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Last Knight a TF Saved My Spank… (a Transformers 5 review)

My friend Max and I went to go see the fifth installment of Transformers yesterday. We knew it would be bad… but he’s a big fan of Transformers movies from childhood and I am a fan of the magic of motion picture cinema and will pretty much watch anything. So off we went. And even though I had low expectations for the entire thing, I was asking myself the whole time “how the hell am I going to review this? I mean, I know it will be bad. But what will there even be to say about it?” Then I figured it out… Transformers is porn.

Porn fans may be the most honest and evolved of all movie fans, and I’ll tell you why. They’re very discerning. They know what they want. If you go to a website like Pornhub, you can order up exactly what you like. You just go there and you type “stepmother lesbian blackmail rape fantasy” or “shemale domination bondage babysitter threesome” and you get exactly what you’re asking for. But there are two kinds of porn fans (and therefore two kinds of porn): those who care about the story and those who don’t. Sometimes you’ll find a porno that tries to construct something of a plausible explanation for why and how the stepmother is blackmailing her step-daughter into sex. Othertimes, not really. They’ll just start the film right in with an “older” female porn star (that is to say a woman of about 32…. but with huge fake boobs) going to town on an innocent teen (that is to say a super tatted-up 24 year old but with A-cup boobs) in a plaid school girl skirt and knee-high socks. Plausibility doesn’t matter so long as all the checkboxes are checked. Whether there is a pretense of plot or not, the actual execution of every single porn scene in any given genre is basically exactly the same. And the porn fan knows this. Some porn fans might need just a hint of it to get them in the mood. The others can just imagine the setup and work with the visuals presented. Either way, if you were to try to explain the ridiculousness of the premise, the porn fan will just tell you “Fuck you! Look, I like what I like! OK!?!!!” and go back to his business. Because when you’re trying to jack off to a transgender babysitter tied up by the couple who hired her once she has fallen asleep on the couch while watching an unseen child, narrative coherence is just not on your mind.

Whenever I give a movie a bad review I always have someone tell me that I just don’t get the movie. I’m not alone here. This is something that happens with all movie critics. If you don’t like a movie people tell you “you don’t understand, this is a movie for the fans!” as if somehow being critical of a movie means you aren’t really a fan. When I wrote up that explanation of my movie rating rubric I tried to point out that I can’t really tell anyone whether they should or should not like a movie. I make fun of Zack Snyder a lot, but I often point out that I loved Sucker Punch. And I sometimes say that it is “the best movie that one can possibly make without plot.” He basically checked off the boxes for what he was doing “cute nubile girls, killer sound track, explosions, sword fights, gun fights, nazi steampunk zombies, dragons!” It was everything an action porn fan could ask for (other than story). The problem is, Zack Snyder doesn’t actually understand that he’s making porn. He *thinks* he’s making actual movies. And even though he managed an action porn masterpiece with Sucker Punch, he fails utterly when trying to do some other things (like Batman v. Superman).

Michael Bay totally understands that he’s making Transformer porn. Porn for 14-year-old boys. That’s right. He knows exactly what he’s doing.

From the very first Transformers movie he made, one of the biggest criticisms was how sexualized he made it, mostly through the inclusion of the living embodiment of the male gaze, Megan Fox. In the second film, he responded to this criticism by literally having Fox fuck a motorcycle on screen. I mean, I’m pretty sure… I honestly haven’t watched that movie in a really long time – it’s pretty bad. But I’m pretty sure there’s a 37-minute scene in it where she writhes up and down in Daisy Dukes on a Harley with beads of sweat glistening across her perfect heaving bosom as she moans gently and says “Mav, Mav, Mav!!!” over and over again… at least that’s how I remember it. Look, I like what I like, Ok!?!!!

