Transformers: the Movie
Reviewed by Blackjack
”No sacrifice, no victory.”
Ah, the live-action movie. Anyone who knows me from the forums or have read some of the reviews I’ve done would know that I’ve got nothing but love for the live-action movie series, and this movie plays a huge part in my love for the movieverse, and Transformers in general. See, I am part of a different generation than the older fans – I have never even heard of what a ‘Transformer’ is when I was dragged into watching this movie.
I was quite blown away.
It was the beginning of my descent into madness throughout the various continuities, cartoons and comics that is the Transformers lore, but let’s not talk about that – let’s talk about this movie, because I know I’m going to ramble enough as it is.
It’s a pretty solid movie – barring a few pointless distractions like the hacker subplot that rather goes nowhere, Michael Bay does a great job introducing the Transformers world. Focusing on the story of a loser boy and his car is certainly an experience almost everyone can relate to, and as the world is slowly built up around us – not only from the point of view from Sam Witwicky, but also from the more suspenseful action scenes of soldiers battling the Decepticons, the world was slowly fleshed out. Concepts like Cybertron, the war between the Autobots and Decepticons, a secret government agent in Sector Seven and the life-giving Allspark are all handled pretty well, and the movie tells its own version of the Transformers lore. Overall the plot is pretty basic, with the few twists and turns thanks to Sector Seven, but overall it’s just a set-up to make soldiers fight evil robots, and have good robots pound evil robots into submission.
The real centerpiece of the movie, is, of course, not just the pretty well-told if generic plot, but rather the pretty epic CGI. From the very first scene when a helicopter lands and just… transforms into this giant, killer robot, the movie sets it tone for its extremely high bar of extremely realistic and complex CG robot models. I am just blown away by how real Blackout looks, how generally brilliant the transformation is, and it certainly puts every sci-fi robot bar none released before it look primitive. There are several places where it goofed up, of course – there was one point when Frenzy was hiding in robot mode on Air Force One and was obviously a prop puppet instead of a CGI, but other than that the CGI certainly impresses a lot. The robots look brilliant, realistic and generally all-around cool. It’s an extremely far leap from the blocky robots of the original cartoon. The fluid way they move, the way they interacted with the environment, the way the light shines off their metal… the Transformers look real, they look like they are interacting with the environment and the humans. Kudos for ILM and whoever is doing these robots. The most impressive visual for me had to be Scorponok just tunneling through the sand and jumping up and dragging people down to die, though – in addition to establishing how hard the Decepticons are to kill (Scorponok was just an attack dog, so to speak, after all) it’s just an impressive scene in general. Despite being relatively minimalist on any robot fight that isn’t part of the main plot there is never a point where the action scenes looked boring or terrible.
Bay really knows how to mix practical effects with CGI, since the real explosions done in, for example, the Scorponok scene as it bursts out of the ground looks truly realistic. All the action scenes look pretty wonderful. The Autobots coming in as meteors, crashing down and adapting alternate modes, the Allspark bringing to life those appliances like the Nokia, vehicle modes being used as effectively in combat… generally the effects both practical and computer-generated all look brilliant. The robots are truly meant to be shown in motion, though… there are so many moving parts and they're constantly moving, making screen-capping slightly difficult, but in exchange for that the robots move far more fluidly.
There are several scenes with humans that look rather grainy, but as I understand it, it's a desired effect from shaky-cam or lighting or whatever? It all but disappears in subsequent movies, though.
I don’t have any problems with any part of the movie – the hackers ended up being rather pointless, but they’re not entirely unentertaining, so I don’t really mind them. It was odd that Barricade disappeared, and both Ratchet and Jazz didn’t do much throughout the movie, and I personally wanted to see more Blackout fights because Blackout is awesome, but otherwise I thought the movie struck a good balance between action scenes and cooldown scenes. There’s humour in the thing, yes, though even as a kid I was never really bothered by the rather crude jokes. The masturbation one is the one that was really a bit cringe-y, but I don’t particularly find it horrible at all. The ‘sextant’ and ‘seamen’ puns flew over my head when I was a kid, and I found Bumblebee pissing on John Torturro bloody hilarious. It’s not random either, since we have established the scene with the dog pissing on Ironhide early on. So no, I don’t see vulgar humour as any problem in this movie – no more than any other movie of the same genre, anyway.
