Warning: SPOILERS ahead for Transformers: The Last Knight
Transformers: The Last Knight is all about big new ideas to the surprisingly expansive Transformers movie-universe mythology, this time concerning the creation of the Transformers themselves, the identity of Cybertron’s apparent creator god, the true nature of Earth and an ancient secret society called The Witwiccans (said to have included everyone from Einstein to Washington to Harriet Tubman) charged to protecting the biggest secret of all: The Transformers have been interacting with humans on Earth for about as long as we’ve been here.
But after Age of Extinction made a major point of severing ties with the original three Transformers films, The Last Knight is also interested in re-establishing connections with the rest of the franchise: a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it photographic cameo confirms that Shia LaBeouf’s Sam Witwicky and The Witwiccans don’t share similar surnames by accident, for one thing. Josh Duhamel’s Col. William Lennox also makes his heavily-promoted return to the series after sitting out Age of Extinction. But the movie also features a surprise on-camera return for one of the other regular characters from the original trilogy who fans may have thought they’d heard the last of: John Turturro’s ex-Sector Seven agent Seymour Simmons!
It’s said that John Turturro – a legendary American character actor best known (like a surprising number of other Michael Bay “regulars”) for his work in the films of the Coen Brothers – earns more for his supporting parts in the Transformers movies than for any other acting work he’s ever done. It’s hard to determine if that’s true or not, but Turturro has been in all of these films apart from the fourth one in some capacity. Originally a secondary antagonist in the first film as an agent of the “Sector Seven” covert government organization (a plot device believed by some to exist solely so that the film could secure real military hardware for action scenes by not “disparaging” an actual branch of the service) that at one point imprisons Bumblebee, he returned as an independent-operator in Revenge of The Fallen and Dark of The Moon.
Now, after sitting out Age of Extinction (which left all of the human characters from the first three films in the past as part of its new storlyine), Simmons makes a surprise reappearance as an information contact fielding frantic phonecalls from Anthony Hopkins’ Sir Burton. And while he doesn’t have all that much overall effect on the plot (his role is to tell Burton which library to go to in order to look up a missing piece of Transformers lore – the scene seemingly exists strictly to get Turturro into the film) the situation he finds himself in is unexpected and interesting: Simmons is apparently living in Cuba and keeping company with refugee Autobots.
THE CUBA CONNECTION
Early on in the film, we’re informed that the anti-Transformer sentiment embraced by the U.S. Government in Age of Extinction has spread all over the world and that the only nation that has offered them safe shelter is Cuba, where “Castro let’s them Summer on the beach.” Like the actor cameo that it features (which also finds an unnamed Autobot trying to coax Turturro’s character into joining him for a game of soccer), the scenario doesn’t affect the plot much: There’s no explanation for why all of the Transformers didn’t just go to Cuba or why, for that matter, Raoul Castro has made peace with them – though old-school Transformers fans might be reminded of the infamous episode of the original cartoon series where Decepticons had arranged a shelter-for-energy deal with the unfortunately-named imaginary Middle Eastern nation of “Carbomya” (a succession of racist jokes that led Lebanese-American voice actor Casey Kasem quit the series in protest).
What’s noteworthy about the scenes is that they were filmed among a brief surge in Hollywood films hurrying to the island nation in order to add fresh international flair to their productions following then-U.S. President Barack Obama’s historic lifting of certain political and economic sanctions (including travel bans) that the nation had imposed against Cuba since the height of the Cold War – along with Transformers: The Last Knight, the most recent Fast & Furious film also featured an extended chase scene set in Havana.
However, it’s now possible that such Hollywood presence in Cuba may once again become rare, as new U.S. President Donald Trump recently pledged to restore many such restrictions. While it is unclear to what degree the restrictions (which also make it harder for certain businesses and/or industries to do business with the Cuban government) will impede future Hollywood productions, it would appear that there is a real possibility that Transformers: The Last Knight (of all films!) may end up as a landmark of a relatively brief moment where U.S./Cuban relations had been allowed to thaw.
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