Did Michael Bay's latest big screen robo-rumble, Transformers: The Last Knight, leave you unfulfilled and frustrated? Seeking some salvation in some unexpected places that will enhance you with a geeky glow?
Look no further than the remarkable realm of fan films, where inspired amateur artists express themselves in a variety of forms and styles to celebrate their love of a particular film or franchise.
Last month, we performed an exploratory examination of 17 Batman Fan Films, and with Michael Bay's bombastic robo-sequel now in theaters and staggering somewhat from negative reviews and brutal summer competition, now's the perfect time to indulge in some other treatments of the toy-based franchise through the lens of non-Hollywood types.
I'm an equal-opportunity observer in my search for fan films and not simply showcasing the works that have the biggest pile of cash for their project. Many of these are not the most well-funded films but show a genuine respect and appreciation for the Transformers legacy of toys, animated TV shows, comics, feature films and video games. Fan films are a tremendous way to show your undying devotion to a favorite franchise, and this batch of short films run the entire spectrum, from zero-budget shoots completed between meals using stock footage and shaky cameras to semi-pro entries with impressive special effects, killer costuming and a well-supplied craft service table.
Whether you were disappointed in Transformers 5 or loved every robot-smashing second, here are 14 Transformers fan films that demonstrate a wide spectrum of creativity, passion and a tidal wave of Hasbro toys!
Charge on in and tell us which ones you like best.
Hidden Friend (2010)
Sure, this seven-minute shoestring-budget short is choppy in its execution but Hidden Friend has its head in the right place by addressing the important topic of bullying. The "plot" follows Bobby Drake as he's harassed by a local jerk one too many times. He returns to confront his tormentor after he discovers that his car is actually the Autobot Bumblebee, who wishes to protect him. Having your own giant robo would certainly make enemies think twice.
Spy Bots (2014)
Exhibiting a certain low-level enthusiasm, this three-minute short was directed by friends Mitchell Buchanan and Dalton Pope and, though the majority of it is a kid running around the woods with an AR-15 rifle, it uses the most of what little budget and resources available and exhibits a measure of goofy earnestness. The brief special effects were produced using stock footage from YouTube and aren't half bad. The ending is strangely abrupt but it's a decent effort for amateur filmmakers having fun over a weekend.
Dead Winner (2000)
Here's a no-budget black-and-white short filmed by Stephen Gilliam way back in 2000 with a horror-like essence. Sure, it contains only a faint thread of a plot, but I like the simplicity and stark look. The style reminded me of parking garage security camera footage stitched together. With a little more ingenuity and a more fleshed-out story, this one could have risen higher, even though it shows its 17-year age.
Transformers Taxi Prank (2014)
Okay, so this is technically not a fan film, but it deserves to be in this list due to its topical relevance and Uber hilarity as Optimus Prime picks up unsuspecting riders waiting on the curb. The flashy Western Star semi cruises up to its customer and politely invites them inside. This vehicular practical joke is brought to us by Break, the YouTube comedy channel devoted to epic online pranks, fails and wins. Would you accept a ride around town from the noble leader of the Autobots or take the bus instead?
Rise of Galvatron (2014)
Rise of Galvatron isn't exactly film festival material but it delivers a considerable amount of creativity by mixing live action with some spiffy digital effects straight out of a first-gen PlayStation game. It's a trailer for a longer and never-finished fan film by Multi Fun Productions that reflects a true affection for the Transformers series, which is one of the best qualities fan films can spotlight when the technical side of the project is somewhat lacking.
Transformers vs Pacific Rim (2013)
Here's a killer fan trailer using the robots in disguise against the monstrous kaiju of Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim. The geek-beloved director's giant creature feature left an oily taste in my mouth, but pop some Autobots and Decepticons into this monster mash and you've got my rapt attention. Could a crossover occur between these two titanic properties? When monumental amounts of money are concerned, anything is possible!