Sam Witwicky, played by Shia LaBeouf, is a wonderfully kooky and likable loser throughout the movie. I do love how he starts off just as this little dork trying to impress a pretty girl, but ends up getting thrust into a far larger war. Sam’s character growth as he gains confidence and enough courage to make the sacrifice, standing up to protect the Allspark even without a clear exit plan, and generally ending the battle by taking a third option to thrust the Allspark into Megatron instead of Optimus is pretty nice. Overall throughout this movie Sam is a pretty lively main character, full of energy, jumping from one place to the next and playing off really well against more stoic characters like Optimus Prime. The fact that he speaks a lot is also a nice contrast to the far mellower but equally quirky Mikaela and Bumblebee.
Mikaela Banes, played by Megan Fox, also serves as a pretty fun love interest. She’s not just eye candy like many other future female protagonists seen in the Bay films. She’s dealing with her father being a criminal, and certainly has some interesting self-esteem issues with how people would view her if that’s found out, and she generally comes off as a more interesting and human character. Also, unlike future movies Megan Fox isn’t as sexualized as she could – the infamous ‘bending over Bumblebee’ scene is sorta seen through Sam’s eyes and certainly makes sense via narrative. Also, unlike any other female leads in future sequels, Mikaela is the only one who really makes a stand on her own, first saving Sam from Frenzy by chainsawing his head off, and later on forming a combo with Bumblebee using the tow truck and taking out Brawl. I do find her one of the nicest female characters – she doesn’t have a lot of emotional baggage, yet she does ‘feminine’ and ‘not a damsel in distress’ in the same breath without having to resort to being a tomboy.
The two Autobots that are main characters here and indeed will continue to be the main Autobots are Bumblebee and Optimus Prime. Bumblebee is a fun little dude – it’s amazing just how emotive Bumblebee is by talking through his audio, and spending half his screentime as a car. Again, kudos to the visuals team for making Bumblebee so brilliantly emotive; throughout his scenes as Sam’s mysterious car to when he’s a robot that beats up evil monsters like Barricade, Bumblebee never fails to be charming, and you really feel the bond between Sam and Bumblebee as they both throw themselves out of their way to protect each other in their own way. The scene when Sector Seven attacks Bumblebee with those ice gas and harpoons as he struggles and does his electronic bleeping in pain… it’s pretty heartbreaking. Bumblebee’s really proved himself to be extremely likable throughout the movie, and as I’ve said before, he strikes the right balance between being cute and cool that will appeal to a large variety of age groups. Certainly as both a merchandising mascot and a main character, Bumblebee is one that has proven very successful.
Optimus Prime himself, commanding the deep heavy and iconic voice of Peter Cullen, ends up stealing every single scene he’s in. And Optimus is pretty likable as well – and as a contrast to the mouthless Bumblebee, the often-derided mouth on Optimus Prime certainly makes him look less static and feel more alive when he is speaking – and the scenes when he deploys his faceplate in battle ends up looking far more impressive than if he had it all throughout the movie. The decision to change him into a more powerful-looking long-nose cab is certainly a great one as well – maybe it’s because this movie made such a great impression on me, or maybe because I’m not as biased regarding deviations from the G1 formula, but I found Optimus Prime’s Movie design to exude power and general awesomeness. Every time Optimus Prime speaks, whether it’s something as simple as telling the story of Cybertron’s war, or saying those iconic ‘freedom is the right of all sentient beings’ or ‘one shall stand’ lines, or doing the deadpan jokes, Optimus certainly never fails to steal any scene he shows up in. It’s testament to Peter Cullen’s brilliant voice that he can make the delivery of a single word like ‘eBay’ sound so damn awesome and serious and funny all at the same time. Optimus isn’t just a boring fearless leader here, too – he’s got some moments where he interacts with his troops, mostly Ironhide. He gets pissed at Ironhide’s trigger happy tendencies (‘what is with you?’), tells Ironhide to stand down when he shows off his cannons like he’s a good friend… and I do love that scene with the Autobots trying to hide around the house first in their vehicle modes in complete lack of understanding of Earth’s culture, and later squeezing around here and there in robot mode. Again, Peter Cullen’s voice makes simple lines like ‘oops’ and ‘my bad’ sound so funny in how deep and full of gravitas they are. At one point Optimus goes all “what’s the matter with you? Can’t you be quiet? He wants us to be quiet!” in that scene, even though he is probably the most impatient among the five Autobots. I found the interaction between Optimus and Sam rather charming, Optimus being this well-respected commander of an army that’s a bit out of touch with this different culture.
