Transformers – Top 5 Autobots that Didn’t Deserve to Die in the Movies

Death has always been a part of the Transformers series – after all, the main story revolves around a civil war, and as such the series has never been afraid to confront the concept of loss, and many of the main character’s Autobot comrades fell in the original cartoon series – and nobody will ever forget the infamous G1 Movie, which killed off almost every main Autobot cast member to make way for a new line of toys. The Michael Bay Transformers films, however, kill their Autobots for vaguely similar yet distinctly different reasons – often the deaths of Autobots in the series are used as shock factor to telegraph to the audience that a particular villain or faction means business. As such, some beloved Autobot characters have met some violent and grisly deaths in the movie series, and so in honour of the fallen (no, not The Fallen) let’s count down the Top 5 Autobots that Didn’t Deserve to Die in the Movies.

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#5 – Wheeljack

Bumblebee’s apparent longtime friend, Autobot scientist/inventor Wheeljack meets a particularly violent end in Dark of the Moon, his debut film. During the final battle, several Autobots are captured (somehow) and are being held prisoner by several Decepticons including Barricade and Soundwave (for some reason) before a snide human turncoat convinces them that the defenceless bots should be executed. Barricade selects Wheeljack as the first victim, and he is unceremoniously blown away by several point-blank shots to the face after begging for mercy. Although this scene is particularly traumatic for children, it only reachs number five on this list as Wheeljack, although a sympathetic character, is not exactly a fan-favourite, which leads to the next on the list:

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#4 – Jazz

Definite fan-favourite Jazz, a character so iconic that, in G1, he was one of the few original series cast to survive the Movie massacre alongside Bumblebee – yet for some reason, Michael Bay decided to kill him off in the very first film. During the final battle, as Optimus is distracted by Bonecrusher, Jazz attempts to hold off Megatron until the Autobot leader can arrive – and to his credit, Jazz puts up a valiant fight despite being clearly outmatched by him. As the shortest Autobot of the original movie’s cast, Jazz is tiny compared to Megatron, and this is emphasised when the Decepticon leader picks him up and rips him apart, before apparently devouring his energon before tossing his remains away. Unlike many other Autobots who fall in the series, Jazz does receive a eulogy from Optimus, albeit a brief and halfhearted one.

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#3 – Jetfire

Although he is only an Autobot for about ten minutes, Jetfire is a particularly tragic case of an old, worn-out Decepticon who has spent his entire life on a futile mission serving an insane master, despite being a genuinely nice person in his own right. Although grumpy and a tad deranged, the rusted Seeker is invaluable to defeating the Fallen as he not only lets Sam Witwicky know where to go to find the Matrix of Leadership, the device needed to resurrect the recently deceased Optimus, but he also participates in the final battle by killing both Mixmaster and Scorponok, although he is critically wounded in the process. After seeing Prime resurrected, Jetfire rips out his own spark in order to donate him the powerful jet boosters included in the SR-71 Blackbird alt-mode, which come in really handy when Optimus then decides to make mincemeat of Megatron and the Fallen.

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#2 – Ratchet

Perhaps the most tragic loss of the Transformer Purge that occurs between Dark of the Moon and Age of Extinction, Ratchet is killed by Lockdown in the opening to the fourth film after heroically refusing to give up the location of Optimus Prime. Ratchet’s death is particularly tragic as he is hunted down and attacked by Humans, the creatures he has spent years defending, and they injure him enough that Lockdown is able to swoop in for an easy kill. Unlike the deaths of any other Autobot in the series, Ratchet’s death actually angers Optimus, as when he learns of the Medic’s demise he and the other surviving Autobots storm KSI, the facility where executed Transformers’ remains are harvested, and destroyed the lab. Although he is eventually avenged, Ratchet’s death remains one of the most heavy-hitting of the fourth film.

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Honourable Mention – The Arcee Trio

Included as an honourable mention are the Arcee Sisters, mainly due to their wasted potential. Introduced in Revenge of the Fallen and then barely used, the Arcee sisters were last seen under attack from Decepticons in the desert, with two of them being critically injured by missiles right before the entire area was carpet-bombed by the US Air Force. Although many Decepticons were killed in the strike, it is more than likely that the three Arcee sisters were killed in this bombing run, as they are not seen again. This is unfortunate, as the Arcee sisters were a rare example of a gestalt Transformer – one mind controlling multiple bodies, a concept that could have been interesting to develop had the films bothered to do anything with it.

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#1 – Ironhide

The number one spot has to go to Ironhide, who suffers one of the most violent and senseless deaths of any Autobot in the history of the franchise. After making mincemeat of the Dreads with the help of Sideswipe, Ironhide was tasked with defending Sentinel Prime who, unknown to the other Autobots, was actually intending to betray them all to Megatron. When he announces his intentions, the former Autobot leader rams his point home by shooting Ironhide in the back several times with his rust cannon, before callously discharging him from duty and firing a finishing blow to his chest. ironhide death 1.pngThe rust cannon, as the name implies, delivers a lethal blast to a Transformer that rusts away their body at an alarmingly fast rate, so as Sentinel escapes leaving the N.E.S.T. base in ruins, Ironhide dies as his body crumbles away into dust. Ironhide’s death is perhaps the most tragic of all the Autobots in the franchise, as he was there from the beginning and so is one of the most well-defined of the Autobot characters, so audiences actually cared about him – and the fact that his death seemed so senseless was what really made it sad. At least Ratchet and Jazz died heroically, fighting to the end. Ironhide was shot in the back by a traitor that he had pledged to protect, and that is why despite his typically flimsy character, the death of Ironhide stands out as the most tragic of all the Autobots.

