Continuity – Defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “the maintenance of continuous action and self-consistent detail in the various scenes of a film or broadcast.”
A definition that, after seeing Transformers: The Last Knight in all its bamboozling glory, I’m convinced is something director Michael Bay gave up reading prior to commencing work on the initial installment of his Transformers shenanigans back in the mid-2000s.
For whilst “continuous action” is part and parcel of the Transformers cinematic experience, you’re more likely to find evidence of “self-consistent detail” in a Sean Spicer White House press briefing.
Now, when it comes to the subject of continuity within the realm of fiction, I realize that many people simply don’t give a monkey’s. These are logical, well-rounded people who are far more concerned with real-world continuities, such as being paid on time every month, rather than whether Harry Potter’s wand was said to be made of holly and phoenix feathers in The Philosopher’s Stone but galvanized tacos and gummy worms in The Chamber of Secrets.
But if you are anything like me (vampire in complexion with an English accent that’s been through a two-decade travel blender), then you like your continuity with all of the T’s crossed and all of the lower-case j’s dotted. Which is why, as a devout Transformers follower since my youth, I’ve spent the last decade being periodically slapped in the face by Mr. Bay and his blatant disregard for my childhood religion every time he’s enticed me into a cinema with a follow-up to the original 2007 Robots in Disguise feature.
So grasp my hand, brave reader, as I take thee down Transformers continuity bollocks lane in an effort to bring some sort of closure to the torture us anal-retentives have suffered these long years at the uncaring hands of “The Bay.”
But be warned – it’s probably going to hurt. A lot.
Before we begin, a disclaimer: This article focuses only on the Transformers movies themselves, disregarding any comic book attempts to explain gaps in continuity, and assumes the reader has a healthy familiarity with the storylines of each of the Transformers films in order to avoid in-depth story recapping that would otherwise add another thousand words or so that this article’s editor would poo-poo.
[Editor’s Note: He’s right.]
Transformers (2007) – Setting the Continuity
* Major anchor points of continuity in ANGRILY BOLD CAPS
The fatherly voice of Peter Cullen’s Optimus Prime opens proceedings with a straightforward, no-nonsense explanation of Transformer history: Before time began, there was the cube something, something… CUBE GAVE LIFE TO CYBERTRON AND ALL THE TRANSFORMERS… the Decepticon Transformers, LED BY MEGATRON, start a war with the Autobot Transformers over said cube, leaving Cybertron all but buggered and the cube – or All-Spark – lost in space… Autobots go off to look for cube DUE TO IT BEING THE ONLY THING THAT CAN REPOWER THEIR PLANET and eventually find it on an UNKNOWN PLANET CALLED EARTH, traveling through our Solar System WITHOUT THE NEED FOR A SPACESHIP.
So far so good, and as the movie rolls on, we learn further plot points, such as Megatron crash-landed on Earth and was frozen a few thousand years prior to current events WHILST SEARCHING FOR THE CUBE SO HE COULD TRANSFORM EARTH’S MACHINERY INTO AN ARMY OF NEW DECEPTICONS (machinery incidentally not actually invented at the time of his deep-freeze) and the human military seem COMPLETELY UNAWARE OF THE EXISTENCE OF TRANSFORMERS AND HAVE DEFINITELY NEVER CARRIED OUT CLANDESTINE WORLD WAR II MISSIONS WITH ANY OF THEM.
We also learn that Bumblebee’s voice box was damaged in battle prior to the start of the film and, after Jar Jar Binks-ing his way through proceedings using a cavalcade of pop-culture soundbites in order to communicate, IS HEARD SPEAKING WITH A PROPERLY-WORKING VOICE BOX BY OPTIMUS PRIME AT THE END OF THE FILM, WHICH IS DEFINITELY SET AFTER THE FALL OF CYBERTRON.
Also, the All-Spark thingy appears capable of healing damaged Transformers when whole, but UNABLE TO BRING BACK RECENTLY DECEASED TRANSFORMERS SUCH AS JAZZ WHEN ONLY ONE SHARD OF IT REMAINS.
Aaand, oh yes, MEGATRON SEEMS ABLE TO GIVE OPTIMUS PRIME A JOLLY GOOD THRASHING WITH ONE ARM TIED METAPHORICALLY BEHIND HIS BACK.
P.S. – Megatron’s body is secretly dumped at the bottom of The Laurentian Abyss, where Jon Voight tells us IT WILL BE CRUSHED INTO NOTHINGNESS, LEAVING NO TRACE.
