The Transformers series has an overwhelming amount of characters. There are characters with variations depending on dimensions, alternate universes, and timelines, not to mention the repaints of original molds just to sell more toys. Some characters, however, endure with fans and are practically guaranteed a major role in whatever new cartoon, movie, or comic that’s coming out. Due to a combination of overexposure, characterization, and toy sales, some characters end up overrated. That’s not to say they’re bad characters—we love (most) of the characters on this list. We grew up with most of them (look, thirty is hitting us hard). But, sometimes, we just get sick of seeing the same characters doing the same things and reacting in the exact way we expect them to. (Admittedly, there are a few here who are Tommy Oliver/Boba Fett levels of overrated.)
For this list, we did a strange kind of research. We not only worked the content out with each other at Screen Rant HQ (a retro-futurist lab inside a volcano like in The Incredibles), but we scoured message boards with people discussing the topic and took note of the names and their frequency. We found patterns and sent them to our resident analytic methodologists and came up with the 15 Most Overrated Transformers Of All Time.
It’s possible to be a great character and be overrated at the same time. Soundwave’s alt-mode is usually either a tape recorder or a boom box. When was the last time that was relevant? Soundwave’s big problem is that there’s this idea that we need more of him. We don’t. He’s at his best when he’s manipulating things behind the scenes, when he’s ominous and mysterious. Remember that fan theory that Soundwave was the real Starscream, that he was just biding his time to overthrow Megatron with some understated, brilliant plan that he’s been waiting for the right moment to enact? Instead, we get story arcs where it turns out he was a nobody until Ravage and co. became his friends. No. Bad.
Hell, even in the old days when he was Decepticon leader and he had that talk with Ultra Magnus about how peace between their races would never work was great, because it broke through his cold, logical shell. Unfortunately, the way he’s written now, it’s kinda like when your parents start using modern slang like they’re in on the joke, which makes it less cool. Yes, he’s the most meme-able Transformer ever. He’s popular. There’s no need to turn him into a good guy and have him quip like a Joss Whedon character.
Remember being a kid and you saw a bunch of Transformers turn into one, gigantic Transformer for the first time? If you didn’t mess yourself right then, it’s because the shock put you into a coma. Unfortunately, Hasbro then inundated us with combiners, watering them down to the point where they weren’t special, they weren’t threatening, and they weren’t interesting. When Simon Furman relaunched the Transformers comics for IDW, he added a no combiner policy. Whether this was because he was building to something or he saw the oversaturated market for what it was is unclear. But he had the right idea.
We’d suggest introducing one or two gestalts, really make them something special—a sign that the problem has gone from bad to unwinnable—but IDW just finished an event called Combiner Wars, and there’s a damn show about them. The Transformers are gigantic robots themselves. By creating a glut of even larger robots only does them a disservice.
Like Soundwave, Shockwave is the perfect example of less is more. The fact that he has that single HAL 9000 eye instead of a face is subtly terrifying. The fact that he cannot grasp emotion and worships only pure logic that is unhindered by morality is magnificent. Turning him into a tragic character (via empurata) is a gamble. Personally, we prefer the unrelenting, elemental Shockwave. That said, it isn’t his backstory that’s the problem.
It’s the fact that there just don’t seem to be any other Decepticons with even half a brain walking around. Really, he seems to be the only Decepticon scientist who’s relatively competent. Bludgeon, Deluge, and Thunderwing are crazier than a road lizard, and Soundwave works more as a tactician. We already know that Shockwave will betray Megatron and have a grand operatic plan that will bite him in the blast plate because he overlooked the very concept of emotion, or something to that effect.
12. The Constructicons
Yeah, they’re Combiners, but they get their own entry for a specific reason. They were the first Combiners most of us ever saw, and, unfortunately, our memories of them from childhood don’t hold up. The Constructicons—specifically their combined form, Devastator—stink. Think about the old G1 cartoon. Think about how many battles Devastator was involved in. Now think about how many of those battles he won.
Can you name any? Can you name one?
As cool as it was to watch Devastator as a kid, he didn’t win battles often. Or at all. While they did cut a swath of impressive violence across Autobot City in the 1986 movie, Devastator was still eventually defeated by the Dinobots, who—if you remember the G1 cartoon—were as dumb as the dinosaurs they were designed to mimic. So, there’s that. Easily, one of his most embarrassing defeats was in “Carnage in C-Minor” (a classic episode for those of you into masochism), when he attempts to catch the falling Broadside, who is too large and heavy. Broadside crushes the poor, dumb Devastator, burying him in the ground like so much shame.
Megatron isn’t a good leader. He’s also a complete bore. His plans revolve around the same three methods of stealing energy (Earth’s core, the sun, power plant). In the comics, his plan is to shoot everyone who disagrees with him because he, admittedly, isn’t very smart or subtle. Of course, he keeps Starscream around for no apparent reason, and his logic is constantly overwhelmed by rage.