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Transformers – Optimus Prime’s Top 5 Most Brutal Kills in the Movies

As leader of the Autobots, one would assume that Optimus Prime would have to be a particularly righteous kind of individual, and this is certainly true across all the incarnations of the character throughout the Transformers multiverse. Even in universes in which Optimus is not the leader of the Autobots, such as in Transformers: Animated, he is still defined by his code of ethics and strict adherence to the moral philosophy that freedom is the right of all sentient beings. This also goes for the version of Optimus Prime seen in the Michael Bay movies, as even in a franchise that doesn’t always get it right when it comes to character development, the fundamentals of the character of Optimus Prime are there. However, this version of the character also has a tendency to get violent – really violent. So despite believing that freedom is the right of all sentient beings, he is perfectly happy to rip the head off a lumbering Decepticon or tear the spine out of a weaker foe if the need arises. So, in honour of this Optimus Prime’s apparent double-standards when it comes to preaching to his Autobots compared to slaughtering Decepticons, here are the Top 5 of Optimus Prime’s Most Brutal Kills. Bear in mind that the criteria for this list isn’t just how brutal the kill itself is – whether the brutality is justified will also play a part. So, to begin:

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#5 – Bonecrusher

The first entry on the list also happens to be the Autobot leader’s first on-screen kill in the movie franchise – the legendary decapitation of Bonecrusher following the highway brawl near the end of the first film. Bonecrusher transforms and uses his rollerskating wheel feet to rampage down the road, destroying cars and even a bus along the way. Clearly angered by the senseless loss of life, Optimus also transforms and, following a wrestling match spanning multiple levels of elevated highway and a punch in the face from Optimus that pops one of his eyes out of its socket, Bonecrusher is finally put down by Optimus’ blade. In an epic finishing move that let fans know immediately that this incarnation of Prime meant business, he stabs his blade into Bonecrusher’s neck, severing his spine, and then ripped his head off, tossing it to the floor. Though it is certainly a brutal kill, Bonecrusher’s death ranks fairly low on this list, as many will agree that the beserking Decepticon deserved it.

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#4 – Demolisher

A controversial kill of Prime’s from the opening sequence of Revenge of the Fallen, Demolisher was essentially a Decepticon minding his own business – hiding in his alt-form in Shanghai, watching over smaller Decepticon Sideways and generally doing nothing in particular – that is until the Autobots and their N.E.S.T. allies come along, draw him out of hiding and then execute him, and his weaker Audi-R8 charge. What makes this kill particularly insensitive is the fact that, after jumping on his head and causing serious damage to his wheels, Optimus essentially executes a critically injured and helpless opponent, in a similar manner to how Ratchet meets his fate at Lockdown’s hands in the opening of Age of Extinction. However, it has to be said that Demolisher was clearly as bloodthirsty as any Decepticon, since he went out of his way to cause as much destruction as possible during his attempted escape, even flinging helpless cars hundreds of feet into the air seemingly for the fun of it.

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#3 – Megatron

It might seem odd to include Megatron on this list, as many would assume that killing the Decepticon leader would be justified regardless of how brutal that actual execution itself happened to be. The conclusion to Dark of the Moon presents a very dubious moral decision on Optimus’ part, however, as after the destruction of Cybertron, Megatron offers a truce to the Autobot leader in exchange for deposing Sentinel and taking his rightful place as leader of the Decepticons, all after intervening in the nick of time to save Optimus’ life by attacking Sentinel Prime at the opportune moment. And Optimus’ response to this heroic act and the proposed truce? Well, as any level-headed and forward-thinking leader would, Optimus takes the opportunity to bury his axe in Megatron’s face and tear out the Decepticon Leader’s spine. This act genuinely took many fans by surprise, as one would think that after three films of constant warfare, Optimus would be sick of the senseless slaughter by now. But no, he seems to take great pleasure in brutally murdering his former brother, and he then goes on to make scrapmetal out of a defenceless Sentinel for good measure. Speaking of which…

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#2 – Sentinel Prime

After ripping off Optimus’ arm and attempting to murder him, some might say that Optimus’ execution of Sentinel at the conclusion of Dark of the Moon was justified. But considering Sentinel and Optimus’ long history, particularly in light of Sentinel’s genuine plea to Optimus before the end that the only reason why he betrayed the Autobot leader was to ensure the survival of their species, it would probably have made more sense for Optimus to spare Sentinel’s life, particularly considering what came next. If Sentinel were alive, he could have stood trial for his crimes against humanity and perhaps even taken the majority of the blame for the devastation of Chicago, rather than the general public simply turning their anger on all Transformers, especially given the fact that Optimus had ripped the spines out of every Decepticon commander who could have taken the fall instead. What is also particularly brutal about Sentinel’s death is the manner in which it is done – Sentinel’s pleas for mercy fall on deaf ears as Optimus brutally executes him using Megatron’s weapon, and despite firing at Sentinel’s exposed braincase with a fusion shotgun at point-blank range, Optimus fires a second time, just for good measure. Well, at least Ironhide was at last avenged.