Continuity Points (for those playing along at home)
- ALL-SPARK GAVE LIFE TO CYBERTRON AND ALL THE TRANSFORMERS.
- IT IS THE ONLY THING THAT CAN REPOWER CYBERTRON.
- EARTH IS AN UNKNOWN PLANET TO THE TRANSFORMERS.
- MEGATRON IS LEADER OF THE DECEPTICONS.
- MEGATRON CRASHED ON EARTH WHILST LOOKING FOR THE CUBE.
- U.S. MILITARY HAVE NO APPARENT RECORD OF EVER HAVING ENCOUNTERED TRANSFORMERS AND CERTAINLY NOT OF BUMBLEBEE BEING PART OF A WWII ARMY KILL SQUAD.
- OPTIMUS PRIME HEARS BUMBLEBEE’S PROPER VOICE AGAIN AFTER THE FALL OF CYBERTRON.
- BUMBLEBEE’S VOICE PROBLEMS DUE TO BATTLE DAMAGE.
- MEGATRON CAPABLE OF GIVING PRIME JOLLY GOOD THRASHINGS WITH ONE ARM TIED BEHIND BACK, METAPHORICALLY-SPEAKING.
- LAURENTIAN ABYSS GOOD FOR CRUSHING MEGATRON INTO NOTHING.
- PIECES OF THE ALL-SPARK APPARENTLY DON’T BRING BACK RECENTLY-DECEASED TRANSFORMERS (JAZZ).
- TRANSFORMERS DON’T NEED SPACESHIPS FOR INTERPLANETARY TRAVEL.
- TRANSFORMERS DON’T HAVE TESTICLES.
Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen (2009) – Altering the Continuity
The ever-majestic voice of Optimus Prime, revealed in this installment to be the LAST PRIME, gets the “Golden Schmoes Worst Picture Winner 2009” underway, narrating a scene depicting TRANSFORMERS ON EARTH IN 17,000 B.C., one of whom is THE REAL LEADER OF THE DECEPTICONS, KNOWN AS THE FALLEN. As the nonsense progresses – and there is a lot of it – we bear witness to further contradictions, such as:
- BUMBLEBEE’S VOICE PROBLEMS ARE NOW DUE TO HIM PUTTING IT ON.
- MEGATRON NOW ONLY CAPABLE OF GIVING PRIME JOLLY GOOD THRASHINGS WITH BOTH ARMS FREE AND TWO EXTRA SETS REQUIRED.
- LAURENTIAN ABYSS NOT AS GOOD FOR CRUSHING MEGATRON INTO NOTHING AS PREVIOUSLY STATED.
- PIECES OF THE ALL-SPARK APPARENTLY DO BRING BACK RECENTLY DECEASED TRANSFORMERS (MEGATRON).
- TRANSFORMERS DO HAVE TESTICLES.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011) – Toileting All Over the Continuity
Optimus Prime, now sounding a lot like the movie trailer voiceover guy from the ’80s and ’90s, sows the first seeds of total continuity prolapse with an intro depicting the last days of the Cybertronian War that says nothing at all about the All-Spark, and everything about “The Ark” – an Autobot spaceship containing the means to repower Cybertron, had it not been lost in space and eventually parked itself rather poorly on the Moooooon.
Post-Prime lecture, we now discover:
- TRANSFORMERS HAVE KNOWN ABOUT EARTH SINCE THE 1960S.
- ALL-SPARK SUBSTITUTED FOR SPACE BRIDGE BY COACH BAY AS CYBERTRON-REPOWERING MCGUFFIN.
- TRANSFORMERS NOW NEED SPACESHIPS JUST TO ESCAPE EARTH’S ATMOSPHERE.
- MEGATRON CRASHED ON EARTH WHILST WAITING FOR SENTINEL PRIME TO COME AND DO HIS BEST SPOCK IMPRESSION RATHER THAN WHILST LOOKING FOR THE ALL-SPARK.
- AT THE TIME OF THE PREVIOUS LSD TRIP… I MEAN FILM… SENTINEL PRIME WAS STILL ALIVE, MEANING OPTIMUS PRIME WASN’T THE LAST OF THE PRIMES AFTER ALL, MEANING HIS DEATH WOULDN’T HAVE LEFT THE FALLEN FEELING BRAVE ENOUGH TO GET UP OUT OF HIS SICK BED TO DO BAD STUFFS AFTER WAITING FOR THE LAST PRIME TO DIE.
