‘Trans­form­ers’: From worst to least-bad

USA TODAY US Edition - - MONEY - Brian Truitt @bri­antru­itt

They might have an abun­dance of ro­bots in dis­guise, but the Trans­form­ers have not been able to hide their ter­ri­ble­ness. Call­ing the big-screen ver­sions of the 1980s car­toon/toy fran­chise a mixed bag would be gen­er­ous — quite a few have been ab­so­lute garbage fires. Au­to­bot main­stays Op­ti­mus Prime and Bum­ble­bee have had hu­man al­lies in stars Shia LaBeouf, Me­gan Fox and most re­cently Mark Wahlberg, yet no one goes to a

Trans­form­ers movie to see the peo­ple. It’s all about the ex­plo­sions, heroic Au­to­bots punch­ing evil De­cep­ti­cons, and ro­bots trans­form­ing into cars, planes, tanks and stuff. The new Trans­form­ers: The Last

Knight is in the­aters now, so let’s see how it fits into the canon with the de­fin­i­tive rank­ing of Trans­form­ers movies:

1 ‘TRANS­FORM­ERS: THE MOVIE’ (1986)

Per­haps it was the era or the fact that Trans­form­ers just work bet­ter in an­i­ma­tion, but the car­toon movie gets ev­ery­thing right that the live-ac­tion movies don’t: ro­bot char­ac­ters we care about, a story balanc­ing grand mythol­ogy and emo­tional stakes, and a su­per-rad sound­track. Plus, not only did they have the gi­ant mech­a­nized ca­jones to kill Op­ti­mus Prime — a move that shocked an en­tire gen­er­a­tion of kid fans — but they also put to­gether an all-time great cast in­clud­ing Ni­moy and Or­son Welles, who voiced a planet-eat­ing su­pervil­lain. Michael Bay only wishes he had that.

2‘ TRANS­FORM­ERS’ (2007)

The first live-ac­tion film is the best be­cause it keeps things sim­ple. The Au­to­bots want to re­build their cos­mic home of Cy­bertron, their war against the De­cep­ti­cons deepens when the vil­lains want to turn Earth’s ma­chin­ery against hu­mans, and LaBeouf ’s Sam is an or­di­nary high schooler thrown into the mid­dle of this con­flict who also gets a shot at ro­mance with his crush Mikaela (Fox). It’s not Os­car-wor­thy or any­thing, but at least makes for a fun pop­corn flick.

3‘ TRANS­FORM­ERS: DARK OF THE MOON’ (2011)

Take away LaBeouf ’s char­ac­ter and his job woes ( be­ing the Au­to­bots’ mas­cot doesn’t pay the bills!), and Dark of the Moon is at least kind of de­cent. The story ties in the moon land­ing with the on­go­ing strug­gles be­tween Au­to­bots and De­cep­ti­cons, un­leashes the wicked-cool Shock­wave and tosses in a lit­tle drama with the ad­di­tion of Sentinel Prime, Op­ti­mus’ pre­de­ces­sor, who is re­vived and be­trays the good guys. (Leonard Ni­moy’s voic­ing of Sentinel Prime marks his fi­nal ma­jor film role be­fore he died in 2015.)

4‘ TRANS­FORM­ERS: AGE OF EX­TINC­TION’ (2014)

Even Wahlberg can only do so much to save a plot re­volv­ing around an or­ga­ni­za­tion that cre­ates its own evil Trans­form­ers to bat­tle our me­chan­i­cal pro­tag­o­nists and a trip to China whose lone pur­pose seemed to be boost­ing in­ter­na­tional box of­fice. Ex

tinc­tion rein­tro­duces fan-fa­vorite Di­nobots from the old car­toons, turns one of its main hu­man char­ac­ters to lit­eral ash, and orig­i­nates a metal called Trans-formium, which im­pres­sively man­ages to make Avatar’s un­ob­ta­nium sound much less stupid.

5‘ TRANS­FORM­ERS: THE LAST KNIGHT’ (2017)

Bat­man bat­tling Su­per­man was dis­con­cert­ing. Su­per­hero bros Cap­tain Amer­ica vs. Iron Man seemed strange. But Op­ti­mus Prime beat­ing the En­er­gon out of his old pal Bum­ble­bee is just plain wrong in the lat­est in­stall­ment. Bay re-cre­ates Ar

maged­don with trans­form­ing ro­bots — with Prime break­ing bad and be­tray­ing hu­man­ity — which presents a core ques­tion: Who are these movies meant to at­tract? Not adults who grew up with Op­ti­mus and Bum­ble­bee as friends till the end.

6‘ TRANS­FORM­ERS: RE­VENGE OF THE FALLEN’ (2009)

This is not only a bad movie by

Trans­form­ers stan­dards but it’s one of the worst movies ever, pe­riod. LaBeouf ’s col­lege kid Sam Witwicky is se­duced by a sexy ro­bot spy in a truly un­sexy se­quence; one gi­gan­tic De­cep­ti­con has a wreck­ing ball for gen­i­talia; another Trans­former is so old he needs a walker; and two Au­to­bots are racial stereo­types gone wrong. A stupid plot about an an­cient De­cep­ti­con har­vest­ing the Earth’s sun is prob­a­bly the least worst as­pect of this disaster.

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