We’ve had 26 Autobots appear in 4 movies so far, so let’s take a look at their ranks and um, rank them. I know lists are subjective, but this is more of a refresher course on the many heroic robots that audiences were expected to embrace and root for. This is already depressing.
For the sake of brevity, some Autobots will be lumped together. SPOILERS AHEAD!
Mudflap and Skids
Easily the worst offenders here, the less said about them the better. Their only saving grace is they appear really early in Revenge of the Fallen, creating a helpful reminder to stop the movie and move on to something else.
Brains and Wheelie
These two served to fill the ‘annoying’ quota in Dark of the Moon, thanks to Mudflap and Skids being reduced to background extras in the third film. The two small robots had grating voices and were begging to be drop-kicked every second they were onscreen. When they flew solo, Wheelie was another blight in ROTF, while Brains was somewhat bearable in Age Of Extinction.
Fan-favorite Jazz was reduced to a cringe-inducing stereotype, one that owes his speech and body language to searching the “World Wide Web”. I’m pretty sure surfing the web was the filmmakers’ approach to crafting the character! The character’s death helped make Megatron look formidable in the first film, and that was Jazz’s biggest contribution.
I’m including this rambling old warhorse, because he did switch his allegiances from the Decepticons to the Autobots in ROTF. He helped Sam and Co. get halfway around the world, then left them to meander all over the desert for the second half of the film? Whatever. Jetfire’s corpse was a timely upgrade for Optimus though.
The Wreckers (Topspin, Leadfoot, and Roadbuster)
As if to atone for previous stereotypes, these three were introduced in DOTM. They had NASCAR vehicle modes (really), and Leadfoot had a beer belly, while Topspin boasted a mullet. All they needed were Jeff Foxworthy-esque redneck voices, but the trio were instead given thick British “football hooligan” accents. Apparently Leadfoot (the red one) appears in AOE, but I don’t recall seeing him.
Poor Arcee. A last-minute cut from the first film, she became an afterthought in the second film. As if to compensate, she was turned into a set of triplets for ROTF. The increase in numbers didn’t help, she/they were dispatched quickly at the end of ROTF, ensuring the Transformers would continue to be an all-boys club.
Jolt, Dino, and Que
I call these guys the Cameobots, because they had really brief roles that didn’t really amount to much. Jolt was a walking defibrillator and contrived tie-in to the eponymous Chevy electric car. Dino was a brief foot-soldier in DOTM with an Italian accent so brutal that even Nintendo was crying foul. The bizarre-looking Que made some gadgets for the human soldiers in DOTM, fulfilling his role as a needless homage to the James Bond character.
These two are essentially from the same mold. Not only do they both transform into Corvettes, but they are agile butt-kicking Autobots that you’d expect to be in films like these. If they have a failing, it’s their over-the-top cockiness.
Another divisive character, though personally I can buy into an alien robot that latched onto samurai lore, weird as that sounds. Also I’m 99.99% sure he had a helicopter mode for a brief time in AOE to accommodate a R/C toy manufacturer. Then again, all of these guys were created for the sole purpose of selling toys, so I shouldn’t get too uppity.
The Dinobots (Grimlock, Strafe, Slug, and Scorn)
Dinobots? More like Deus-Ex-Machinabots, amirite? Age of Extinction really sold audiences on the Dinobots, but they only appeared in the last 10 – 15 minutes of the film. No dialogue, and Grimlock got most of the screentime. I sort of wish they didn’t show up, resulting in an Autobot defeat and creating an Empire Strikes Back-type ending.
The only time I experienced surprise watching these films was Sentinel Prime’s heel turn in DOTM, probably because I wasn’t really paying attention to the film prior to its release. Leonard Nimoy’s voice acting gave Sentinel a lot of credibility, both as a former leader of the Autobots and as their eventual nemesis.
I really liked Hound, who served to replace Ironhide as the Autobot’s walking armory. He succeeded where many Autobots failed, in that he could provide some decent comic relief. I hope he gets more time to shine in Transformers 5 (or was he killed in AOE? I can’t remember).
One of the few to appear in all four films, though you’ll have to watch closely in ROTF and DOTM to notice him. I felt he was underutilized in all the films (every robot was), but he ranks highly for being one of the franchise’s mainstays. His death in AOE had some real weight to it, however that was mostly due to it being somewhat cruel in nature.
I’m doing my best to not make comparisons to the other incarnations of Optimus Prime, but the movie version is lacking on a few fronts. Sure, he’s a big bad-ass who is a force to be reckoned with, but he has many shortcomings too. For starters, he is dependent on humans like Sam or Marky Mark to be his guide to humanity, which is very distressing. For AOE I was hoping Optimus would be taken to task for the ending of DOTM (where he dispatched a truce-seeking Megatron — after being saved by Megatron — and laid waste to a defenseless and pleading Sentinel Prime), but instead the 4th film found Optimus on the wrong side of corporate shenanigans. Sigh. Anyways, Optimus is a big jerk.
The quintessential tough guy, through and through. Both vehicle and robot mode were intimidating, and I especially liked how they based his face design on a bull. Ironhide gets away with being crude and gratuitously violent, because no one is expecting him to be noble and heroic leader, a role that Optimus keeps fumbling with. Sorry, I can’t stop hating on that jerk Optimus Prime. Ironhide’s death in DOTM was somewhat fitting; he went down like Jesse James, shot in the back by a coward.
Of course Bee would be first on this list, his sole purpose is to be the one that audiences can relate to. Well, that was his purpose in the first 3 films; in AOE he was reduced to being a petulant child, while Optimus and Marky Mark got their bromance on. If you came across a parking lot filled with these 20+ Autobots in vehicle mode, I imagine most of you would choose Bumblebee, because that ‘bot has your back. If you prefer another Autobot at the top of your list then you are unequivocally wrong.
Well, it’s been fun looking back at these Autobots, half of whom were bearable while the rest were complete misfires. Not sure if I’ll cover the Decepticons, as those guys had greater numbers but far less screentime.