The Transformers movies are an interesting sort of animal. Everybody, without exception, seems to hate these things Transformers fans hate them for how they cheapen a beloved childhood franchise. General audiences hate just how pointless they all seem to be (often exclusively tackling the question of whether or not Shia LaBeouf is getting laid). Critics hate it for its sloppy, frenetic action that derails any semblance of a plot it might have otherwise had.
And yet these movies keep making money. We’re not talking about chump change here. They’re making bank. Transformers is a billion-dollar franchise. It’s the eleventh highest-grossing series of all time, wedged between Spider-Man and Jurassic Park for dollars earned.
It’s no wonder why they’re not stopping, then. The most recent movie, The Last Knight, is the fifth movie they’re put out in almost as many years. After that, they have plans for fourteen more of these things.
It’s almost as if the world’s been waiting since 2007 for one of these films to actually be good. We come back year after year expecting something different from them, and year after year they give us exactly what we got the last time around: Jazz talking jive, Bumblebee peeing on John Turturro and close-up shots of robotic testicles.
I don’t think that we’ll ever get a definitively good movie out of this franchise: or, rather, out of the franchise Michael Bay made out of them. But we have every reason to expect that they’re getting better.
The last one to come out – Age of Extinction – was easily the best of the lot. The Human characters had motivations and relationships that extended beyond the biological urge to reproduce. The robotic characters had distinguishable – if incredibly simplistic – personalities. They got rid of that stupid Agent Simmons character from Sector 7. Plus you had Optimus Prime riding a robotic T-Rex into battle while casually brandishing a skyscraper-sized broadsword.
And for what it’s worth, what they’ve shown from The Last Knight looks like it’s continued in this superior direction. Mark Whalberg’s mildly interesting white collar father character is back, this time playing surrogate to a young, rough-and-tumble girl who looks like she can handle her own better than any of the franchise’s other flesh-and-blood characters to date. The better-written Autobots from the previous movie also all seem to return, giving the film the best cast of entire franchise.
I’m not expecting miracles here. You can only improve a franchise, and the fifth movie is weighed down by a decade worth of terrible movies and the need to set up God knows how many sequels.
But that’s fine by me. I don’t come to a Transformers movie expecting something “good.” As long as I get $10 of disposable summer fun, that’s all I can ask for.