And, unlike a lot of other versions of Optimus Prime, Movie Optimus is a massively awesome warrior. He doesn’t battle all that much in this movie, but the first battle that he did with Bonecrusher on the highway with both giant monsters transforming from moving vehicles into robots that moved so fluidly as they tore through vehicles and down the highway, before Optimus finishes off Bonecrusher by stabbing him in the face with a sword… Optimus Prime may feel like this fatherly figure, but he’s also not afraid to murder psychotic Decepticon thugs if he has to. And while he does leave Bumblebee to be captured by the humans when forced to prioritize between causing mass destruction, Optimus Prime is no wuss compared to his previous incarnations. He isn’t afraid to slam down hard on anyone who opposes him, be they Decepticon or human – one of the more memorable scenes in the movie is Optimus Prime just comes in and smashes the Sector Seven vans to recover his kidnapped allies, which proves that despite him bumbling around the house, he’s not afraid to step in and rescue his friends when he needs to.
There is a bit of a constant death-seeking thing hinted with Optimus Prime in this movie as well, seemingly weary at the war and ready to sacrifice himself with the Cube, and I do like how it is Sam who found another way and seemingly gave Optimus Prime hope near the end for a more peaceful life. I do like how Sam manages to give Optimus hope, with the ‘no sacrifice, no victory’, impressing the old Autobot leader by risking his life for something that he doesn’t really have to. While Optimus Prime doesn’t really get to do much here, what he does certainly paves the way to a far more iconic and powerful character than previous incarnations.
The other three Autobots – Jazz, Ironhide and Ratchet – collectively don’t do much, but they were introduced pretty distinctively early on as the cool dude with a visor, the trigger happy cannon guy and the medic. Ratchet probably gets the worst showing, basically only getting actual screentime during his introduction and slamming onto a light post, and other than that he’s just helping to fill out the ranks. Jazz gets a few nice lines here and there, and has a distinctively more lithe and smaller frame than the bulkier Optimus, Ironhide and Ratchet. He gets to do these cool transformations against Brawl and later ends up being the only casualty after daring to go one-on-one against Megatron. While not particularly a great showing, as minor characters both Jazz and Ratchet ended up being pretty cool. I thought Jazz also had a nice moment asking Optimus what they are doing, leaving Bumblebee to the humans – this small group of Autobots evidently liked each other a lot, working together pretty well and joking around.
Ironhide is the big dude with the cannons, which is certainly extremely easy to like. He gets several fun scenes with Mojo the Chihuahua pissing on his feet, and his constant suggestions to blow something up certainly makes him distinctive. He does get some rather impressive scenes in the pretty great battle in Mission City, though ends up getting taken out before the climax. He also gets to deliver a sarcastic line with Ratchet and brushes his tingly experience with the power lines. Like probably everyone else, I found the gruff and cannon-toting Ironhide pretty likable, and in general you can keep track of all the Autobots throughout the entire movie.
Out of the Decepticons, Frenzy is the one that gets the most screentime, being the smallest and possibly most practical to animate. However, this crazy fast-talking tiny skeleton that keeps chittering and speaking gibberish to himself is certainly a pretty memorable character, and shows just how variable the Transformers are – they’re not all just car robots and helicopter robots. Frenzy spends a lot of time just scuttling around and being charming, and proves a pretty good threat to the humans, first with Sam and later on against Simmons and the hackers. He’s certainly feels like a threat due to his small size, and the difficulty in killing him thanks to be able to survive as a head. And he’s fun all around!
