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Transformers Films: Best and Worst Moments Explored

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optimus prime in space

The enduring “Transformers” franchise has spanned decades, originating from its mid-’80s cartoon-and-toy roots and later expanding into a blockbuster movie series with Michael Bay’s live-action film in 2007. Time has seemingly flown by, but the franchise continues to captivate audiences. While subsequent sequels experienced diminished commercial success, the recent box office performance of “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” indicates that the beloved robots in disguise still hold sway with viewers.

However, with numerous entries—many of which received critical backlash—it’s not difficult to find moments that fell short. Whether it’s the incessant screaming of Shia LaBeouf‘s character, the persistent misogyny surrounding Megan Fox, or the perplexing violence portrayed by Optimus Prime, certain sequences in the “Transformers” films left viewers puzzled or disappointed. Nonetheless, these movies achieved success for a reason, and there are undeniably awe-inspiring moments that deserve recognition too.

After meticulously combing through hours of footage, I have identified the standout moments—both the best and the worst—from the eight feature-length “Transformers” films, which includes the 1986 animated movie. Let’s roll out and delve into these moments!

BEST: The Skyscraper Scene (Dark of the Moon)

Sam and Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley)

Our courageous heroes, led by Sam, Carly (played by Rosie Huntington-Whiteley), and Epps (portrayed by Tyrese Gibson), embark on a treacherous ascent up a precarious building, intent on launching a rocket at Sentinel Prime’s pillars to halt Cybertron’s impending invasion of Earth’s atmosphere. Despite the building’s unstable state, they push forward, determined to complete their mission. However, their progress is hindered when they find themselves ambushed by a horde of Decepticon goons, forcing them to make daring leaps out of windows and slide down the side of the building. Desperately clinging to whatever they can grasp, they fight to maintain their grip on life.

Their perilous actions attract the attention of Shockwave, who commands the colossal Driller, a worm-like robot, to mercilessly demolish the crumbling structure. As the top half of the building teeters precariously, it ultimately tips over, crashing into a nearby tower, leaving our heroes suspended in a heart-stopping moment above the streets below. Just when it appears that all hope is lost, Optimus Prime arrives on the scene, ready to save the day. With his rocket pack, he unleashes a torrent of devastating firepower upon the monstrous Driller, showcasing the exceptional visual effects mastery of Industrial Light & Magic. The resulting spectacle is nothing short of awe-inspiring, with explosions and chaos engulfing the screen, promising to leave your living room in ruins if you dare to crank up the volume.

In this unforgettable sequence, Michael Bay once again demonstrates his knack for creating larger-than-life action and delivering breathtaking moments that push the boundaries of visual storytelling.

WORST: Optimus Begs for His Life (Dark of the Moon)

Optimus Begs for His Life

“Dark of the Moon,” Michael Bay’s third installment in the “Transformers” series, manages to slightly improve upon its predecessor, “Revenge of the Fallen,” but still fails to meet expectations. Bay continues to stumble by featuring generic-looking robots engaged in uncoordinated battles. The human drama surrounding the action lacks depth, and the once relatable character of Sam Witwicky is reduced to an entitled jerk, throwing tantrums when his new girlfriend’s boss outshines him in every way.

In an attempt to recapture the excitement of the iconic L.A. battle from the first movie, Bay occasionally delivers impressive moments. However, his portrayal of Optimus Prime remains problematic, as the noble warrior is depicted more as a psychotic murderer. One particular scene stands out, where the villainous Sentinel Prime holds Optimus at gunpoint, and Optimus pleads for his life. Surprisingly, Megatron intervenes to save Optimus and proposes a truce. Despite this act of mercy, Optimus seizes the opportunity to ruthlessly destroy Megatron when his back is turned.

This action beat presents a puzzling way for Optimus to “save the day.” While it may be argued that killing Megatron was the right move, allowing the main protagonist to execute him in such a dishonorable manner raises questions. Especially considering that Megatron had just saved Optimus’ life moments before. Clearly, there were better alternatives available, Bay!

BEST: L.A. Battle (Transformers)

BEST: L.A. Battle (Transformers)

None of the “Transformers” movies, despite their massive budgets, impressive technological advancements, and ever-expanding cast, have managed to surpass the original 2007 film by Michael Bay. This cinematic masterpiece remains one of the most exceptional summer blockbusters of the 21st century. Although it can be loud, occasionally obnoxious, and excessively long, it possesses a Spielberg-esque heart through the captivating underdog dynamic between Shia LaBeouf’s Sam Witwicky and the Autobot Bumblebee, as well as Sam’s blossoming romance with Mikaela, portrayed by Megan Fox. Steve Jablonsky’s rousing score leaves a lasting impact, while the action sequences are reliably explosive.

