(Welcome to Movie Mixtape, where we find cinematic relatives and seek out interesting connections between new releases and older movies that allow us to rethink and enjoy what’s in our theaters as well as the favorites on our shelf. In this edition: Transformers: The Last Knight.)
After hundreds and hundreds of years, and a detour into Guy Ritchie’s clutches, King Arthur is finally in a Transformers movie. This is the world we live in now. Might as well get used to it. Dogs and cats living together is next.
The fifth installment in the absurdly profitable, Hasbro-fueled series will be the last to feature Bayhem. Michael Bay is stepping away after one last ride, but not after introducing Medieval lore and Sir Anthony Hopkins to a universe of urinating alien cars and mechanical dinosaurs. I mean, if you’ve already put fried chicken next to your lasagna at the buffet, you might as well toss a shepherd’s pie on top.
Chaos reigns in this franchise, which is why this installment of the Mixtape might seem even more randomized. Grab your sword, and just go with it.
Deepwater Horizon (2015)
Mark Wahlberg’s career has shrewdly careened between prestigious knockouts and dumb action, but his most recent movies have sought to smash those two concepts together by engaging real-world heroism with splodey intensity. This elevation of ripped-from-the-headlines storytelling casts Wahlberg as the working man good guy at the center of a terrible event. Peter Berg’s eco-tragedy examining the 11 people who died on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig due to corporate regulatory neglect wrestles with the limitations of heroism while putting it on display. That Wahlberg is essentially bringing the same persona from Deepwater Horizon and Patriots Day (the Boston Marthon bombing movie) that he does to the Transformers franchise makes it super weird to watch them back-to-back. Like the time I watched The Planet of the Apes on The History Channel.
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
A classic among classics, Robert Wise’s adaptation of Henry Bates’ “Farewell to the Master” sends a large robot to Earth to deliver a message about galactic war and peace. It simultaneously put us at the center of the story while tacitly pointing out that a bunch of other worlds were doing stuff out there among the stars without us. The Last Knight also wants to answer why the Autobots and Decepticons keep coming to our planet.
It’s a sci-fi tradition that Transformers utilizes even though the franchise dismisses its lessons. While Transformers continually show us how ill-prepared we are for an invasion by warring factions of giant aliens, arguing that fire power is a necessity, The Day the Earth Stood Still opens with an alien gift that would enhance human life being destroyed by a soldier with a nervous trigger finger.
I Know That Voice (2014)
Few things are as jarring as watching the human beings behind the voices of beloved animated characters. Lawrence Shapiro’s fun, informative documentary features about a hundred of them.
The Transformers connection is an obvious one. Since the animated Transformers series in the ’80s, Peter Cullen has voiced Optimus Prime as a deep-throated, level-headed leader. That includes a turn in The Transformers: The Movie, which also featured voice work from Judd Nelson, Frank Welker, Eric Idle, and Leonard Nimoy. The film also features the final performances for both Orson Welles and Scatman Crothers. Transformers: The Last Knight features Cullen, once again as Optimus Prime, as well as John Goodman (the military ambulance Hound) and John DiMaggio, who narrates I Know That Voice.
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