Blackout gets a truly majestic scene just blowing up the military base and throwing everything the humans throw at him off. He ends up faring rather poorly in the final battle, but that’s really okay – he’s just this cool looking soldier who gets taken out by the action human lead, so I don’t particularly mind. Blackout has one of the most distinctive robot modes thanks to those helicopter blades, and I do quite like him for the little he showed up in – certainly enough to make him distinctive in my head. Scorponok, on the other hand, as I’ve said before, sets the tension level pretty high. Him just stalking the humans and bursting out of the sand with all sorts of rotating things
across his body and claws, and generally feeling like this monstrous death machine, and the fact that it takes so much to drive him off and he’s just a small minion shows just how unprepared the human military is. Also, sand-swimming alien robot scorpion larger than a car. What’s not to like? Scorponok has a really impressively long fight scene against the rangers, and it’s one of my favourites.
Barricade, the police car, ends up being a pretty great and distinctive villain as well. As Bumblebee’s opponent around halfway through the movie, Barricade’s alternate mode is certainly a pretty badass and distinctive one, and I do like how in general the ‘robots in disguise’ aspect is played up with the evil Decepticon scanning law enforcement vehicles and fooling humans. That Mustache Man hologram the Decepticons use is pretty appropriate and a nice touch as well. Barricade’s interrogation scene with Sam with him just shouting ‘are you ladiesman two-one-seven’ is hilarious and terrifying at the same time simply because of how real
Barricade looked. And I think it’s what makes these Transformers feel so real – they interact with humans, with objects around them, and the sheer amount of work put into these things make them not feel like a prop or cheap CGI. It looks like a giant alien robot slamming the ground next to the car Sam is on top of on. The little street race between Barricade and Bumblebee, and the ensuing fight, is pretty nicely shown. And despite a good chunk of Bumblebee and Barricade’s little fistfight taking place off-screen it actually delivers quite well.
Megatron, the big bad, doesn’t get introduced until halfway through, and it takes until before the last battle before he is activated. Megatron’s design is less distinctive than the other robots, being basically without kibble, but I rather like just how alien and metallic Megatron looks, and the massive, long claws and the growling Hugo Weaving voice certainly makes Megatron a pretty monstrous creature. Killing Jazz in quick succession, before battling against Optimus Prime through a glorious battle that takes place throughout the city, and later taunting Sam… Megatron isn’t anything special, he’s just the main villain, but he feels threatening. Unlike his rather poor showing in future movies, Megatron in the first movie sounds and feels really monstrous, with the fights between him and Optimus being brutal and destructive but with no clear winner. It’s not particularly an uncommon trope to kill off the main villain with the plot device, but I don’t really mind.
Starscream, Bonecrusher and Brawl/Devastator round up the rest of the Decepticon cast and truth be told they didn’t really do much. Starscream seems pretty competent, and in the first movie has a pretty impressive deep, vibrating voice. While he just flits in and out of battle, Starscream’s scenes look wonderful. On paper such an ape-like robot with chicken feet might look impractical, but the scene with Starscream flying up to the dam, transforming and hoisting himself up, before transforming his hand and shooting missiles to lay waste to the humans is pretty wonderful, though that is put to shame by Starscream playing stepping stones in the sky with the fighter jets, just transforming, zipping in and out and grabbing jets and sending them crashing into buildings and into each other. It’s almost artistic in the dance as he battles.
Bonecrusher is modelled pretty obviously on a tough roller derby guy, and him just roaring as he charges through traffic and attacks Optimus Prime like a rabid animal with those fists and that big claw-tail-thing… he’s just a cool-looking thug for Optimus Prime to kill, but damn
is he cool. Brawl is this massive tank filled to the brim with weapons, and transforms into a robot filled to the brim with weapons. He ends up filling the role of the really difficult trooper to kill, and he just soaks up hit after hit from Jazz, Ironhide and Ratchet, from the Rangers, and he just keeps getting up even as his hand is sliced off and chunks of him is blown away. He’s just this unstoppable brute and I do like him for that – he certainly is pretty impressive.