Among the standout moments, the climactic set piece in downtown L.A., where Optimus Prime and his comrades face off against Megatron’s forces, holds a special place. Director Bay skillfully presents the robots from a human perspective, emphasizing their colossal size and intricate detailing, while the sound design cranks up the volume to an eardrum-shattering level, heightening the overall experience.

What particularly captivates me about this sequence is the gradual escalation of chaos. In a perplexing decision, the good guys choose to hide the vital All-Spark in the heart of the city, leaving their parked vehicles in plain sight. Naturally, the villains descend upon them, with Starscream surveilling from above. Amidst the initial onslaught and a breathtaking Ironhide cartwheel, Sam seizes the All-Spark and races towards a nearby building, as metal clashes, bullets fly, and explosions erupt from every direction. The scene brims with exhilaration as robots hurl each other through buildings, leaving behind a trail of destruction. It’s the epitome of Bayhem at its finest.

WORST: Optimus Dies (Transformers: the Movie)

Optimus Dies

“Transformers: The Movie,” released in 1986, was eagerly anticipated by fans of the beloved “Transformers” franchise. However, despite the initial excitement, the animated film took an unexpected and puzzling turn. The movie starts off promisingly enough, as the Autobots embark on a crucial mission to reclaim their home planet, Cybertron, from the clutches of the Decepticons. But then, the young fans who flocked to see their favorite toys battle on the big screen were met with a dark and startling twist.

In a rather questionable decision, the filmmakers opted to eliminate several beloved main characters, such as Ironhide, Prowl, Ratchet, and Brawn, within the opening act. Adding to the shock, both Optimus Prime and Megatron meet their demises, with Optimus passing on the Matrix of Leadership to Ultra Magnus. This bold storytelling move left fans (myself included as a young viewer) utterly disheartened.

Clearly, the intention behind this drastic narrative shift was to introduce a new generation of robots, effectively transforming the animated film into a grand-scale advertisement for toys, lacking depth and emotional resonance. Despite boasting an impressive voice cast featuring talents like Judd Nelson, Leonard Nimoy, and Orson Welles, “Transformers: The Movie” ultimately made missteps that left fans feeling frustrated and let down.

BEST: Sam and Mikaela’s First Date

Sam and Mikaela transformers

The strength of 2007’s “Transformers” lies in the blossoming relationship between Sam and Mikaela. Their connection begins when Mikaela abruptly ends things with her jock boyfriend and decides to strike out on her own. Sam seizes the opportunity and offers her a ride home in his new vehicle, unaware that his ride is actually Bumblebee, the Autobot who goes above and beyond to assist Sam in winning over his dream girl.

Bumblebee sets the stage for a romantic ambiance by tuning the radio to love songs and ingeniously engineers a fake breakdown, creating the perfect moment for Sam to make his move. When Mikaela decides to wander off, Bumblebee revives his engine, granting Sam one last chance to connect with her. The charade proves successful, and just before their adventure begins, the two form a bond that resonates with the audience.

Sam and Mikaela’s date captivated viewers, representing a rare instance where Bay’s outrageous comedy pays off. Every element harmonizes flawlessly, from Shia LaBeouf’s impeccable comedic timing to Bumblebee’s expertly chosen music. By the conclusion of the scene, Sam has won over the audience, skillfully incorporating the classic cartoon catchphrase, “more than meets the eye,” into the moment. Mikaela, portrayed as a character with depth beyond her physical appearance, emerges as an engaging and multi-dimensional presence.

WORST: Optimus’ Plan (Dark of the Moon)

Optimus Prime (Dark of the Moon)

“Dark of the Moon” delivers a mostly enjoyable experience, albeit plagued by familiar issues seen in other “Transformers” films helmed by Michael Bay. The narrative feels underdeveloped, the writing lacks polish, the characters fail to inspire, and the overall tone is exaggerated to a headache-inducing extent, all compounded by an unnecessarily lengthy runtime. Bay and his team clearly prioritize spectacular set pieces and action sequences over crafting a coherent and engaging storyline.

This approach becomes especially apparent in the latter part of the film when the plot veers into illogical territory. Faced with an impossible choice between abandoning the planet or allowing Earth to be destroyed, the Autobots reluctantly agree to board a rocket ship as instructed by the antagonistic forces. As expected, the Decepticons betray their agreement and destroy the vessel, launching a full-scale assault on Earth.