Retroactively, he’s a political revolutionary who took things too far. Now he’s a reformed Autobot who doesn’t want to kill. Is that character development, or is that a cheap time-waster? What kind of villain can just realize he was wrong and change his life immediately? An uninteresting villain, that’s who. One whose beliefs can’t be trusted and whose willpower is nonexistent. And that’s a weak baddie. At least Galvatron was insane and therefore colorful. At least the Beast Wars Megatron was brilliant. This Megatron only gets any attention because he was the original.
10. Alpha Trion
Ahh, so this is where Optimus Prime gets his pseudo-metaphysical ramblings from. Alpha Trion is ancient even by Transformer standards. He remembers the creation of the species and, as such, has knowledge that only he and the Matrix share. You would think that this bearded (yes, robots have beards) senior citizen would tell his descendants the great secrets of their species if only to educate them. Mostly, because, you know, their entire past loves to come back and try to kill them. Unicron, hate plagues, Quintessons, etc., but no, A-3 just keeps it to himself.
He also loves to speak in the most esoteric and atmospheric ways to really harp on that whole wise old sage thing. He isn’t much help in providing answers, and his background is always mysterious because he is either too playful for straight answers or he’s some kind of mystical thing masquerading as a Transformer. This makes him an absolute waste of space most of the time since he exists to give exposition, but only in the vaguest ways possible.
Like another character on this list, Drift was written just to be cool. He turns into a drift racer, has ninja design overtones, carries a big sword, has “a code,” and is always prepared with a snappy comment. He checks all the boxes of a wish fulfillment, Mary Sue character, and it doesn’t help that, for a while, he was everywhere in Transformers comics. To say that the fanbase responded negatively is an understatement. (Windblade, who has almost all of the same qualities, was released a few years later, but was actually a three-dimensional character and was quickly embraced by fans; Hasbro learned their lesson.)
In Drift’s defense, the writers were quick to realize the resentful segment of the fanbase. They pulled back on Drift’s appearances and spent time developing his character to make him, now, at least 20% less obnoxious. He’s hardly the best character in the franchise, but at this point, he doesn’t deserve all the hate he gets. He deserves 20% less.
8. Primus & Unicron
As much as we love Simon Furman, his use of, and eventual reliance on, the mystical side of The Transformers lore became an albatross around the franchise’s neck. It’s too cosmic, too confusing, and it takes the attention away from the giant alien robots—isn’t that enough of a spectacle in and of itself?
The personification of the problem might just be the twins Primus and Unicron. They are multiuniversal robotic creatures large enough to backhand slap planets. Primus created the Transformers race and Unicron corrupted them. Or wanted to destroy them. (Look, the answer changes a lot.) Primus tries to help the Autobots against the Decepticons but often screws that up, which leads to one to wonder how competent of a god he is in the first place, but this isn’t the time or the place for that.
The crazy-cool element of Primus and Unicron—robot gods—ends up taking the attention from the Transformers and keeps them from being special in their own right. The Transformers themselves end up getting lost in the shuffle, which is a problem considering it’s their damn book in the first place.
7. Hot Rod/Rodimus Prime
We can’t even begin to describe the catharsis we felt in “Dark Awakening” when a zombified Optimus Prime brutally beat Hot Rod while yelling “I don’t want to hurt you.” Look, at the end of the day, Hot Rod will always be the one that got Optimus Prime killed. Nowadays, continuity has made it so that never happened, but Hot Rod is still the same character, if not a little worse.
He’s gone from impulsive and immature but brimming with potential to a selfish, arrogant putz who gives out trophies with his face on it. That anyone would follow him as a leader is ridiculous; that he manages always to fail upward makes him the Transformers version of Homer Simpson. And we’re not talking about the Golden Age Simpsons either. We mean contemporary Homer, who is a braying man-child whom his wife clearly resents.
Is it possible to be both a manufactured badass and a paper tiger? (Well, paper Dinobot in this case.) For too long, Grimlock has been written as a Transformers’ answer to Wolverine. We got it; you’re a loose cannon. You don’t play well with others. You prefer to shoot first and ask questions later. You’re a rebel. You’re an outlaw. You…get the idea.
Grimlock’s a toddler with a shotgun. While he’s definitely compelling to read—you know there will be some kind of reckoning and the ensuing battles are always great (though he often loses)—he’s also incredibly predictable, and his dialogue is made up of PG threats. It’s difficult to sound cool like that. The loudness and inarticulate verbosity can get tedious, especially if you know that the Autobots have plenty of underused and understated ass kickers. Bots like Hardhead. Springer. Chromia. Roadbuster. Ultra Magnus. They don’t get half the attention because Grimlock is once again drunk from doing one too many keg stands.