Out of the supporting human characters, the ranger team led by Lennox is probably next in line to get the most screentime. We spend a short time getting to know them – they’re these wacky group of people that feel like buddies, they joke, they poke fun at each other, Lennox’s got a baby girl back home… the rangers, while not exactly developed, are instantly likable characters, and as Scorponok slowly picks them off one by one during his assault it’s pretty shocking to see the Glasses Guy dragged down into the sand, and later the Spanish Guy just laying wounded and disappearing afterwards. Epps doesn’t get to do much but be Lennox’s lancer, but these guys are pretty cool. They’re just good soldiers trying to survive, and Lennox does get a contribution near the end, after figuring out weaknesses from fighting Blackout and Scorponok, puts it to good practice by helping out in killing Blackout and avenging his dead comrades. Like Sam, they’re just trying to find their way out of this nightmare.
Despite Bay’s large boner for all things military I do like how the military manages to be portrayed as being competent yet get defeated at the same time. On one hand you have Lennox killing Blackout and the fighter jets that helped to take Blackout and Megatron out. On the other hand, though, the Decepticons likewise took down an entire military base, Scorponok nearly wiped out the survivors and a village and not even gunships can kill him, and even when the air force arrive Starscream still manages to take a good chunk out of them… but in no way are they portrayed as bumbling incompetents, and I do appreciate that. Colonel Sharp (Glenn Morshower) even gets to deny Blackout access to the S7 data early on! Even when they lose, they don’t go down without a fight, and I do like this.
Sector Seven, as this secret government agency that knows stuff, ends up being a secondary antagonist during the middle part of the movie, and ends up being rather threatening in a way. Simmons comes off as this kooky, weird jerk early on when he arrests the Witwicky family, but when they start working together S7 ends up not being evil – just a bit jerk-ish. I do like how Simmons doesn’t just magically turn good all of a sudden, it takes being held at gunpoint by Lennox after a disagreement, and later witnessing that what Sam says is actually the truth. He’s kooky and fun in general to watch. Banachek, the other S7 guy, is a little bland and basically just orders people around. Secretary of Defense Keller is a far better showing, and is basically like Lennox – a really competent guy that isn’t as weird as Simmons or Sam, but in the few scene he shows up in he does feel extremely competent and not at all boring, and I do like the scene where he teams up with Simmons to work through the resources to contact the air force and kill Frenzy, both relatively major contributions to the final battle.
Glen and Maggie, the hackers, end up being mostly redundant, though, and just padding to distract from the more interesting Sam or Lennox parts. The only real place where they are relevant is early on when Maggie intercepted Frenzy hacking, and later to help Simmons and Keller contact the Air Force. They could’ve been taken out of the movie and their roles given to Keller or Simmons without losing anything but a few jokes that aren’t really necessary. While the parents Ron and Judy also only exist to crack jokes, in the first movie they have the same rather down-to-earth aura that Sam has, being flawed and generally rather embarrassing parents – another aspect of Sam’s life that I’m sure most of us can relate to. The pair ends up being funny and not in this movie very much, and I do like them. I also like Mojo the chihuahua! Mojo was fun.
I think that covers all the characters, leaving only the music to talk about. Steve Jablonsky scores the thing, and I’m pretty sure the scenes won’t have as large an impact if his powerful music isn’t around. Jablonsky’s score alternates from dangerous, deep tones for the Decepticons and the extremely triumphant, almost magical score as the Autobots arrive to Earth, and the entire scene as the Autobots land one by one, the remixing of both sound effects and Steve Jablonsky’s brilliant score, before being capped off with our first introduction to Optimus Prime and his extremely iconic voice… certainly, to older fans who had to deal with a declining brand through the general poor reception after Beast Wars it would feel like Optimus Prime and the Autobots have come home and returned.