Suddenly, a plot twist emerges: Optimus Prime and his team were not aboard the ship; they had already disembarked before its destruction. This revelation implies that they were present on the planet when Sentinel Prime attacked, yet they seemingly stood idly by and observed. Optimus justifies this decision by claiming that people needed to witness the consequences of the Autobots leaving the planet, even at the expense of sacrificing thousands of lives.

While Optimus’ plan does achieve its intended outcome, it is challenging to overlook the fact that there likely existed better approaches he could have taken to assist Earth without incurring such a devastating cost. Ironically, he expresses shock when humans turn against him in “Age of Extinction.”

BEST: Charge of the Dinobots (Age of Extinction)

Charge of the Dinobots

Attempting to revitalize the “Transformers” franchise with “Age of Extinction,” Michael Bay presents a mixed offering of adrenaline-fueled action and underwhelming human drama. Mark Wahlberg assumes the role of the new protagonist, Cade Yeager, supported by a talented cast featuring Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor, Stanley Tucci, and Kelsey Grammer. In this storyline, Optimus and the Autobots strive to thwart a secret government organization and the formidable Decepticon, Lockdown. It sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? However, the drawback lies in the movie’s excessive runtime of over two and a half hours.

Despite its flaws, the film does manage to deliver a few standout moments, with the most notable being the exhilarating sequence known as the Charge of the Dinobots. During the climactic battle in Hong Kong, Optimus assembles a mighty Dinobot army to confront Lockdown. Mounted on the back of a fearsome Tyrannosaurus Rex named Grimlock, Optimus leads the charge wielding an enormous sword. For those who grew up watching the “Transformers” animated series, witnessing Optimus riding Grimlock is a childhood fantasy come to life—an awe-inspiring spectacle brought to the big screen.

The remaining Dinobots join forces with Bumblebee and a fresh batch of Autobots, resulting in a grand visual display that is worth enduring the extended setup that precedes it. Additionally, the scene where Lockdown’s ship engulfs Hong Kong, resembling a colossal vacuum cleaner, adds to the film’s eye-catching visuals.

WORST: Optimus Kills the Fallen (Revenge of the Fallen)

Optimus on sphinks

“Revenge of the Fallen” suffers from a myriad of disjointed ideas throughout its unnecessarily long duration, resulting in a chaotic spectacle that simultaneously mesmerizes and frustrates.

One particular peculiar choice in the film revolves around the primary antagonist, the Fallen, a vengeful character patiently awaiting the opportune moment to strike from space. Following Optimus Prime’s demise, the Fallen launches his assault on Earth, leading to an epic battle near the Egyptian pyramids. Thankfully, Sam manages to obtain the Matrix of Leadership and resurrect Optimus, who effortlessly overwhelms and mercilessly destroys the Fallen.

During this climactic showdown, Optimus delivers a perplexing one-liner that leaves viewers scratching their heads: “Give me your face.” Instead of choosing a line that conveys honor, nobility, or inspiration, the filmmakers opt for this puzzling phrase. It’s unlikely that “give me your face” will be remembered as a memorable quote, at least in a positive sense. Moments later, Optimus redeems himself with the more impactful line, “I rise, you fall.” However, the confusion caused by the previous line may have overshadowed the impact of this redemption.

Ultimately, it seems unlikely that “give me your face” will go down in history as a memorable line, at least not in a favorable manner. Perhaps a more fitting alternative, such as “Yippee ki-yay, Mr. Fallen,” could have left a more lasting impression.

BEST: Final Battle (Rise of the Beasts)

Final Battle (Rise of the Beasts)

“Rise of the Beasts” emerges as a commendable addition to the “Transformers” saga, showcasing director Steven Caple Jr.’s focus on character development alongside thrilling spectacle. While the plot adheres to the familiar video game formula of pursuing Object A to achieve Object B and ultimately accomplish Object C, the charismatic performances of Anthony Ramos and Dominique Fishback engage viewers in between the action sequences. Additionally, the robot heroes are infused with depth and personality, thanks to the exceptional voice work of Peter Cullen, Ron Perlman, Michelle Yeoh, and Peter Dinklage, supported by impressive visual effects from Moving Picture Company and Wētā FX.

As the inevitable final battle unfolds between Optimus Prime’s team and the villainous Scourge, the stunning visuals seize viewers’ attention and make them genuinely invested in the outcome. Even as Ramos’ character dons a Transformers suit and joins the battle, the spectacle never loses sight of its characters, their newfound friendships, or their overarching mission to defeat Unicron, despite the presence of faceless adversaries filling the screen.

While “Rise of the Beasts” may not claim the title of the best “Transformers” film, it fearlessly propels the franchise in an enjoyable new direction. Furthermore, its incorporation of another Hasbro property, “G.I. Joe,” hints at even more thrilling and unpredictable adventures awaiting audiences in the future.