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Honourable Mention – The Fallen

Whilst the Fallen can basically be blamed for the events of the entire Autobot-Decepticon war, and therefore all the deaths that have ever taken place in the Transformers series (even after his demise), the Fallen’s death at the end of Revenge of the Fallen is included here as an honourable mention simply because of how truly brutal this kill is. After making mincemeat of Megatron and relieving the Fallen of his staff, Optimus stabs him in the neck and, uttering the infamous quote “Give Me Your Face”, Prime quite literally rips off his face for no apparent reason other than that it looks cool. The horrified Fallen makes a desperate attempt to flee, but this proves to be a short-lived endeavour, as Optimus takes the oppurtunity to punch through the Fallen’s back, rip out his spark core, and crush it before his very eyes. A justified kill perhaps, but certainly a gruesome way to die regardless.

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#1 – Grindor

Taking the top spot is another of Optimus’ kills from Revenge of the Fallen – Grindor. This Blackout-lookalike is the unfortunate third Decepticon in the three-versus-one battle in the forest who is grossly outmatched compared to Prime, even with Megatron and Starscream around. Grindor tries his best in the battle – he comes when Megatron calls, and plays his part in the three Decepticon’s coordinated attack on Optimus to draw out Sam, but he never really stood a chance. When Optimus goes ballistic on the trio, drawing out both blades, proclaiming his intention to ‘take them all on’ and apparently set on murdering them all, Grindor loses an arm before having a significant portion of his chest cut out, which understandably takes him out of the battle for a while to recover – and mere moments after extracting a stray energon blade from his leg, poor Grindor is taken by surprise as Optimus leaps onto the giant Decepticon’s back, stabbing him in the eye with a hook blade in the process, before stabbing his neck with the other hook blade and tearing the guy’s face apart. Judging by the blood-curdling metallic scream that Grindor lets out as this is happening, the process was far from painless.

So, having ranked Optimus’ most brutal kills in the Movies, have your views on the supposedly noble Autobot Commander changed? Do you think Prime’s actions were justified, or do you think Michael Bay’s obsession with hyper-violence is at total odds with the character? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, as well as your favourite kill from the Transformers movie series, and remember to leave a like if you want to see more Transformers content.

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Transformers – Top 5 Movie Autobots that Disappeared

When watching Michael Bay’s Transformers films from start to finish, one might start to wonder – was there really any reason, other than merchandising, for the films to have Autobot characters in them at all? Other than Optimus Prime and Bumblebee, the filmsAs previously discussed in How to Fix Michael Bay’s Transformers Films – Part One: More Than Meets the CGI, the films don’t exactly do their Autobot characters justice, and despite the literal decades of character development through multiple different incarnations of the franchise, the Michael Bay films never managed to present anything more than a cardboard cutout Autobot cast. The filmmakers cared so little for the ragtag gang of ‘lesser’ Autobots that, throughout the five films in the Michael Bay Transformers chronology, there are many Autobots that simply disappear between films, never to be seen or heard from again. So, in honour of those Autobots that are MIA, let’s roll out the Top 5 Movie Autobots that Disappeared.

#5 – Jolt

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Jolt is perhaps the most unknown Autobot of the movie franchise (that actually appears in the films, at least) as he was a last-minute addition to Revenge of the Fallen and so gets very little screentime. His most notable scene is when he uses his electric powers to fuse Jetfire’s warm corpse to Optimus Prime’s back so he can use the rusty afterburners to defeat the Fallen, but after the second film, he is never seen again. Since Chevrolet were really pushing his alt-mode – the Chevloret Volt – at the time, perhaps they had something to do with his sudden last-minute inclusion into the script – after all, in what little screen time Jolt gets, he is often in vehicle mode. Unlike other one-shot Revenge of the Fallen Autobots like the Arcee sisters, Jolt is never seen being injured or killed in the film. The Transformers movie comics would do Jolt the justice of giving him a heroic death at the hands of Shockwave at some point before Dark of the Moon, but since this was not included as part of the movie itself, Jolt is still considered MIA as far as most of those that care are aware.

Transformers Revenge of the Fallen Skids and Mudflap

#4 – Skids and Mudflap

It would be hard not to mention the infamous twins having just referred to their debut film, particularly as they are a notable case when it comes to missing Autobots – eagle-eyed fans have noticed that Skids and Mudflap do actually appear in the third film, albeit in a brief scene in which all the Autobots drive into their home base in their vehicle modes, but aside from that they are totally absent with no explanation. Apprently the twins were set to appear in the film until as late as early shooting began, as they had received concept art and even toy models for an update appearance for Dark of the Moon, but were clearly cut at the last minute. Once again, the vigilant folk that write and draw the Transformers movie comics included a death scene for them at the hands of Sentinel Prime in the third film adaptation, and quite a heroic one too. As for why they were cut from the movie in the first place, it might have something to do with their overwhelmingly negative reception as racist stereotypes, but that lesson clearly didn’t sink in completely with Bay as racist cartoonish stereotypes would go on to become a staple of the franchise from the second film onwards.

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#3 – Roadbuster

One of the Wreckers introduced in Dark of the Moon, Roadbuster was the loudmouth Scottish Autobot who, along with his teammates Leadfoot and Topspin, crewed the Autobot’s only spacecraft, the Xantium. Following the strange time-jump between the third and fourth films that saw a radical shift in tone (and cast), many Autobots went missing and are presumed to be killed at the hands of the vicious Cemetary Wind – with emphasis on the word ‘presumed’. We see evidence that Humans were responsible for the death of Leadfoot via camera footage in Age of Extinction, and Topspin is seen to be alive in The Last Knight – but poor Roadbuster is never seen again. Some fans have pointed out that several of the KSI drones seen in the fourth film bear a resemblance to Roadbuster, implying that he may have been among the first victims of the Transformer Purge and his ‘Cybertronium’ was harvested to make Oreo robots, though this is unconfirmed. Although most movie fans assume that this Autobot’s road has long since been busted, his official status remains as Missing In Action.