Anyway, the point is Transformers films are movies for 14-year-old boys. It’s rated PG-13 and Megan Fox was in there for one reason and one reason alone: to be stared at and objectified. That was her purpose. That’s was why she was there. And when she got fired after the second movie, he replaced her with Rosie Huntington-Whitley to perform exactly the same function in the third – and just in case you’re unsure of Rosie’s purpose, she first appears in the film with a 37-minute closeup of her ass as she walks up her stairs in nothing but panties. Then, in the fourth film she is replaced with Nicola Peltz, who once again serves EXACTLY the same purpose. But even moreso because in the creepiest moment in the entire film, Jack Reynor (who plays her 20yo boyfriend) has a conversation with Mark Wahlberg (who plays her father) about how it’s ok to fuck her, even though she’s under 18, because they live in Texas and he carries around a special card that says it’s ok for him to fuck underaged girls so long as he started fucking them when he was under 18 too. This really has noting to do with the rest of the movie. Snyder just really wanted you to know that not only was the 17-year-old girl in the movie sexually active, but apparently she had been so since she was 14, BECAUSE THAT’S HOW MATH WORKS! In other words, Michael Bay really wants 14-year-olds to know that it’s ok to fuck.

And of course he does. Because Transformers is porn. Sure it’s porn with alien robots fighting, lots of explosions, and sophomoric humor involving bodily functions, kickass car chases and poorly thought out racial steroetypes…. but it’s porn for 14-year-old boys and they like what they like, ok?

And over the course of the previous four movies, Bay has perfected the formula for 14-year-old boy Transformer porn. He knows exactly what he’s doing. And he knows that his audience is not interested in plot. Because the plot of this movie is exactly the same as the plot of the previous four movies. There are good guy robots and bad guy robots and they crash landed on Earth a long time ago and have been having a war ever since and the bad guy robots have a plan to build a giant machine over a historic landmark that will suck the energy out of the whole Earth to make them more powerful. Only it turns out that there is a secret McGuffin from their home planet of Cybertron that can defeat the plan so both the bad guy and good guy robots are chasing after it. Only by miraculous coincidence the McGuffin can only be wielded by the good guy robots’ human friend that is tagging along for no other reason but to suddenly discover that they have the power to wield the McGuffin and save the day!

Literally that’s the exact plot to this film… and no, you don’t get a spoiler warning because that was the plot to the other films as well. Though I hesitate to call it plot, because there are so many plot holes in it. In my favorite in this movie, there is a point where Optimus Prime (the leader of the good guy robots, if you have lived under a rock since before the 1980s) does his best impression of giving a President Bill Pullman inspirational Independence Day speech just before the big battle (at least, I think it’s Bill Pullman, it could be Bill Paxton… I can never remember which is which and neither can you). Then all of a sudden he takes off and flys away. He doesn’t say where he’s going or why. He just leaves because the plot needs him to be missing for twenty minutes so that other characters can worry that they’re about to lose the battle without him so that he can show up at just the right moment to help turn the tide in their favor. it makes no sense and it doesn’t have to make sense. Because this is porn. And it doesn’t matter that this is the same plot as the previous films because all porn in any given genre is exactly the same.

Don’t get me wrong. There are twists in this one. See, there’s not just one McGuffin in this one. There are two!!! TWO TOTALLY SEPARATE MCGUFFINS! I know, crazy, right! And they both have to be wielded by human allies. TWO DIFFERENT human allies. Marky Mark returns from the last movie, but we also throw in Laura Haddock to wield a SECOND MCGUFFIN! I mean, it’s unprecedented. But it’s still the same movie.

But McGuffins do not a successful porno make. See, at this point, you are likely thinking that I’m reaching. That maybe I’m being a little unfair to the movie. I know my wife Stephanie (who had the good sense not to go to this with us) will probably read this and at this point she is saying “no Mav, you just see sex in everything. I’m sure it’s not really as porny as all that.” And even if you do agree with me, you’re probably thinking “ok, So Laura Haddock is the new Megan Fox.” You’d be wrong. You’re not thinking like a 14-year-old boy. But Michael Bay has that gift. See, when the first Transformers movie came out Megan Fox was 21 (though playing a high school student). Rosie Hungtington-Whitley was 24 by the time she starred in the third one. And Nicola Peltz was 19, playing 17 in the fourth. Laura Haddock is a very attractive woman at 32 today, but she’s just too old for 14yo boys to jack off to.

