical and spiritual driving force for the human narrative of the film. Interestingly, three generations form the basis for the plot, continuing the theme of generations passing down the fight for survival seen in the warfare footage at the beginning of the trailer.

t-4Still taken from imdb.com, © Bay.

The Autobots themselves are as spectacular as ever, metal alloy communicating a kaleidoscope of feelings that once again drives home the message that THESE are the sentient, emotional beings we should aspire towards. Noble, powerful, loyal, and unafraid to engage in combat when the time is right.

Bumblebee and Optimus Prime take centre-stage as they always do, with cameos sprinkled throughout the footage of the villainous Decepticons. The visual effects that bring these vehicular goliaths to life are always a sight to behold, and often make the film the enjoyable romp that draws audiences in every year. It’ll be interesting one day to do a direct comparison between the visuals from the first Transformers film with the effects in this installation to see how far the robots have aesthetically evolved. Until that time, we’ll be wowed by the depth of detail CGI can give these characters.

t-5Still taken from imdb.com, © Bay.

Set for a summer release, 2017 promises to bring the next chapter in the Transformers Universe to screens worldwide.

Catch the full trailer here on imdb.com

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