#2 – Mirage

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Another prominent Autobot who disappeared after Dark of the Moon is Mirage, the blade-wielding red Ferrari who actually received a fair amount of screen time in the film, killing Hatchet during the highway chase and taking part in (and surviving) the final battle. However, following this, he is neither seen not heard from again. Like Roadbuster, several fans assume that he may have been an early casualty of Cemetary Wind’s purge of the Autobots and Decepticons on Earth following Dark of the Moon, as several of the KSI drones seem to feature his trademark blade weapons and sleek design – particularly Stinger. Interestingly, it was originally planned for Mirage to meet his maker near the climax of the third film, instead of poor Que, as it was originally scripted for Starscream to make mincemeat out of him before using his head as a puppet, for some reason. As Que took the literal bullet instead, and there are no further appearances to explain what happened to our Ferrari friend, Mirage’s fate remains unknown.

Honourable Mention – Trench

Autobot Trench from Transformers: The Last Knight

‘Trench’ is the name given to a Constructicon-turned-Autobot who appears in The Last Knight for about forty-five seconds before disappearing completely, never to be seen again. He is included here as an honourable mention as he doesn’t disappear between films, and the fact that he vanishes is not due to lazy writing – Trench was one of many Transformer characters introduced in the fifth film to make the world seem more populated by factionless or disparate refugees – a welcome change, even if it was too little too late. Trench, therefore, is likely a Decepticon who managed to survive the events of all the movies and eventually gave up on combat and joined the Autobot hideout crew in their junkyard. He is seen transforming to help Hound create a diversion to stop Megatron from discovering Cade, and so he more than likely met a final end in the fifth film. Nonetheless, as his fate was never shown, his status is still MIA.

Autobot Sideswipe from Transformers: Dark of the Moon

#1 – Sideswipe

Arguably the most prominent Autobot to simply ‘disappear’ without a trace between films, Sideswipe was a rare example of a well-liked fan favourite Autobot character that did not debut in the first film – of all the ‘disposable’ Autobots introduced later in the series, he gets by far the most screentime. He is perhaps best known for his role in the opening sequence of Revenge of the Fallen, in which he chases and kills Sideways in a dramatic fashion only to do nothing for the rest of the film. In Dark of the Moon, he helps Ironhide kill the Dreads and survives the final battle, but is never seen again after that. Allegedly he was originally to be confirmed dead in Age of Extinction, either through Cemetary Wind’s strange Autobot hit-list playing cards or during the scene in which the Autobots mourn Leadfoot. Either way, he is still MIA, and of all the Autobots to slip off the radar during the production of the live-action film series, Sideswipe is perhaps the most unusual. After all, there is no clear reason why he was never either killed on-screen or featured alive in a later film, as he was a popular character and was about as close as the series ever got to a suitable replacement for Jazz, so for him to simply vanish between films is particularly strange. On the other hand, if this list has proven anything, it’s that the movies use a revolving door technique for their Autobot casting, likely to maximise toy sales, because that is what Transformers is all about, apparently.

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Transformers – How Did Michael Bay Screw Up Starscream?

Starscream. The name has almost become an adjective in itself for characters that are traitorous, two-faced, sycophantic or conniving. Not only has the original Starscream been reinvented many times throughout the various iterations of the Transformers franchise, but characters in other shows, films and video games have taken inspiration from him. Starscream is certainly one of the most recognisable from the original series alongside Optimus Prime, Megatron and Bumblebee and almost every iteration of the character has been resoundingly popular with the fanbase. However, oddly enough, the Michael Bay Transformers films managed to perform the seemingly impossible – they managed to screw up Starscream.

One might ask how, since the logical thing for the film series to do would be to do what it did with almost every other Transformers character – have them be an almost exact carbon copy of their G1 personality, with almost none of the character development. In the first Transformers film, however, Starscream seems to be just like any other Decepticon – he lacks the iconic voice, he displays no traitorous intent whatsoever, and all we are really told about the character is that he often fails Megatron – and we only know that thanks to a single line during their only on-screen conversation in the first film in which Megatron says “You fail me yet again, Starscream.” So essentially, going off the first film alone, Starscream comes across as just another of Megatron’s incompetent lackeys. In the after-credits sequence, we see Starscream blasting off into space – which was obviously sequel-bait, but at least gave the audience something to remember him for.

Come Revenge of the Fallen, however, and suddenly things have changed dramatically. Now having inexplicably gained his G1 voice to replace the alien rasp he spoke with in the first film, Starscream is again bullied and kicked around by Megatron for no real reason – he is annoyed that Starscream took the mantle of Decepticon leader, but given the fact that Megatron was dead and rotting at the bottom of the ocean, and that the Fallen had asked Starscream to raise a hatchling army, this seems a flimsy excuse for abuse. A similar issue plagues Dark of the Moon, as Starscream seems to be loyal, if a little sychophantic, and yet Megatron still treats him like dirt. One would think that, with so many of his soldiers being killed in every film, Megatron would actually grow to appreciate Starscream – not for his unwavering devotion despite the constant failure of Megatron’s plans, but simply for surviving this long.