And so, introducing 15-year-old Isabela Moner, who plays what — at least to my 42-year-old eyes — may be the most uncomfortably sexy 14-year-old girl in cinematic history. Her job is to be hot so that 14-year-old boys can jack off to her later. Seriously. That’s what she’s there for. In her opening scene four random 14-year-old boys stumble into a Transformers fight and she saves their lives so that all four can awkwardly hit on her as audience analogues to let you know that she is sexually desirable. Then the boys (who don’t even have names) leave and are never mentioned again. Other than that her job is to wear really tight tank tops and short shorts and run in slow motion as body parts (that I, as an adult male, should really not notice) gently bounce across the central focus of the camera frame. At one point while she is assisting Marky Mark at fixing a Transformer, there is an aerial overhead shot — the only one of a person in the entire film — which hovers over her for 37 minutes just so we can look down her cleavage and verify that “yep, this girl is stacked alright!” She accomplishes nothing else. She’s a child. It makes no sense for her to be in a war, so on at least three separate occasions she stows away and sneaks into battle with the other characters. You’d expect that her purpose would be to ultimately be captured as a convenient hostage or somehow be the chosen one who wields the McGuffin and saves the day. She’s not. She’s just there to be sexy to young boys so that she can be masturbated to later. Because Michael Bay knows what they like, ok?

And that’s it. That’s the whole movie. Nothing else happens. Or nothing else matters. I mean, there’s what you expect. A bunch of explosions happen. There’s robot on robot combat (often to the point where you can’t tell which robot is which, a problem I’ve had with all of these movies). There are car chases. Then a bunch more explosions a few really bad jokes and like there’s Isabela Moner doing her best Baywatch run again… take it all in boys!

I can’t say it’s “awful” per se. It’s not. It is exactly what you might expect if you saw any of the other movies. Not awful… it’s more that it’s pointless. Absolutely nothing that happens in it matters or is meaningful in any way. But does it really need to be? Because if you’re the target audience… well, you like what you like, ok!!!

★½☆☆☆ (1.5 out of five stars)

Special Bonus Rating specifically for 14-year-old-boys: ✊✊✊✊?

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40 comments for “Last Knight a TF Saved My Spank… (a Transformers 5 review)

  1. avatar
    June 24, 2017 at 8:06 am

    I did think that (but can you really blame me for that?). I wonder if Max Stephen Bajzek agrees with you?

    (Also: “my Stephanie”??? I might have to forbid you from going to any more sexist movies…)

    • avatar
      June 24, 2017 at 8:26 am

      the my Stephanie was a typo (for my wife Stephanie). I actually corrected it before I saw this comment.

    • avatar
      June 24, 2017 at 8:44 am

      I haven’t seen this movie, but I have seen the first three. I pretty much have to agree with this assessment. Those movies were really just robot action porn. There are robot action movies that aren’t porn (Blade Runner, for instance), but Transformers don’t fall into that category.

    • avatar
      June 24, 2017 at 10:39 am

      Steph, is there a specific thing you’re wondering if I agree with?

    • avatar
      June 24, 2017 at 11:09 am

      Max Stephen Bajzek whether the movie is really as “porny” as Mav makes it seem. And by “porny”, I mean pornographic in the traditional sense (though as porny as a PG-13 movie can actually be). (In my experience, he seems to see sex where I don’t.)

    • avatar
      June 24, 2017 at 11:14 am

      Ah. No, I didn’t think it was very porny. Yes, it’s a Michael Bay movie, so there’s an explosion on average every three seconds, and the actors are obliged to run away from them, often in slow motion, and some of those actors have boobs. But that’s about it. I don’t think anyone even kissed.