- BUMBLEBEE’S VOICE PROBLEMS ARE NOW DUE TO… COVFEFE.
- THE DECEPTICONS’ PLAN TO HIDE OUT ON THE MOON AFTER PILLAGING THE ARK OF THE SPACE BRIDGE PILLARS IN THE 1960S UNTIL SUCH TIME AS SENTINEL PRIME MADE IT TO EARTH WITH THE CONTROL PILLAR AND SUMMONED THEM TO HELP ACTIVATE THE PORTAL TO CYBERTRON WAS JUST PLAIN BONKERS, PARTLY DUE TO HOW BORING IT WOULD BE JUST SITTING THERE UNDER THE LUNAR DUST FOR WHAT MIGHT HAVE BECOME ETERNITY, BUT MAINLY DUE TO THE FACT THAT THE ONLY THING THAT COULD REVIVE SENTINEL WAS THE MATRIX, WHICH HAD BEEN LOST FOR 17,000 YEARS AND WAS ONLY FOUND AGAIN VERY RECENTLY THROUGH SHEER DUMB LUCK AND VERY CONVENIENT SCRIPTING.
- OPTIMUS PRIME CAPABLE OF GIVING MEGATRON JOLLY GOOD THRASHINGS WITH ONE ARM LYING BEHIND BACK.
- TRANSFORMERS DON’T HAVE TESTICLES AGAIN.
- MY BRAIN DOESN’T HAVE STRUCTURAL COHESION ANYMORE.
Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014) – Discontinuity Within Discontinuity
And lo, it came to pass that for about an hour and 20 minutes, The Bay did bestow upon the world a Transformers movie that pretty much adhered to the notion of continuity between films, regardless of its actual quality. Chicago, scene of the previous film’s climax, is still in ruins and a hotbed of controversy, with Transformers viewed as troublemakers supreme because of it. Houston, we have consistency!
But The Bay giveth continuity, and The Bay taketh continuity away!
For as we head past the midway point, it is rammed down our collective esophageal passage that:
- TRANSFORMERS HAVE KNOWN ABOUT EARTH SINCE 65,000,000 B.C.
- TRANSFORMERS WERE ACTUALLY CREATED BY SOME UNKNOWN, ORGANIC-LOOKING BEINGS RATHER THAN THE ALL-SPARK.
- THESE CREATORS WANT OPTIMUS PRIME BACK BECAUSE THEY DON’T LIKE THEIR CREATIONS MIXING WITH OTHER SPECIES… SPACE RACISTS.
- OPTIMUS PRIME IS ACTUALLY SOME SORT OF GALACTIC KING ARTHUR.
- TRANSFORMERS ARE BACK TO NOT NEEDING SPACESHIPS TO FLY THROUGH SPACE, AS OPTIMUS PRIME DEPARTS THE EARTH UNDER HIS OWN STEAM TO LOOK FOR HIS CREATORS.
- BUMBLEBEE’S VOICE PROBLEMS ARE NOW DUE TO… REGRESSING INTO AN UNDISCIPLINED TEENAGER???
- TRANSFORMERS DON’T HAVE TESTICLES BUT THEY DO HAVE LOINCLOTHS.
But The Bay isn’t finished. Disrupting the continuity of the saga as a whole isn’t enough now. He must also discombobulate the current film’s own established continuity.
- One minute, OPTIMUS PRIME HAS TO BE TOLD HE WAS MADE BY INDIVIDUAL BEINGS RATHER THAN A MYTHICAL CUBE, and the next, OPTIMUS PRIME IS REGALING OTHERS WITH TALES OF HOW THESE CREATORS USED TO GO AROUND TERRAFORMING THE SURFACE OF VARIOUS WORLDS, INCLUDING EARTH’S, IN ORDER TO GENERATE THE VERY METAL NEEDED TO MAKE TRANSFORMERS, despite neither receiving any of this extra info from the initial revelation nor spending any time Googling his creators or their ancient activities… before later stating that HE HAS NO IDEA WHO HIS CREATORS ARE, WHICH SUGGESTS HE SHOULD KNOW NOTHING ABOUT THEM AT ALL.
