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Transformers: The Last Knight by Steve Jablonsky (Review)

posted Jul 21, 2017, 12:42 PM by Kaya Savas

I can very vividly remember when the first Transformers film came out 10 years ago. I found it to be supremely entertaining, and as a fan of Michael Bay I thought it was pure overindulging fun. Steve Jablonsky’s score was a perfect fit for the over the top but expertly executed action. The Autotbots got a big heroic theme and the Decepticons got a chilling chanting chorus. Everything came to a clashing spectacular climax that was action filmmaking fueled by score. Since then we’ve gotten 4 more Transformers films that seem to get more watered down as we move away from that seemingly perfectly balanced 1st film. With no general arc to the Transformers universe it seems Michael Bay is just cranking out whatever the next "cool" idea might be, and in turn we’ve lost all narrative structure and action momentum that made the first an enjoyable action romp.

Over the next 4 scores Steve Jablonsky has been able to hold things together relatively well considering we’ve heard him have to stick close to temp tracks, plots that have no structure, being forced to work with bands like Imagine Dragons and Linkin Park, and that second film which was made during the writer’s strike. After the series did a soft reboot with the 4th film, there seemed to be some structure returning back to the series. With The Last Knight that went all out the window, and the film is a complete and utter structural disaster. Steve had the almost impossible task of making this behemoth ILM demo reel feel somewhat like a story, and he somehow managed to succeed. That is until his score got chopped to pieces as the film got trimmed and re-shaped in post production. Thankfully we have this 2-disc soundtrack from La La Land records to experience Transformers: The Last Knight as Steve intended it.

The Last Knight somehow has the Transformers tied to King Arthur and the knights of the roundtable. There was a cool story about a little orphan girl that started the movie, but all that was abandoned to show Optimus Prime going to kill his creator, who was just some CGI Transformer entity? Anyway the creator touches Optimus Prime on the face and now he’s bad, but don’t worry Hiccup uses his voice to help Toothless realize he’s a good dragon and not bad. Wait, wrong film. Well, the orphan girl comes back at the end for no reason, Mark Wahlberg says stuff and has a sexy love interest who is a descendent of the knights I think. And Anthony Hopkins spews out exposition and then is ridiculously killed by a Transformer. Then they run in slow motion as things blow up and the bad guys die and it ends and oh wait there was a cliffhanger for the next one. Sigh. Okay Steve, score it!

Steve Jablonsky does his absolute best to keep this things afloat, and he somehow succeeded. Yes, even after all the music edits the score still manages to make this film watchable. I mean, that's pretty impressive. But listening to the 2-disc album vs the score in the film is night and day. Or should I say “knight” and day (ba dum dum tshhh)? Anyway, the score has some cool elements. We get this kind of ancient theme for the knights of the round table and that becomes the central motif that is carried through the main narrative. The music manages to find some cool places to create some of those traditional action builds that Steve could probably score in his sleep by now. And surprisingly the score doesn’t feel tired or beaten in this 5th installment, you can still feel this heroic rise in the music. And that's a testament to Steve Jablonsky’s talents to infuse energy into the music. The final act of the film is not only the film's strongest moments but also the score. We feel some sense of what made the original movie so enjoyable return to the screen, and the music lifts it up successfully.

As the movie went through post production, the film went through editorial changes as most movies do. But on a Michael Bay film, he literally edits till the last second. So it almost became an impossible game for Steve and his music team to keep up with the ever-changing edit of the film. As the film got trimmed in length, the score started getting chopped up and sort of lost in the mix. You can clearly tell that too by watching the film. You probably wont even be aware of the score till the final act, and that’s pretty crazy for a Michael Bay film. The soundtrack album helps rectify this by giving us the score in a Jablonsky approved presentation.

At the end of all things, the score somehow still manages to be the shining beacon of light in this messy messy movie. Even after getting somewhat butchered and lost in the sound mix, Jablonsky's thematic structure kept things glued together. And we only get a better more cohesive presentation of everything in this fantastic 2-disc set from La La Land Records. Transformers: The Last Knight is nowhere near the fantastic structure of the first film, but it's also nowhere near the mess that was the second film. The music manages to find a basic narrative thread that gets to shine through in cool ways in the final act despite the film tripping over itself every step of the way.