Having said that, Starscream’s impressive survival streak is brought to a sudden and jarring end in the final act of the third film, as he is unceremoniously killed off by Sam, of all people. Starscream’s death is one of several in the third film that were included when the filmmakers assumed that the third Transformers would be the last – as a result, every single Decepticon is killed, even Megatron, and although other incarnations of Starscream had a knack for returning from the dead, it would seem that the movie-universe Starscream is dead for good this time. Looking back on the character’s presentation in the three movies in which he appears, it is obvious that he was grossly mishandled – like many other classic characters in the live-action movies – but the real question is: how? How is it possible to screw up such a tried-and-tested, almost cookie-cutter character as Starscream?

To answer that question, we must first look at the wider issue of how the villains of the Transformers films, particularly the Decepticon characters, are used. As alluded to in How to Fix Michael Bay’s Transformers Films – Part Two: Decepticontinuity, the writers of these films were obviously not concerned with how effectively the villains were presented – as far as they were concerned, the names ‘Megatron’ and ‘Starscream’ held enough brand recognition in themselves that audiences would project their own recollections of the characters onto them. As a result, hardly any effort is put into actually establishing the motivations, personalities or conflicts of the villains aside from what is absolutely essential to make the framework of the story. In other words, the villains are only developed when the writers realise they absolutely have to be, and as a result they all come across as one-dimensional.

Starscream is as treacherous as ever in G1, but is he as well-established in the movies? The short answer is no, the long answer can be found at Sacred Icon
In G1, Starscream was known for his continuous attempts to betray or overthrow Megatron throughout the series that firmly established his character in the minds of the audience

Starscream is the perfect example of this – we never see or even hear about any treacherous ideas that he might have, the writers just have Megatron constantly refer to him as ‘treacherous’ despite there being no evidence for this. This uninspired ‘tell-don’t-show’ method of storytelling wouldn’t seem out of place in a Star Wars Prequel, and it even continues after Starscream’s death – the appearance of his decapitated head in The Last Knight (despite the fact it was blown up in Dark of the Moon) and the fact that Megatron still refers to him as ‘treacherous’ showcases just how little the writers cared about the character. Even a relatively generic and by-the-books depiction of Starscream, such as the version seen in Transformers: Animated, is leagues ahead of the Starscream seen in the movies.

Hopefully this article has shed some light on how Michael Bay managed to screw up Starscream in the Transformers films. To read more deconstruction of the Michael Bayverse, click the links down below. Be sure to leave a like if you want to read more Transformers content!

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How to Fix Michael Bay’s Transformers Films – Part Three: Good Plots in Disguise

Welcome to the next piece in a new sub-series of ‘How to Fix’, revolving around the monumental task of fixing the Transformers movies, which started in 2007 with Transformers and have since become infamous for their paper-thin character development, over-dependence on CGI and racist or otherwise offensive content. Since fixing such an infamously bad franchise can hardly be done in just over one thousand words, this ‘How to Fix’ feature has been broken down into parts, and each part has been broken down into segments. Part Two focused on the mishandling of many of the series’ villains, particularly relating to continuity, and this carries over into this piece focusing on the various plot devices, MacGuffins, and other contrivances used in the series.

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The Allspark and the Matrix

As MacGuffins go, the Allspark isn’t half bad – it is basically the lifegiver for Transformers, at least that is how it is depicted, and for the first two films it is a very important factor in the stories even after its destruction. If the films has continued to revolve specifically around the Allspark or the knowledge it contains, then the series would be much more cohesive. For all its flaws, Revenge of the Fallen does at least try to continue the importance of the Allspark by having the plot kick off by the discovery of two surviving shards of the cube, but by Dark of the Moon the Allspark is all but forgotten, replaced by the Matrix of Leadership which Optimus acquires in the second film. Had it been better explained that the Allspark power had been somehow transferred to the Matrix then this would explain how it can be used to revive the dead, but this still does not explain why Optimus does not use the Matrix to create more Autobots, or revive dead ones like Jazz and Jetfire. The later films decide to simply write out the Matrix altogether, which although servicing the plot does little to expand the continuity.

Ultimately, this is a symptom of poor pre-planning – undoubtedly the Transformers films were not planned in advance, and each one was essentially a standalone project – this explains other discrepancies between films, such as the designs of the Transformers changing or the physics of the universe fundamentally shifting – for example, do Transformers bleed blood or Energon? Had the films been better planned, undoubtedly the Allspark would have made a return as implied in dialogue from Revenge of the Fallen, and Cybertron would be remade allowing the Decepticons to return home with the Autobots fortifying Earth, in a similar fashion to the cartoon series. However, the lack of continuity means that this never transpired, and unfortunately the mainline Transformers movie series suffered as a result.

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Rewriting History

Another fault that many later Transformers films suffered from was the repeated attempts to rewrite history, by either incorporating Transformers into Human mythology and lore (which is nonsense) or implying that Transformers either created, relocated or at the very least interacted with ancient humans. Although having Transformers exist as an ancient race that were once active on Earth as a plot device would work for the plot of one film, perhaps for justifying the unearthing of a hidden Decepticon army or the Matrix as in the original film. However, each and every film uses this motif in some form for each of their MacGuffins. The Allspark is buried in Hoover Dam, the Matrix is entombed in Egypt, the Pillars are buried with Sentinel on the moon and the fourth and fifth films go so far as to imply that the Earth itself is either a creation of or the host for an ancient race of Transformers. The effect is dulled by the fact that each and every major event in Earth’s history is connected in some way to Transformers – the extinction of the dinosaurs, stonehenge, the pyramids – even the moon landing – so by Transformers 6 the audience would not be surprised if it was revealed that the Transformers were somehow responsible for Brexit.

