Being fan of the Transformers franchise since long before the cinematic renditions, I am always wary of the modern interpretations of my childhood heroes and villains. Which is why, while I was excited about having the chance on April 4 to get a first look at the upcoming fifth installment of the movie franchise, The Last Knight, I still remained skeptical. But that changed after viewing the roughly 25-minute sneak peek, about 20 minutes of which was film footage, some in the final stages and a few shots still in postproduction.
Being perhaps more interested than some moviegoers about the nitty-gritty technical, I was excited about the use of the film’s customized 3D camera setup. The crew is using two Arri Alexa 65s (used to film Captain America: Civil War) to effectively create the 3D footage for IMAX 3D instead of having to make adjustments in postproduction, which can be time consuming and doesn’t always achieve the desired effect.
The overall footage was spliced up from key events of the movie and seemingly placed in chronological order. It began with a medieval scene, expanding on the ones seen in the trailers. We are thrust into the midst of an intense battle between two armies, one of which is led by King Arthur and his retinue of knights; they are searching for Merlin, but some are doubtful he will make an appearance. We cut suddenly to Stanley Tucci, seemingly drunk and in medieval garb. It’s no mistaking that he is playing the Merlin character, and he also wields a shiny metal staff with Cybertronian markings and sigils that cover the surface. The fresh blood dripping from it reveals why Merlin is late to the battle.
We briefly see Optimus Prime, leader of the Autobots, floating in space. He calls out to the darkness for redemption from the Makers, but the scene quickly switches to a group of kids wandering into a football stadium, the field littered with debris. They find the body of a fallen Transformer, only to find out it is still alive. The kids are attacked by a swarm of military sentry robots, bearing a design that may be especially familiar to Metal Gear Solid fans. Isabella Moner’s character, Izabella, appears and begins throwing improvised bombs at the sentry bots, helping the kids to escape. Returning to the franchise, Cade Yaeger (Mark Wahlberg) and Bumblebee arrive on the scene to help them escape too.
Sir Edmund Burton, played by Sir Anthony Hopkins, is introduced in the next scene, living in a castle somewhere in the English countryside. He meets with Cade and introduces two new Autobots: one in the form of a British Mark V tank and another whom Cade aptly calls Cogman after he shows Cade a medallion of Cybertronian origin. “Cogman” informs Cade that he is the chosen one, before letting the medallion crawl up and attach itself to Cade’s arm.
Cut to a black and orange Lamborghini Centenario transforming into Hot Rod (with a curious faux-sounding French accent), who ejects a Laura Haddock as Vivian Wembley. Wembley continues her trajectory before comically rolling down a hill for an inordinate amount of time. A professor of history, she is brought in by Burton to help them out regarding an important artifact that is revealed minutes later: the original round table from King Arthur’s court, around which Burton’s castle has been built.
Next, a flashback sequence shows King Arthur and his men celebrating an alliance while several tall Transformers stand in the background, brandishing massive swords raised to salute their comrades. The legend has it that one knight would be chosen to save the world, and the footage backs up Cogman’s suggest that it’s Cade. From there we get a montage, narrated by Burton, that depicts scenes of Autobots and Decepticons in endless combat throughout history, including the battle in the courtyard of the Nazi-occupied mansion. Burton warns that they always come back.
Additional footage has Josh Duhamel, returning as William Lennox, arguing with Cade that the original mission is over. More fight scenes are interspersed: knights fighting Optimus Prime, Transformers emerging out from the water, Osprey VTOLs dodging and weaving, andsome less fortunate aircraft exploding with heightened tension. The footage ends with a pivotal scene—Bumblebee charging into a single-combat duel with his leader and friend, Optimus Prime.
The overall mood of the audience as the screening came to a close was one of excitement and anticipation for the movie, which is out in July 2017. “Not sure about the humor, but will see it anyway,” said one such fan with some critical reservations about the film in mind. Another fan was simply excited and said they couldn’t wait for the release. One particular conversation I had with another fan explored the brief visuals regarding Quintessa (yay!) and their role in possible future films. The single major factor that came across in the footage was that it focused more on the humans of the story and not the Transformers, which to I and others was an interesting and exciting new direction for the franchise.
There is much to consider about all this, specifically how the lore has woven itself into medieval legend and other moments in Earth’s history. I personally had only seen the two trailers, as I didn’t want to spoil the story too much for myself, but this has revived my interest in the movie franchise. It has given me hope that it will be the movie with which Michael Bay—who stated in the behind-the-scenes footage that this is the last Transformers film he will be working on—goes out with a bang.