Blaster inferior, Soundwave superior. We’re tempted to end this entry here. Were it not for his head sculpt; he’d basically be a recoloring of Soundwave. Oh, and the fact that he isn’t nearly as cool as Soundwave would be a dead giveaway too. Blaster has a fine taste in music, which is why we’re going easy on him, but the problem is, he’s like comparing Green Arrow to Batman: sure, Blaster and Oliver Queen have some positive qualities, but they don’t have an original bone in their bodies.
In a Spotlight issue from Simon Furman, Blaster was seen as a propaganda mouthpiece spreading the good news of the Autobot cause over the airwaves, when in reality, he no longer cares—he’s become apathetic to the war and paranoid over repeated attempts on his life. The serious personality change was quickly dropped, of course, so that he could be the version of Blaster fans adore—a smooth personality with an affection for pop culture—but we already have much cooler Transformers for that—Jazz and Wreck-Gar. Actually, no. Jazz. Just Jazz. It’s a real shame, because it was as close as Blaster ever got to being three-dimensional.
4. The Matrix
Okay, so this is a cheat. The Matrix isn’t a character, but it affects them and the Transformers universe fundamentally. Also, it’s awful. It’s the king of all MacGuffins. This small artifact is anything you need it to be. A library. The key to heaven. A power booster. An Ouija board. A direct line to God himself. It can raise the dead or kill a god. It slices. It dices. It checks your prostate and shuts the kids up. The fact that it can do anything and everything allows it to be a magic reset button for whatever corner a writer gets himself into, and it’s a way of making a story more epic without the need for explaining why or needing to come up with a decent ending.
The mystical element to The Transformers has been more of an unnecessary complication, but if you disagree, here’s a question for you: if the Matrix is powerful enough to kill Unicron and make Galvatron sane, why not use it to make the Decepticons good? Why not plug it into the outlet and use it as a battery that would solve the energy deficit that’s at the heart of the franchise? Because then there’d be no franchise and we could all go home. The Matrix is too powerful.
3. The Metrotitans
Remember earlier when we mentioned how the Combiners made regular Transformers less special? Well, the Metrotitans are the size of cities. They are beyond powerful, and the battles are pretty cool when they’re given the space actually to fight, but like the Combiners, they just make the regular guys seem regular. How come the Metrotitans aren’t the ones central to the war? They’re the biggest and most powerful. Most of them are smart.
One of the failings of the Transformers franchise is its obsession with scope. For them, it can never be too large. There always needs to be a bigger enemy or more expensive toy, and the Metrotitans are the perfect example of it. There’s no need for them to take orders from Optimus Prime or Megatron. They could step on them without noticing. You can make the argument that the big guys need maintenance, which is valid—why not just use Diagnostic Drones or DOC or something like that? And why build something like a Metrotitan? It’s a waste of valuable resources! Energy crisis! Geez, this is why the Transformers are so screwed up—they can’t make a decent decision.
2. Optimus Prime
For many of us, Optimus Prime was the dad we didn’t have. He’s noble, wise, compassionate, and strong. Unfortunately, it’s also those traits that keep him stagnant as a character. There are lines he won’t cross, and if he does, there will be copious soul searching, waxing philosophic on the meaning of it all and crises of conscious steeped with existential dread because of it. Writers have tried to combat this by cutting down to moralizing, having him murder Galvatron in cold blood (!) or doing prequel stories where Prime was younger and more temperamental, which are moves in the right direction. We’re not saying he should be turned into Grimlock, but there needs to be a balance between the noble bot and the soldier. (Hell, even Superman lobotomizes someone once in a while).
However, it’s Optimus’ centrality to the Transformers universe that is often a difficulty; his problem has always been more oversaturation than anything else. How many times has he been killed and resurrected? How many times has he been in stasis lock for months on end, slowing stories down just so his return can be the turning point in the conflict? The solution—which took decades to come up with—was to give Prime his own solo series separate from the others so everyone can get a bit of the spotlight.
We get it, he’s kid friendly. But enough already. We know what works about Bumblebee—he’s the underdog. He’s too kind for war. Well, maybe he shouldn’t have enlisted then, don’t you think? Don’t give us that spy nonsense. How subtle can he be when he’s bright yellow?
Look, nothing against Bee, honestly. It’s just the fact that he’s become as overexposed as Optimus Prime. And the Michael Bay movies don’t help either. For some reason, they can’t repair his voice, so he communicates via noises, sound-clips, and being obnoxious. He’s that teenage nephew that is so hormonal he can’t even think straight. Bumblebee was at his best when he was unassuming and good-natured. He was there when you needed him, not because he was shoehorned in and more obnoxious than the party guest who won’t go home.
We’re sure you calmly heard us out on our reasoning. Which Transformers characters do you think are overrated? Let us know in the comments!
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