    • avatar
      June 24, 2017 at 11:18 am

      I’ll try to pull clips of the male gazey Laura Mulvey moments after my shower for the other thread.

      But i think you’re mentally editing out the sexual moments. Because there are several with the adults. Marky Mark and Haddock kiss at least twice, and before that you have both a moment where she stares at his abs as he Marky Marks around AND a point where they talk about how she’d be better if she was naked (which causes discount C3PO to beat him up to defend her honor).

    • avatar
      June 24, 2017 at 11:21 am

      Haha: “Marky Marks” as a verb is awesome!

    • avatar
      June 24, 2017 at 11:32 am

      I remember the ab staring, not the kissing.

    • avatar
      June 24, 2017 at 11:34 am

      Not saying it didn’t happen. But I normally get mildly annoyed when there’s kissing in my robot movie and I don’t recall that this time. But the Marky Mark and British Girl flirtation was pretty standard fare for any action movie.

    • avatar
      June 24, 2017 at 11:48 am

      “Quit Markymarking around and get in the goddamn car!”

  2. avatar
    June 24, 2017 at 8:41 am

    As someone who was once a 14 year old boy, I prefer my porn to have a plot. Thus, I prefer the animated movie.

    • avatar
      June 24, 2017 at 9:50 am

      I hesitate to call that one porn. There’s no slow motion male gaze babe.

    • avatar
      June 24, 2017 at 10:36 am

      Maybe you should more clearly define what you mean by “porn.” My ideal Transformers movie would have no humans and no sex at all. If that would still count as porn, then I know what you’re saying…otherwise I think I misunderstood your review.

    • avatar
      June 24, 2017 at 10:45 am

      Max: are you asking me or Michael Strauss? Because, I meant it kind of literally… but I think he may mean it in the same sense that people mean it when they say “food porn” or something.

    • avatar
      June 24, 2017 at 10:53 am

      I think you’re asking me….

      in which case I’d say that I think what you’re asking for in an “ideal transformers movie” is a movie about the characters wherein the human component doesn’t matter because they’re not transformers and the sexual component doesn’t matter because 1) they’re robots who produce asexually except in certain fanfic… 2) they aren’t humanoid enough to illicit the kind the titilation response porn is going for (at least in your version… in Bay’s we’ve had a specific deception sex robot in two… and Quintessa was intentionally depicted as sexualized in this one).

      But I’d argue that you aren’t Bay’s audience. You’re looking for the characters from your childhood being adapted into a cohesive film that mixes your personal nostalgia with good storytelling. They way, say the MCU has done.

      But you’re 41, not 14. I’m arguing that Bay’s target demographic is specifically 14 year old boys who are still interested in playing with toys on at least a semi-regular basis, but also wants to bang hot girls between ages of 14 and 24. Or at least daydream about banging girls aged 14-24 while they touch their naughty bits.

    • avatar
      June 24, 2017 at 11:10 am

      I see. So, I really didn’t see Isabella as being that sexualized. To me she was just a less-annoying Daniel. Sure I might see things differently if I were a 14 year old boy and not an 836 year old boy, but by that standard, you’re more or less saying that any movie with a female in it is porn.

    • avatar
      June 24, 2017 at 2:35 pm

      People can judge for themselves how appropriate this is, but I will admit she is guilty of running while having boobs. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aR7bajjtbdM

    • avatar
      June 24, 2017 at 3:25 pm

      that was a good example. And it’s certainly more subtle than anything with Megan Fox, but pretty much anything is.

      Note how her breast line stays in central focus for the entire shot. Compare this to the way TJ Miller moves throughout the frame when he runs before his death in the previous movie.

      https://youtu.be/yDd3xayehVg

      In that case there’s far less emphasis on his chest because he’s a guy and that’s not how people frame men in action scenes.