Overall? Overall, Michael Bay made a really good movie – from visual effects to sound effects to the score to action scenes to pacing to plot to how accessible this is for fans old and new, Transformers: the Movie is every bit the fresh reboot and new revitalizing big thing that the franchise needs. It's got great leads in both robots and human departments. It would certainly be an easy task for Bay to just insist that the human actors have the majority of the screentime, but he doesn't. The Transformers feel
alive, and are every bit as alive as the humans as we go through the movie. Taking a look back at the cartoons and comics of old, would anyone honestly consider adapting a convincing live-action movie of them? I am honestly surprised, that with the franchise practically a dead one with Energon and Cybertron, that a relatively high-budget live-action movie was planned. Hell, Michael Bay even worked in the more mystical aspects of the franchise – the Allspark standing in for the Creation Matrix and everything – and made it work spectacularly. He has not only made a movie with Transformers, he managed to make it a good movie about
Transformers. It serves as nothing short of a spectacle and a jumping ground to a new generation, launching Transformers from a vintage cartoon of the past straight into the top of the list of the public consciousness. The Autobots have arrived, and they are indeed here to stay for the foreseeable future.
Despite all the criticisms Bay may have (and rightfully deserves, for some of them), Michael Bay has taken a franchise in its death throes and given it new life. He certainly deserves a lot of credit for the sudden surge in Transformers fiction and toy budgets, and despite all the vitriol launched at him he has actually crafted a universe which returned Transformers to simpler, more G1-based roots, and paved the way to everything that came after it. Whatever the film franchise will end up becoming, there is no doubt that Michael Bay has certainly crafted one of the most impressive pieces in Transformers history with this film. It’s not just a good piece of Transformers fiction – it is, in my opinion, flaws and all, one of the best films ever made full stop.
(10 out of 10)
The IMAX cut of the movie features around two minutes of additional footage, including several new additions: Sam picking up Miles at his house where Miles mocks Bumblebee’s colours, an extended interrogation scene between Sam and the crazy sheriff where he ends up being shown the PSA, Simmons using a device to test Sam’s pupil dilation while in the van, Simmons noting that Hoover Dam is ‘Area 50’ and listing the nicknames of the US Presidents involved there, and Lennox getting shortwave radios from a pawn shop owner.
In the Spanish dubs, Fig speaks in English where he speaks in Spanish in the original version.
The tank Decepticon calls himself ‘Devastator’ in this movie during the scene when the Decepticons were assembling. All other instances of the character, in toy or comic form, call him ‘Brawl’, and indeed Brawl was meant to be the finalized name – it seems to be an editorial oversight, especially since a second Decepticon named Devastator shows up in Revenge of the Fallen. However, DVD releases retained the Devastator subtitle. Of course, there’s nothing to say if there aren’t two Decepticons named ‘Devastator’, or if he’s got two names.
The Transformers travel through space in meteor-like ‘protoform’ forms (not explicitly termed as such in the movie), landing as robots without vehicular kibble in robot mode before scanning a new mode.
Unlike previous Transformers continuities, size changing or mass displacement isn’t included in this particular continuity. Though there certainly are some inconsistences – Starscream and Megatron seem to be only slightly larger than Optimus in robot mode despite Starscream turning into an F22 jet and Megatron’s jet mode far larger than Optimus’s, but most of it can really be handwaved away with how compact their robot modes are. The Allspark is the only real thing that changes in size throughout the movie, but then that's a quasi-magical artifact.
Mission City, while shot in various real-life locations (most notably Los Angeles) is meant to be a fictional town that’s within driving distance from Hoover Dam. There are several Easter Eggs within the city’s props, including ‘Takara Sushi’, referencing the Japanese toy company that produces the toys, and ‘Energon’ on a license plate.
4500X, Blackout’s number, is taken from Michael Bay’s own personal plane. Michael Bay states that the human flicked away by Megatron is him, and while there was a longer cameo planned with him driving a car destroyed by Megatron, that wasn’t filmed.
Homages to Past Incarnations of Transformers
Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Ironhide, Jazz, Ratchet, Megatron, Starscream and Brawl are loosely based on their G1 incarnations, whereas Scorponok, Bonecrusher, Blackout, Barricade and Frenzy all borrow names from previously-established names. Sam Witwicky, likewise, borrows the name from the Witwickies of G1 and is buddies with Bumblebee like the original Buster or Spike.
The concept of the Allspark as an ancient device that is able to give life, as well as the origin of the Transformers’ lives, is partly based on the Creation Matrix of the Marvel comics. The name Allspark is taken from the ‘Well of All Sparks’ from Beast Wars/Machines, which is kind of like a mystical place where sparks go to when Transformers die.
