The article contains affiliate links. I watched Bumblebee for the first time the other day, and it got me thinking about the Transformers film series as a whole. You see, when Michael Bay released the first movie in the franchise way back in 2007, pretty much everyone thought it was great – despite those who took issue with the robot redesigns.
Subsequent films received little in the way of critical acclaim with some reviewers going so far as saying that each sequel was the worst film release of its respective year. Then Bumblebee came along and while not performing anywhere near as well financially, managed to right the wrongs of the franchise.
Of course many in the film critiquing world point the blame firmly at Michael Bay’s direction and that’s not an entirely unfair thing to do. After all, Bumblebee received critical adoration and was directed by Travis Knight – not Bay. All of the Michael Bay-helmed Transformers films suffered from choppy editing, blatant sexism, racism and they even entered cinemas unfinished in parts, so sloppy was their construction!
With that in mind, I took it upon myself to retrospectively look back at all the films in the series and review them once again. Remember, this is my honest thoughts as a film reviewer today, not back when they were released! Without further ado, Autobots, rollout!
Michael Bay’s first foray into the Transformers universe is a film that, despite numerous flaws, remains entertaining, visually spectacular and well cast. Shia LeBeouf’s quirky stutters hadn’t started to grate, and Peter Cullen’s return as the voice of Optimus Prime remains a highlight of the film. The action is choppily edited, something that would become a Transformers hallmark, but it still has all the traits of a fine summer blockbuster.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
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Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)
In 2009, Bay released Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on the unsuspecting cinema public. An absolutely absurd second outing that retconned some of the events of the previous film, while also managing to make Shia LeBeouf insufferable, it was a hot mess. It also introduced ticket buyers to Mudflap and Skids, two racial stereotypes that didn’t go down well in the slightest. This was the low point of the franchise, until 2017 that is.
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Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)
By this point, the Transformers movies were making serious money at the box office. Dark of the Moon remains the most profitable, despite its incoherent title. After Megan Fox’s unfortunate comparison of Michael Bay to Hitler, she was dumped and replaced with Rosie Huntington-Whitely – this was not a good trade off. The final film to feature Shia LeBeouf, it improved on its predecessor but still features the trademark incomprehensible action sequences that we all know… and love…
⭐ ⭐ ⭐
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Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)
Ideas were getting stale at the end of Dark of the Moon so Bay decided to do away with the human cast, and it was the right thing to do. Mark Wahlberg is a welcome addition to the series and the CGI remains as top notch as ever. The main problem with Age of Extinction is that many fans felt they were sold a lie: the dinobots (who featured heavily in the film’s marketing) were only in the movie for the last 15 minutes. It’s also worth mentioning that the normally fabulous Stanley Tucci must have been paid rather handsomely for his peculiar turn as the film’s human antagonist.
⭐ ⭐ 1/2
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Transformers: The Last Knight (2017)
Now we are really scraping the barrel. If you want to take a good look at what money can do, check out Anthony Hopkins’ bizarre performance in Transformers: The Last Knight. Mark Wahlberg returns in yet another retconned story that inexplicably places the Transformers on earth during the time of King Arthur. The CGI is as crisp as ever but it’s a shame the action sequences look like they’ve been shot on a camera shoved in a washing machine. The C-3PO rip-off Cogsworth is a sight to behold too.
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Michael Bay is relegated to a Executive Producer role for Travis Knight’s Bumblebee. This strips things right back with traditional Transformers models and beautifully filmed action. This film has a real, central heart making the titular robot feel like a real character for the first time in the franchise’s history. It’s a must watch for all Transformers fans and newcomers alike. It’s not perfect, with the CGI lacking that polish we have come to expect from the series, and some of the humour falls flat, but Bumblebee is a fine film that is crafted with care and attention!
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
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Which Transformers movie is your favourite? Let us know in the comments box below! And be sure to check out more of our Franchise Reviews.