      I’m not even specifically saying it’s bad. Just that it’s there. There’s an intentional move to make sure she is “pretty” while she runs.

      There’s actually LESS of a move in the same TF4 clip to make Nicola Peltz look that way, though they do take care to frame her centrally between the two male runners (whalberg and reynor).

      On the other hand the TF4 clip intentionally draws attention to Peltz’s sexuality earlier with the innuendos about no one being better at “grabbing my stick”.

      Again… I’m actually NOT anti teen sexuality the way many people are when they analyze these. It’s a movie. It’s supposed to entice the audience. Framing for the male gaze is one way of doing that.

      For a “not doing that” example note Daisy Ridley in this Force Awakens clip. She’s the most important character so she’s still central frame focus, but she moves realistically across it without the camera focusing on her boobline the same way.

      https://youtu.be/bdEzeKdHtcU

    • avatar
      June 24, 2017 at 4:09 pm

      Also…. just to put it in more context. Here’s Megan Fox doing the same thing in another Michael Bay Transformers running scene:

      https://youtu.be/zrHWGEO7oh8

      Shia LeBeouf is the lead character in the film. And he’s there. But in the SHOT, Megan Fox’s boobs are the element of focus.

      For other comparisons of non-sexualized girls around the same age, you have the complete non-sexual, but hyper violent Dafne Keen (then 12) in Logan: https://youtu.be/kjPd9ZKVoHI

      Or Millie Bobby Brown (also then 12) in Stranger Things doing a very similar scene to what Isabela Moner had here. https://youtu.be/aTjmiwXRyXs

      For someone closer to her age there’s the then 15 Alexa Vega who was specifically DESEXUALIZED for Spy Kids 3:
      https://youtu.be/aTjmiwXRyXs

      even though she was doing her best to play up her sexuality at the time outside of the movie, including in the music video for the very same film:

      https://youtu.be/e4kU6TZRQX0

    • avatar
      June 24, 2017 at 9:21 pm

      The AoE clip is funny because it’s almost exactly the same shot, and the guy’s boobs ARE bouncing, and I can easily imagine Bay frowning and saying, “That looks all wrong. Quick, cut to an explosion! I need to call ILM and have them throw together a shot of him dying here. Because that’s what would happen. This dude doesn’t know how to run.”

  3. avatar
    June 24, 2017 at 9:19 am

    I am deeply, deeply offended.

    Of course I can tell Bill Pullman and Bill Paxton apart. Anyone who can’t is just lazy.

    • avatar
      June 24, 2017 at 9:50 am

      You’re only fooling yourself.

    • avatar
      June 24, 2017 at 9:57 am

      Wait, Bill Pullman isn’t Bill Paxton? When did this happen?

    • avatar
      June 24, 2017 at 11:16 am

      They’re twins separated at birth. Please pay attention.

    • avatar
      June 24, 2017 at 11:18 am

      So which one of them is Billy Bob Thornton?

    • avatar
      June 24, 2017 at 11:21 am

      He’s the second cousin twice removed. Honestly, am I the only one who can keep them straight?

    • avatar
      June 24, 2017 at 11:51 am

      Wait, they’re not straight? Okay, I guess that makes sense for Billy Bob.

    • avatar
      June 24, 2017 at 6:39 pm

      Hey now. One is dead and one isn’t. Have some respect for the recently departed.

    • avatar
      June 24, 2017 at 6:40 pm

      Yeah. And without looking it up can you say 100% which one is the dead one?

    • avatar
      June 24, 2017 at 6:43 pm

      Paxton. 100% He also played the older brother in Weird Science, the Hydra agent in Agents of Shield, and the guy who said “Game over, man!” in Aliens.

    • avatar
      June 24, 2017 at 6:45 pm

      Pullman on the other hand is the President in Independence Day, the reporter in Newsies, and the voice of the human bad guy in the animated space movie whose name I am currently forgetting but involves the Planet Bob (and stars Matt Damon).