The ability to scan alternate modes on the fly was first introduced in the Armada series, while previously Transformers required to be rebuilt by an external device to obtain a new alternate mode. The scene of Optimus Prime scanning a new truck as it rumbles past, and him changing modes off-screen while the truck drives past the camera, is a direct homage to the scene from the first Armada episode.
The term ‘Spark’ as the core of a Transformer’s life originates from the Beast Wars cartoon. Instead of a floating ball of electricity/light, in the Movie continuity it seems that the spark is contained in some kind of metal objects. We don’t see Optimus Prime’s spark really clearly here, but ROTF and DOTM will show them during some character death, and AOE will explicitly refer to them as a Transformer’s “soul” similar to how it was originally intended in the Beast series.
The idea of Bumblebee speaking through his radio would seem to be inspired, or at least coincidentally similar to, how Wreck-Gar and the Junkions communicate from the G1 cartoon.
The idea of larger Decepticons that can ‘eject’ smaller ones, seem to be based on Soundwave and his tape minions from G1. Considering both Blackout and Barricade were meant to be Soundwave in early scripts it seems to be intentional.
Bumblebee’s first appearance is driving up next to a yellow Volkswagen Beetle, which is his G1 counterpart’s alternate mode.
The iconic tagline ‘More than Meets the Eye’ is mentioned twice in the movie, first by Sam when he’s speaking to Mikaela and later in Optimus Prime’s closing narration.
Optimus Prime says his often-quoted motto, “freedom is the right of all sentient beings”, and later his catchphrase, “Autobots, roll out!”
Ironhide’s line that Sam’s dog ‘leaked lubricants’ is a paraphrasing to the ‘leakin’ lubricants’ curse used by Ironhide in the G1 cartoon and his toy bio.
Megatron’s hand extends and is used as a chain-flail thing, seemingly based on the often-referenced battle on the dam in the first Transformers cartoon episode where Megatron’s hand transforms into a similar flail. Optimus, while his hand doesn’t transform into an ax, does retract and transform into an orange sword when killing Bonecrusher.
Jazz jumping on Brawl’s tank mode and pulling the turret, forcing him to transform, is explicitly stated to be based on a similar scene from the 1986 movie, where Kup does the same thing to Blitzwing.
Optimus Prime’s line ‘one shall stand, one shall fall’, is quoted from the line his G1 counterpart says in the 1986 Movie, likewise when battling Megatron.
The original transformation sound from the original G1 cartoon could be heard several times, though it’s remixed with new effects and not quite as obvious as the sequels. It can be heard namely during Blackout’s first transformation and the Nokia robot transformation, among others.
Not quite sure what Mahfouz, the little kid, is doing in an American military base. His home village is extremely far away, and it doesn’t look like an American military base would allow little kids to run around.
Rather odd that neither Barricade, Frenzy nor Bumblebee tried to bid for Sam’s glasses on eBay. Also, while Frenzy and Barricade hack Air Force One to find out about the glasses, we never know how exactly Bumblebee is aware of it.
When Simmons replays Sam’s recorded ‘last words’, it’s nothing like the scene when he actually recorded them.
Maggie hails a black-and-white cab, but gets off from a white cab of a different make. This particular goof-up is caused by splicing together a deleted scene of Maggie going to work that’s supposed to take place at the beginning of the movie.
The MQ-9 Reaper used to see Scorponok’s assault on the rangers is identified as a ‘Predator’, which is a different kind of UAV.
As Bumblebee backs up into the power plant to hide from Barricade, it changes to a close-up shot of his wheels… which is filmed at the empty warehouse they had just left.
While Bumblebee’s old-Camaro body constantly keeps his license plate in both robot and vehicle mode, once he scans the new Camaro it’s consistently ‘900STRA’ in vehicle mode and ‘4NZZ454’ in robot mode. With the power of Blu-Ray definition, you can also see that Jazz likewise changes his license plate from ‘14027E’ in robot mode (which is also Barricade’s license plate) into ‘664NLZO’ in vehicle mode.
When the Autobots arrive to rescue Sam and Mikaela from Sector Seven, Bumblebee is shown approaching the group twice.
