By this point, it kind of feels like the Transformers series is embarrassed by itself.
That’s the only possible explanation for the ultra-serious initial Last Knight trailer.
Instead of reveling in the familiar CGI glory of large, overly complicated robots smashing into each other, the short two minute teaser for the upcoming film spends a lot of time on human conflicts. We see what, from context must be Arthurian battlefields. We see the evocative, emotionally charged Nazi swastika amid fire and explosion. We see human soldiers launching weapons against a vague robotic enemy.
What we see very little of, is any of the actual recognizable Transformers.
It’s a strange choice, but one that’s entirely understandable by this point in the franchise.
Audiences in the West aren’t as eager for new Transformers movies as we were two or three films ago. We know the traditional, familiar beats of the story very well by this point, and we don’t really care.
Optimus Prime dies. Robots come looking for some ancient artifact or other. Explosions, boom boom, product placement, sexy teens, roll credits.
So this trailer deliberately opens by avoiding all reference to the Transformers. Instead, we get glorious Anthony Hopkins voiceover, which is enough to make any movie seem appealing. Heck, some members of an audience seeing this in a movie theater might think they’re watching footage from Westworld for a second.
But then, of course, this is a Transformers trailer, so we need to know that the franchise isn’t straying too far from its comfort zone.
We see Optimus Prime dead, yet again, not because there’s anything shocking or exciting about this reveal, but because it lets the few remaining Transformers fans know that this movie isn’t going to challenger their pre-existing notions of what the series is.
The trailer does this as fleetingly as possible, to the point that if you weren’t paying enough attention, you might miss it entirely.
A similar quick image shows Optimus fighting Bumblebee, which is probably a lot more significant for those who’ve watched all these movies and loved them, than it is for anyone who stopped watching when Megan Fox left the series.
The challenge at the heart of this trailer is the controversial nature of the movie itself. Most people don’t care. Enough people care enough that they want to see this latest instalment in the giant robot soap opera.
Ultimatley, though, there’s an overwhelming attitude of complacency in this trailer. It feels awfully rot and arbitrary, and with good reason.
This movie won’t do very well in the US. That’s pretty much assured.
Instead, it’ll make its money in the Chinese market, where the franchise still rules supreme at the box office.
Expect the international trailer to feature a lot more robots mashing into each other – in translated versions of the film, the trailer won’t be able to sell the movie with Anthony Hopkins voiceover alone.
Ultimately, this trailer gets a 6/10. It’s not particularly informative, it doesn’t leave audiences with a desperate need to see the movie, and its attempt to misrepresent what the film is, disguising it as a gritty war film, is simply bad manners for a trailer.
This is a Trojan Horse trailer. It’s hoping to keep itself incognito long enough for you to get invested, before sneaking in some pointless Transformers carnage when you’re not looking.
The parallels to the core ideology of the Transformers themselves cannot be overlooked. Sadly, though, in this case, there’s not much more going on than meets the eye.