Date Night (2011)
This sick and twisted stop-motion short by TFNetwork features a final date between Sam and Mikaela with Bumblebee as chaperone until Barricade shows up to spoil the romantic moment. Megan Fox's character meets a terrible end as a human speed bump ... I think the filmmakers were trying to channel Robot Chicken's crazy vibe here but it falls short of a perfect parody.
Transformers Vengeance Part 1 (2014)
Here's an entertaining two-part Transformers celebration by filmmaker A.J. Suggs, who took a year and a half in-between work and school to complete this amateur ode to the beloved robots in disguise. Using Sony Vegas Movie Studio and Photoshop elements for all the stop-motion effects and a saint-like amount of patience, it features Sentinel, Ironhide, Optimus Prime, Sideswipe, Bumblebee and Shockwave.
Transformers Generation (2015)
Malaysian filmmaker Harris Lourieroi borrowed every Transformers toy he could from his friends to make this fun stop-motion film. It took him six months to pose all the articulated action figures and model cars to tell the story, a liberal mix of the cartoon series version, the '86 movie and comics' "All Hail Megatron" story line. It beautifully brings to life all the magic and nostalgia of the classic G1 series with some of the smoothest animation I've seen in these DIY offerings.
Lakon Animasi Art School Promo (2011)
This is not a specific Transformers short but a promo designed to attract interest in an Indonesian art school called Lakon Animasi that opened in 2012. It features some amusing metamorphosing CGI robots. Based in Solo, the institute's goal is to position themselves as a complement to other existing animation production facilities and studios. Their wild video, titled "Pada Suatu Ketika," was part of their "test flight" and has a distinctive spirit derived from the Transformers Universe with an Independence Day twist.
Transformers: The Last Knight - Optimus vs Bumblebee
An excellent alternate version of the final battle in Michael Bay's new Transformers sequel, this time with Barricade and Bumblebee going for the kill before Optimus drops in to shame Bumblebee and bash him into submission. Steelbane shows up to save Bee and blasts a torrent of fire at Optimus, preventing the Autobot's demise in a heart-stopping cliffhanger. Another slick short from YouTube veteran SwagWave SM.
Transformers War: Til All Are One (2015)
TheLeoLegendary10 strikes hard with an infectious stop-motion entry high on our honored list. It's a battle royale of Bonecrusher, Optimus Prime, Megatron, Ironhide, Bumblebee, Barricade, Brawl, Blackout, Starscream and Ratchet all clashing on the polished hardwood floors of a suburban bedroom. Extra points for the cool AoE evasion mode paint scheme for Optimus and the optimal pacing and editing. Bronze Medal Winner!
Generation 1: Hero (2016)
Earns its top three spot with an understanding of the camararderie of the original G1 '80s cartoon series with a cool intermixing of practical cardboard FX, plastic cosplay, RC models, and in-camera and digital effects. This is one of the more fun and faithful presentations of the material that includes fan faves like Optimus Prime, Starscream, Wheeljack, Shockwave, Bumblebee and Ironhide in a tale of Megatron attempting to draw power from the Earth's crust. Sharply directed by Lior Molcho with a screenplay by Molcho, Danit Sigler and Itay Muller, it was shot on the amazing Digital Bolex and exudes the perfect Transformers tones and rhythms. An excellent effort -- watch it twice to absorb the full colorful spectacle.
Roll Out (2017)
I totally dig this 35-minute valentine to the Transformers toys and animated series and applaud the labor of love. TFI Creations filmed this absorbing fan short that dominates the competition with a fluid blend of script, characterization, editing and music. It's a vividly-shot film that carries a surprising amount of pathos in a fully-imagined story where Autobots find themselves forged in battle against the Decepticons over a mysterious artifact buried eons ago on Earth. Extra stars for its bravery to inject Hot Spot's mental health issues into the family of robots in disguise and adding a deeper level of engagement. Grabs the gold!