Beagle 2 is a European shuttle, not NASA. It’s not inconceivable that they’re working together, though.
When Banachek shows Keller what’s supposedly a photo of Blackout taken by Epps, it’s taken during the day with Blackout’s head sort of blocked out by the light from the sun. He also looks pretty off-model. (It also seems that the Mars photo is not of Blackout as Banachek implies, but rather Bumblebee…)
When Bumblebee is being transported into Hoover Dam on a wheeled platform, at one point he’s missing its door-wings.
The bus that Bonecrusher bursts through is an empty bus with no one inside, even though it has just been driving on the street moments earlier.
Jazz sort of sits around in vehicle mode for a while until Devastator shows up, even having to be pushed backwards at one point by Sam to reach the wounded Bumblebee.
Oddly, Starscream and Blackout just ups and leaves at points during the Mission City battle, while Sam is running with the Allspark. A particularly odd point is when both Ironhide and Ratchet had been taken down by Starscream, but he transforms and flies off. It’s possible that they just wanted Megatron to personally get the Cube or are just incompetent, but it’s still obb.
The number on the tow truck’s door is ‘800-555-0199’ when Mikaela is driving it, but at one point changes to ‘800-555-MIKE’.
Epps claims that F-22 pilots would never fly between buildings, noting Starscream as not a real human fighter jet, though later when the real F-22 pilots join the battle, that’s exactly what they do… it might be an emergency where all protocol goes out the window, though. How often do you fight forty-foot tall giant robots, after all?
Keller could just be terribly misinformed, but he says that the Laurentian Abyss is the deepest place on Earth, when that would be the Mariana Trench.
Also it’s pretty odd that Sector Seven would be disbanded by Keller. Sure, they did keep the Transformers’ existence in the dark, but wouldn’t the knowledge and resources be useful? It’s certainly odd considering the appearance of other human-based organizations in the future…
Deleted Concepts & Scenes:
The most infamous one would be Barricade’s disappearance. Barricade turns up for the final battle (and is recognized by Sam), is supposed to battle Optimus Prime right after he kills Bonecrusher, and get subsequently taken out. Barricade’s death made it into the novel, comic and some game adaptations. Barricade’s disappearance was expanded upon in the tie-in comics, though he ended up returning for the third movie.
Figueroa is supposed to die during the flight back after the extraction from the Scorponok battle, and his death was included in novel adaptations and was evidently filmed, since it appeared in some trailers, but it ended up being cut from the film. Whether he was died or wounded, he doesn’t show up afterwards anyway.
During the chase between Bumblebee and Barricade, Barricade’s hood would have transformed to reveal a flip-out weapon – props of it was even shown and displayed – and while this particular thing was adapted into the comics and toys, it was cut out.
Frenzy’s original body was initially brought to him by the other Decepticons, and it’s a scene shown in many adaptations, but the final movie has the more practical method of having him regain his body from the Allspark.
In both the comic and novel adaptations, after ripping Jazz in half, Megatron would have eaten his Spark – possibly explaining why he stood around with the two halves of Jazz’s body on top of that body for so long.
In earlier concepts, instead of Jazz the fifth Autobot would have been Arcee instead, whose rejected design ended up making the toyline. While the original reason was so that they wouldn’t have to deal with danger, female robots Arcee and Alice ended up showing up in the second movie without explanation.
Another Decepticon that was supposed to transform into a Stryker military device was also dropped from the movie, and the design would later be used as Wreckage from the toyline.
In early scripts, Barricade and Frenzy were supposed to be a single character based on G1 Soundwave, transforming from a tape deck into a Humvee, but since they’re not doing size-changing, they are split into two characters with “Soundwave” supposedly being what would later be Frenzy. Earlier drafts also made Soundwave as Blackout, with the role of Scorponok going to a version Ravage, but that too was dropped. Soundwave and Ravage would both show up in the second movie, though. The scene with Lennox running around in the desert pursued by Scorponok, in early stages of planning, was supposed to take place in a jungle with Ravage instead of Scorponok.
Other than Soundwave, Blackout’s early working name was apparently Vortex, which made it into several peripheral material.