WORST: Killer Female Robot (Revenge of the Fallen)

Killer Female Robot transformers

“Revenge of the Fallen” proves to be a clunky blockbuster that falls short on multiple fronts, leaving much to be desired. Despite sporadic moments of positivity scattered throughout the film, they are overshadowed by a plethora of negative aspects, resulting in a messy and unsatisfying viewing experience. To exacerbate matters, the convoluted plot only adds to the overall confusion.

At the outset of the story, Sam begins his college journey and encounters new characters, including the mysterious Alice (Isabel Lucas), who seemingly develops a romantic interest in our hero. However, the narrative takes an odd twist when Alice, reminiscent of a scene from James Cameron’s “Terminator,” reveals herself as a robot and proceeds to wreak havoc in Sam’s dorm room.

Yes, you read that correctly: Alice is a robot posing as a human, which raises numerous perplexing questions. If the Decepticons possess the ability to masquerade as humans, why do they predominantly opt for vehicle forms like cars, jets, and tanks? Why did Alice attempt to seduce Sam instead of easily overpowering him to extract information? Why didn’t Bumblebee detect her deceit? This perplexing aspect of the film leaves audiences pondering the logic and coherence of the story.

Shia LaBeouf’s frantic reaction to Alice’s transformation may elicit some comic relief, allowing for a laugh at the absurdity of the situation. However, it ultimately highlights the lack of consideration given to the rules and consistency within the “Transformers” universe by its creators.

BEST: Final Battle (The Last Knight)

Final Battle (The Last Knight)

While “The Last Knight” certainly has its flaws, one cannot deny the grandeur of the climactic battle set above Stonehenge. The visual effects are breathtaking, and Michael Bay’s direction of the action, particularly his use of IMAX cameras, is noticeably smoother compared to previous “Transformers” films. In this monumental sequence, Optimus Prime, under the influence of the malevolent Cybertronian goddess Quintessa, initially attempts to eliminate Bumblebee. Naturally, our heroic bot eventually breaks free from the spell and returns to his noble nature. This leads to an all-out assault on Quintessa, resulting in an uninterrupted display of relentless action for nearly half an hour of the film’s duration.

Under the leadership of Lennox (Josh Duhamel), the military launches an attack employing Bell-Boeing V-22 Ospreys, while the Autobots summon the mighty three-headed dragon, Dragonstorm, and rally behind Optimus. Facing off against a group of Infernocons single-handedly, Optimus demonstrates his courage by swiftly decapitating them with a powerful swing—an exhilarating spectacle heightened by Steve Jablonsky’s stirring musical score and complemented by Jonathan Sela’s vibrant cinematography.

Admittedly, the reasons behind the various factions attacking each other may be excessively convoluted. However, at this stage, it is best to trust that Optimus Prime’s actions ultimately serve the betterment of humanity. Bay’s depiction of advanced robot combat may lack originality, with robots mostly relying on close-quarters combat despite possessing a range of formidable weaponry. Nevertheless, the captivating visual splendor is potent enough to carry audiences through the film’s occasional lapses in logic.

WORST: The Ship Scene (Age of Extinction)

The Ship Scene (Age of Extinction)

The ship sequence in “Age of Extinction” has long been a sore point for many viewers, myself included. Initially promising, it quickly devolves into an excessively long and increasingly nonsensical affair. As Cade and his companions board Lockdown’s colossal vessel in an attempt to rescue Optimus Prime and Cade’s daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz), the unfolding events become progressively more absurd.

They find themselves pursued by peculiar transforming dogs, robot slugs with exaggerated cartoonish eyes, and an array of villainous mechanical henchmen. Astoundingly, they navigate this chaotic scenario with remarkable ease, as Cade effortlessly masters an alien weapon within seconds. Despite the ship’s immense size, the group miraculously reunites without much difficulty, and our heroes make their swift exit.

The sequence lacks any semblance of pacing or coherence, merely serving as a setup for a grand chase over Chicago. Mark Wahlberg’s character yells incessantly, Nicola Peltz’s character runs frantically, and Michael Bay’s camera movements become so excessive that they induce motion sickness. Furthermore, the ship’s visual design is uninspired and unremarkable, representing a missed opportunity to showcase some originality among the robot characters.

Ultimately, the ship sequence in “Age of Extinction” epitomizes the film’s shortcomings, showcasing a lack of ingenuity and a disregard for coherent storytelling. It serves as a prime example of the flaws that have plagued the “Transformers” franchise throughout its history, which one hopes future installments can leave behind in the past.

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