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The ‘Chosen One’

As if a constant use of different plot devices wasn’t bad enough, many of the films also try to imply a ‘Chosen One’ prophecy either with Sam, Cade, or Bumblebee – but again, like the MacGuffin complaint, this trope becomes far less effective the more it is used. However, the first film does a good job of veering away from this and opting instead for the ‘coming of age’ story for Sam. This is maintained in the third film too with his arc of being ‘the Messenger’, a role he eventually decides he fills perfectly. Overall, though he is a strange character indeed, Sam is possibly one of the best things about the series, as he is well acted by Shia LaBeouf and is generally a likeable character. Unfortunately, one of his central arcs – his relationship with Mikaela – was dashed when Megan Fox was dropped from Dark of the Moon, and although Shia is at his best in the third film, the character of Sam was dropped in favour of Cade. In an ideal world, both characters would exist simultaneously in the films and fill similar roles to Sparkplug and Spike from the original cartoon series.

If a ‘Chosen One’ prophecy concerning Optimus was fully fleshed out, that would perhaps be the only version of this trope that audiences would accept – the idea that, as a Prime, Optimus has a specific duty or role to fill that he is destined or otherwise obliged to fulfil. This idea is ham-fistedly shoved into Revenge of the Fallen with the idea that ‘only a Prime can defeat the Fallen’, but that plot thread is immediately concluded at the end of that film, and by Dark of the Moon the importance of Optimus’ rank is diminished somewhat by the inclusion of Sentinel Prime. Again, it comes down to poor planning – had all five films been planned out in advance, the series might have carried a Chosen One plot concerning Optimus with some degree of effectiveness. As it is, due to the mishandling of the franchise and a lack of basic cohesion, each attempt to use a ‘Chosen One’ plotline involving destiny or a prophecy came across as a feeble attempt to give the series a deep backstory when in reality, the audience is well aware that each new film is  essentially a cash-grab, and at this point and any attempt to effective translate the heart and soul of the original Transformers cartoon into movie form has long since been squandered. Narratively, the series lies in ruins – and although commercially the franchise has been a huge success, particularly in China, for most fans the series has been a total disappointment, and no amount of sequels can fix an inherently broken backstory or inspire any kind of optimism in a generation of jaded fans.

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Conclusion

For for those fans who were initially invested in the Transformers movies, however, all hope is not lost. With the recent release of Bumblebee, the series seems to have initiated a form of ‘soft reboot’, with reshoots to the film including a redesigned Cybertron and various classic G1-inspired characters that seems to effective ‘re-write’ the backstory of the first Transformers film. Overall, though it was fun while it lasted, it seems Michael Bay’s disjointed Transformers series has come to an end, with five movies each as bizarre as the last, but from it seems to have sprung a glimmer of hope for Transformers fans that a new movie series spearheaded by people who appreciate the classic series and want to bring the nostalgic iconography to a new generation. We can only hope that new films in the series learn from the mistakes of their predecessors, and improve the quality of the films to rival high-quality cinematic universes like Star Wars and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

At the end of the day, attempting to fix the Michael Bay Transformers series was always going to be an impossible task. But by breaking down the flaws into these individual sections, hopefully fans can read this review and agree that, in the future, any Transformers cinematic endeavour should be pre-planned, staffed by people who appreciate the series and able to tell a unique story to the same quality of other shows and games in the Transformers franchise.

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How to Fix Michael Bay’s Transformers Films – Part Two: Decepticontinuity

Welcome to the next piece in a new sub-series of ‘How to Fix’, revolving around the monumental task of fixing the Transformers movies, which started in 2007 with Transformers and have since become infamous for their paper-thin character development, over-dependence on CGI and racist or otherwise offensive content. Since fixing such an infamously bad franchise can hardly be done in just over one thousand words, this ‘How to Fix’ feature has been broken down into parts, and each part has been broken down into segments, Part One dealt with several missed opportunities of the series’ basic foundation, including the odd characterisation of Optimus Prime and the use of classic characters for cheap shock value deaths in later sequels. This piece opens with another great missed opportunity that could have made the Transformers movies great:

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Megatron

Although there is very little wrong with Megatron as he is presented in the first film, gradually, like Optimus, his original character begins to fall away and is replaced with an aimless idiot. For a start, it has to be asked – what was the actual reason for Megatron being on Earth? Each film gives a different reason. Initially he’s there because he was hunting the Allspark, but it is later implied that he was there at the behest of the Fallen, and then later, to meet Sentinel Prime. Overall it seems Megatron is treated as whatever the film needs him to be as the cackling villain, and rather than have him come up with a devious scheme in each film in a similar fashion to G1, instead the Decepticon leader often plays second fiddle to other evil Transformers, to the extent that he has less than ten minutes of screen time in the entire of Dark of the Moon.

