Way back in 1984, when you weren’t talking about energy transference between circuits (thank you GCSE Physics), “Transformers” referred to Hasbro’s popular convertible robot toy line and tie-in animated TV series.
Today, Transformers is one of the biggest blockbuster movie franchises on the block, the 14th most profitable of all time with over $5 billion at the worldwide box office (just behind Avatar and ahead of Despicable Me).
Seven live-action movies have been made to date, five of which have been overseen by producer-director Michael Bay before he handed the franchise keys over to up-and-coming directors. The initial film trilogy followed high school kid Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), who discovered Bumblebee and the heroic Autobots led by Optimus Prime hiding on Earth and was consequently drawn into their millennia-old war with the evil Decepticons, led by Megatron. For films four and five, the story shifted focus to single dad and inventor Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) and his aiding of the Autobots’ fight against new enemies around the world, both Transformer and human. Since then we have been following another generation of young heroes and their Autobot BFFs in a prequel/spinoff series.
But how do you even begin to rank over 1000 minutes of giant robots punching each other and causing catastrophic collateral damage on the human world in the process?
We here at The Film Magazine have chosen to give it a go. In this edition of Ranked, we’re ranking each of the live-action Transformers films from worst to best in terms of quality, entertainment and public perception, for this list: Live-Action Transformers Movies Ranked.
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7. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)
The second Transformers movie sees Sam Witwicky’s first year of college interrupted by the Autobots and Decepticons’ continuing war, all the while an ancient enemy, the Fallen, plots to harvest the energy of the Sun for power.
A lot of this film’s ills – the short production cycle, starting filming without a finished script – you can blame on the WGA Writer’s Strike of 2007-2008, but others you cannot. A rushed film does not equal a lazy film – the money is all on screen from the massive explosions to the brutal forest fight between Optimus and three Decepticons, to the alien robot testicles dangling in front of John Turturro’s face – but you just don’t care about any of this hokum, who’s involved or why.
Bay just pulled another alien Macguffin out of his exhaust pipe, added an unearned and easily reversible major character death, mixed each with two really racist robots and called it a day. Revenge of the Fallen is not engaging, you hate all the characters and every supposed joke makes you feel like your brain cells are leaking when you’re not being actively offended.
6. Transformers: The Last Knight (2017)
The fifth Transformers series entry sees Optimus Prime corrupted by his alien creator and pressed into service to drain Earth’s energy to restore the dead Transformer planet of Cybertron. Meanwhile, Cade Yeager (Wahlberg) and the Autobots search the Earth for the artefacts Merlin and King Arthur were given by the Transformers to defend the planet centuries ago.
With the minor achievement of being both overlong and rushed whenever it tries to explain anything, The Last Knight is quite a painful sit.
There’s a load of vague nonsense exposition to tell us why Arthurian characters are part of this world, these coming in the form another secret society who protected the secret of the Transformers and numerous recycled plot elements from the previous movies (not picking up loose plot threads, recycling them wholesale). Then, Optimus Prime goes evil for about five minutes, and it turns out that because Mark Wahlberg comes from a legendary bloodline he can wield a sword the size of a bus.
At least Anthony Hopkins is on hand to remind us that WWII was a thing that happened, and apparently Bumblebee took part and fought the Nazis.
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