    • avatar
      June 24, 2017 at 6:57 pm

      Paxton was also in Terminator and Commando – plus Hudson had some of the great lines in Aliens ?. And Pullman was also in rom-coms like While You Were Sleeping and Singles. Not to mention Ruthless People – 80s classic!

    • avatar
      June 24, 2017 at 7:03 pm

      You two are totally putting too much thought into my super lame one-off joke. ?

      Im actually way more curious how you feel about the things in Michael Strauss’s thread above as to whether or not they’re sexualizing the Isabela Moner character in comparison to other similar aged female character in action films.

    • avatar
      June 24, 2017 at 7:18 pm

      Look, we’re dedicated about our Bill trivia.

      I haven’t endured the latest Transformers yet, so I’ll have to wait to have an informed opinion on that. However, it’s an interesting topic. Generally they find ways to make the character older to avoid this. Like McClane’s daughter in Live Free or Die Hard – she’s in college, so an acceptable age.

      I’ll get back to you after I survive the film. One to look at – the upcoming It – starts with the cast as pre-teens, and there’s a whole weird sex thing (though I’m pretty sure that part of the book won’t make it on to the screen).

    • avatar
      June 24, 2017 at 7:26 pm

      Ah. I figured no one else was actually going to go watch it so they would just judge based on the clips we linked.

      And you’re right. The Game of Thrones characters are all aged up to make them legal.

      Bay has a weird thing about this. So in transformers 4, Peltz’s character is explicitly 17 and dating a 20yo (the actress was 19 at filming). But her being 17 doesn’t affect the film at all other than the scene I mentioned where Reynor’s character gets to proclaim that it isn’t statutory rape because he started fucking her before he was 18. Like there’s no reason for it other than bay wanting to talk about underage girls having sex. He could have just as easily written the character as 18 and it would have been fine. Nothing would have changed. So it’s the reverse of what happens in the normal cases.

      And yeah, the It book totally has a preteen gangbang as a major plot point. That’s totally ignored in the original adaptation. I am kinda curious how they handle it for the film.

    • avatar
      June 24, 2017 at 7:46 pm

      Bay has a number of weird things going on. In his mind, it’s probably some weird “empowering” thing for the 17 yr old to be having sex – but there’s no point and it’s pretty creepy.

    • avatar
      June 24, 2017 at 7:47 pm

      And the sex scene from It won’t make the movie. I’d be willing to bet money on that.

    • avatar
      June 24, 2017 at 8:29 pm

      I mean, to an extent I’m ok with it in principle. 17 year olds (and even 14yos) are cohesive sexual beings. Hollywood accepted this about 17 year old boys a couple decades ago with stuff like American Pie or even Porkys, but they do like to infantilize the girls. And there is a right way to do this. Edge of Seventeen was one of my favorite movies of last year and I still highly recommend it. It took a real, interesting and honest look at teen sexuality for girls.

      But Bay doesn’t really understand the nuance… he more just wants to point out that he knows. There’s not really anything going on with it… it’s just “Hey, look… here’s a teen girl. She’s hot and she’s sexually active!!! Eh? Eh?”

      Like I can almost feel him nudging me with his elbow. It’s creepy in the way that he does it. To be fair, in this film it was less creepy than in the last one. In the last one, there’s a LOT of attention called to the 17yos sexuality (and the implication that she started having sex at 14). Here it actually is more subtle since the girl is 14 at the time. And I might not care, except that she’s entirely useless and superfluous to the story in every other way. Like I said, she’s not even a hostage. She’s just there.

    • avatar
      June 25, 2017 at 6:20 am

      Michael Bay, much like Snyder, is quite good at taking shots that were cool from other movies and stringing them together. Neither care about the plot of the movie. They just sort of throw a bunch of cool scenes up and figure you’ll like a few of them, remember one or two, and that at least 5-6 will be awesome in a trailer with some rock song played over them.

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