Ultimately, like so many other things in this iteration of the iconic franchise, Megatron was wasted. The greatest tragedy was that Hugo Weaving was great as Megatron, and he steals every scene he is in and clearly had a great time recording his lines, which enhances his performance. In fact, it is safe to say that Megatron is one of the best things about the series as a whole. The issue with him is that he barely features, and when he is featured, he is usually playing the Starscream role to some other generic villain, which as a knock-on effect damages Starscream’s character as he is given very little to do in these movies and the audience has to be outright told by Megatron that Starscream is ‘traitorous’ because that’s what he was like in G1, but the film spends absolutely no time establishing this.

Still, back to Megatron, the concept of another Cybertronian villain working alongside Megatron only to be betrayed or otherwise undone by the leader of a faction that literally define themselves around their abilities of deception would have been fantastic, and we see an inkling of this in Dark of the Moon, in which Megatron eventually backstabs Sentinel Prime in a final moment of glory before being unceremoniously beheaded by the power-mad Optimus. However, Megatron’s overall motives and even basic character lose even more focus in the final two movies, as the character becomes Galvatron in Transformers 4 only to the revert back to Megatron in Transformers 5, and by that point it was clear that the writers held no regard for even basic continuity between films.

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The Decepticons

In the original Transformers cartoon, the Decepticons were as diverse and recognisable as the Autobots, which was essential as the series was designed to sell as many toys as possible, and it stood to reason that kids would want a diverse and recognisable cast of villains in their favourite franchise. However, Michael Bay didn’t seem to think so, as when producing the new Transformers films he not only limited the Decepticons in terms of their character but also their visual design. The original film does, to its credit, attempt to make each Decepticon distinctive from one another, but even as early as the second film any hope of Decepticon characters beyond Megatron, Starscream and Soundwave getting any development at all were dashed as the producers opted to make the Decepticons a faceless generic army of evil-looking robots – most of the Decepticons in the second film don’t even possess vehicle modes.

In similar fashion to the shortcomings of having a new villain depose Megatron in each film, the movies also suffer from ‘trailer syndrome’ – the idea that each film has to have a bigger and more powerful Decepticon than the last in order to put something explosive in the trailer. The second Transformers film started this with a combination of ‘Wheelbot’ and Devastator – both of whom share a combined screen time of about eight minutes in the actual film, yet make up the majority of the trailers. Transformers 3 had Shockwave and the Driller, which again appeared very briefly in the film and were easily dispatched. Unfortunately, in a fashion similar to how the films used the Autobots for cheap emotive deaths, the iconic Decepticon characters were also squandered for cheap action sequences. Transformers 3 is particularly bad for this, as Shockwave, Soundwave, Starscream and Megatron are all dispatched too soon for the sake of an action sequence.

But it isn’t just the main Decepticons that suffer the wrath of Michael Bay’s total disregard for character – as the films progressed the once threatening Decepticon forces were reduced to mindless fodder. In the first Transformers film, total of six Decepticons are featured with each having a unique body type and vehicle form. Most take part in the final battle, during which a lot of time is dedicated to the humans and what remains of the Autobots figuring out each individual Decepticon’s weakness and taking it out. However, by Transformers 3 the Decepticons have inexplicably obtained an army of soldiers despite Transformers 2 asserting that they are running short of energon and that the ‘hatchlings’ keep dying. Again, note that the Decepticons seem to be driven by desperation in these films – rather than by a lust for conquest as in the original series. The fact that Optimus seems completely indifferent to the fact that his race is nearing extinction and Megatron just wants to do something about it makes the audience question the basic foundations of the story.

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Each New Bot on the Block

As previously discussed, this franchise suffers badly from the repeated use of the ‘bigger baddie’ – the idea that the villain you thought was the strongest and most powerful villain in the series is surpassed by an even bigger villain. The problem with re-using this idea is that it quickly becomes cheapened – to recap, Megatron is upstaged by the Fallen in Transformers 2, Sentinel Prime in Transformers 3, Lockdown in Transformers 4 and Quintessa in Transformers 5 with no explanation given as to why, after four attempts at working with another evil Transformer, Megatron doesn’t decide to just go it alone for once. The series even went to the trouble of reformatting Megatron into Galvatron for the fourth film, which would have been the prime opportunity to bring him back as the main villain for the series, except his role is reduced to a lackey for Attinger and eventually a minor threat compared to Lockdown.

The repeated sidelining of Megatron coupled with the films lack of basic continuity not only makes Megatron’s true motives for being on Earth unclear but also contributes massively to the decay of the threat posed by each film’s newest Decepticon army. Despite the loss of fan-favourites like Ironhide and Ratchet to the new big bad of Transformers 3 and 4, respectably, the true irony is that even with Leonard Nimoy voicing Sentinel Prime and the inherently interesting idea of a faction-less villain in Lockdown the films fall short of realising the potential that Megatron himself had as a villain. In many ways, the character could have stayed dead at the end of the first film and it would have made very little difference to later films.

Though it cannot be said that Sentinel Prime and Lockdown weren’t good villains, others like The Fallen were less than impressive, and Shockwave may as well have not even been in Dark of the Moon since he did absolutely nothing and then died. If it wasn’t for the less effective usurper villains, the few good ones would be far more effective.

Next in this series is Part 3 of How to Fix – Transformers, in which we shall discuss the continual re-use of another lazy writing trope, the ‘chosen one’ prophecy, as well as several others, with the recurring theme of each film starting with a ‘reset’ of sorts.