- THE SPARK THAT CONTAINS A TRANSFORMER’S MEMORIES AND SOUL IS SHOWN ON TWO OCCASIONS TO BE SITUATED IN THE CHEST, but because the story calls for Megatron to transfer his consciousness into a new body with his head the only physical piece of him left, THE SPARK THAT CONTAINS A TRANSFORMER’S MEMORIES AND SOUL IS LATER SHOWN TO ACTUALLY BE SITUATED IN THE HEAD.
- Stanley Tucci STARTS THE FILM AS AN AMERICAN PSYCHO-LEVEL VILLAIN and inexplicably ENDS IT AS BARNEY THE DINOSAUR-LEVEL COMIC RELIEF.
Transformers: The Last Knight (2017) – ????????
Kicking off in Dark-Ages England, blaaaaah blaaaah, Stanley Tucci back for a Barney encore cameo, blaaaah, nothing makes any sense, blaaaah blah blaaaah blaaah. Blah bluh blah, bluh, blaaah blah, never ever again, bleeepy blooopy bleh, eyeballs bleeding, blaaah…
Lying battered and broken in our seats, a semi-comatose audience now discover:
- TRANSFORMERS HAVE KNOWN ABOUT EARTH SINCE 484 A.D.
- EARTH IS ACTUALLY ONE GIANT TRANSFORMER KNOWN AS UNICRON, WHO PROBABLY WOULDN’T HAVE LET ANY OF THE PREVIOUS FILMS’ ATTEMPTS TO DEFILE/DESTROY HIM EVER COME TO PASS.
- TRANSFORMERS WERE ACTUALLY CREATED BY ONE, METALLIC-LOOKING BEING RATHER THAN SOME UNKNOWN COLLECTIVE OF ORGANIC-LOOKING BEINGS OR THE ALL-SPARK.
- SAID CREATOR ACTUALLY WANTED OPTIMUS PRIME BACK NOT BECAUSE SHE IS A SPACE RACIALIST, BUT BECAUSE SHE WANTED TO BRAINWASH HIM INTO RECOVERING SOME SORT OF CONTROL STAFF THAT GIVES THE POSSESSOR THE POWER TO RE-ENERGIZE CYBERTRON… OR SOMETHING.
- CYBERTRON DID NOT IMPLODE, BUT MERELY BROKE INTO STRINGY PIECES (IT IMPLODED… ON MY FATHER’S GRAVE, IT IMPLODED… I SAW IT IMPLODE TWO FILMS AGO. DIDN’T I?)
- CYBERTRON IS ABLE TO TRAVEL THROUGH SPACE ON ITS OWN RATHER THAN NEEDING SPACE BRIDGES TO DO THE JOB. SIIIIIGH.
- OPTIMUS PRIME NOW HAS DEMENTIA, THE ANGRY INTERROGATION OF HIS CREATOR REGARDING THE MESS HE THOUGHT SHE’D MADE OF HIS PLANET A STRONG INDICATION THAT PRIME NO LONGER REMEMBERS HELPING TO FECK IT UP HIMSELF DURING A GLOBAL WAR, OR LATER CAUSE IT TO IMPLODE ENTIRELY (NEITHER DO THE SCRIPTWRITERS APPARENTLY).
- TRANSFORMERS DO NEED SPACESHIPS FOR INTERPLANETARY TRAVEL AFTER ALL ‘CAUSE APPARENTLY YOU END UP FROZEN IN SPACE WITHOUT ONE.
- U.S. MILITARY DO HAVE VISUAL RECORDS OF ENCOUNTERING TRANSFORMERS BEFORE, SPECIFICALLY BUMBLEBEE BEING PART OF A WWII ARMY KILL SQUAD.
- BUMBLEBEE’S VOICE PROBLEMS DUE TO BATTLE DAMAGE ONCE MORE.
- OPTIMUS PRIME HEARS BUMBLEBEE’S PROPER VOICE AGAIN FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE THE FALL OF CYBERTRON (EVEN THOUGH HE HEARD IT AT THE END OF THE FIRST MOVIE WHICH IS SET AFTER THE FALL OF CYBERTRON).
- GEORGE LUCAS MIGHT HAVE PUT A DENT IN MY CHILDHOOD, BUT MICHAEL BAY SHOT AN ASTEROID THROUGH IT.
There now. That wasn’t so bad, was it?
Who am I kidding? Of course it was. It was every bit as painful as I imagined it would be with change to spare. But if I at least managed to put the cat amongst the pigeons and the Autobot loincloths amongst the Decepticon testicles, then maybe, just maybe, we can all move on with our lives in a slightly better state of mind.
At least until June next year. Sad.