Next: Part Three – Good Plots in Disguise

 

How to Fix Michael Bay’s Transformers Films – Part One: More Than Meets the CGI

Welcome to a new sub-series of ‘How to Fix’, revolving around the monumental task of fixing the Transformers movies, which started in 2007 with Transformers and have since become infamous for their paper-thin character development, over-dependence on CGI and racist or otherwise offensive content. Since fixing such an infamously bad franchise can hardly be done in just over one thousand words, this ‘How to Fix’ feature has been broken down into parts, and each part has been broken down into segments, starting with what is arguably the biggest misstep in the Bay universe.

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Optimus Prime

The most glaring problem with the movies is Optimus Prime and how he is depicted. Gone is the wise and principled Prime from the cartoon series and in his place we are given an imposter wearing the voice and outward personality of his namesake as a mask to disguise his violent and sociopathic tendencies. We see these traits come out when this Optimus has any combat scene following Revenge of the Fallen, but in fairness, Optimus Prime in the first Transformers movie is a fairly accurate representation of the character, even down to his brutal decapitation of Bonecrusher on the highway – which in the context of the film was entirely justified, as Optimus had to prioritise saving the people on the highway.

However, in just about every combat situation from the second film onwards, Optimus Prime is a savage psychopathic brawler who seems to delight in mutilating his victims to death in a variety of grisly fashions. Gone is the wise mantra of ‘freedom is the right of all sentient beings’ that the original Optimus Prime stood by, as the Michael Bay version of Optimus has ripped people’s faces off, torn someone’s spine out with an axe, and shot a defenseless prisoner in the head with a double-barreled shotgun at point blank range. However, as all of these acts are committed against Decepticons, the films act like there is no moral baggage on Optimus’ shoulders whatsoever.

In fact, Optimus seems to be almost callously indifferent to the deaths of not only the vast majority of his species, but even his fellow comrades, as although he briefly laments Jazz’s death in the first film, not a tear is shed for Ironhide, Wheeljack or Arcee, and although he does seem appalled by the death of Ratchet in the fourth film, he uses that as an excuse to go on yet another violent rampage. Whilst Megatron has consistently voiced his desire to ensure the survival of their species throughout all five films, Optimus is insistent on stopping him, despite having no plan of his own of how to actually go about restoring Cybertron. But this brings us to the next biggest problem with the film series:

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The Autobots

The Autobots in the Michael Bay Transformers films are very strange indeed. One would assume, given what is at this point common knowledge about the Transformers series, that the Autobots would take the place of main characters and primary heroes of the series – but this is not true. The Autobots play little more than an assisting role to the heroes for all five films, and whilst Bumblebee and Optimus are given more screen time, Bumblebee is treated more like a pet and, as previously discussed, Optimus is a maniac. In the original cartoon series, characters like Ironhide, Ratchet, Jazz and Wheeljack were developed characters with their own relationships, personalities and roles within the team. In the Michael Bay movies, the Autobots are cardboard cutouts with silly voices that are in the film because the branding requires that they are there.

Throughout the entire franchise so far, aside from the cases of Optimus and Bumblebee, no attempt is made to develop any of the Autobot characters in any way, and eventually the surviving two Autobots from the first film – Ironhide and Ratchet – ended up being wasted in the exact same way that they had been in the original G1 movie – for cheap shock value deaths when the writers couldn’t think of any other way of making the film’s villains threatening. Whilst killing main characters is a good way of making the audience hate a villain, a prerequisite of this is that the character killed is actually known to the audience, and not a faceless drone. The same logic can be applied to Star Wars’s Order 66 scene – it is only emotive to superfans who know the characters from wider lore, but to the average viewer it is practically meaningless.

There is also several consistency issues with the Autobots – some appear and disappear between films with no explanation, and others appear for the first time but act as if they have been around since the beginning – either way, it is safe to say that there is a reason that Bumblebee and Optimus are the only Autobots that the audience remotely cares about – they are the only two that the film bothers to do anything interesting with, despite their potential. A reboot of the Transformers movie series should definitely focus more on the Autobots and less on the Human characters. Speaking of which:

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The Humans

Though it has been said many times, the Transformers movies focus far too much on the Human characters. At the end of the day, however, this was an inevitability – when making this kind of cartoon series into a live action film there are dozens of things that need to be taken into account, like how the average moviegoer is going to be able to relate to the film and how much money would have to be spent on CGI to animate the Autobots, if they were the main focus. However, just because there are logical reasons why the Humans have to be at least one of the main focuses of the franchise, doesn’t mean that the Humans that are featured have to be completely insane, immature social outcasts.

Let’s face it, the vast majority of the human characters depicted in this franchise are unhinged – they are either prone to constant inane chatter, buffoonish bumbling or yelps of fear – and Sam Witwicky is arguably the worst, being guilty of all three. The vast majority of characters get so little time for development that they are presented as obvious stereotypes, and though the Humans get far more screen time than the Autobots this is squandered on pointless awkward scenes – one of the worst being the scenes of Sam at his job in the third film – that completely undermine the point of the movies. It would hardly be an issue of the majority of the run time was dedicated to the Humans if the time that was spent on the Autobots wasn’t so wasted, but the final nail in this series’ coffin is that the time spent with the Humans is wasted too, so the whole thing comes across as a gigantic waste of everyone’s time.

Next in this series of completely objective and constructive articles is Part 2 of How to Fix – Transformers, in which we shall discuss Megatron, the Decepticons and the ‘Big Baddie’ syndrome that the films grew to suffer from.

Next: Part Two: Decepticontinuity