6 Things I Want From the Transformers Franchise Going Forward
Against all the better judgement from most anybody out there, the Transformers movies return to theaters this week with Transformers: The Last Knight. For some strange reason, the Transformers are now being tied with King Arthur in another big budget, Michael Bay-directed crapshoot. I have a pretty solid love/hate relationship with the Transformers movies. I really enjoyed the first one, but readily agree that every single sequel has been hot garbage — yet I still go see them in theaters opening weekend. Why? I think it’s mostly tradition at this point.
For better or most likely worse, this franchise is going to be with us for a long damn time. This is a billion dollar franchise, and that means Hollywood is never going to stop. Michael Bay has said he won’t direct the next one, but hasn’t he said that before? They’re also talking about spin-offs for a bunch of the characters, like Bumblebee. Why? Money!
So considering the fact that this franchise will likely outlive me, what do I want to see in future Transformers movies? Join me after the jump to find out!
6. Return in quality (sigh)
Look, I liked the first Transformers movie, alright? Nothing wrong with that. It was a solid action movie that did a phenomenal job on the human character development. It had some neat story twists, like when the secretive government agency dropped all pretenses of being potentially evil and just straight teamed up with our plucky young heroes. I also really enjoyed the use of the military in the first movie. It was sharp. But then the sequels came along and everything pretty much just splattered all over the place. Nothing mattered anymore. Everything was pushed to the point of over saturation. It was terrible. To say nothing of the lack of character development or sensible plot progression. They retcon the history of the Transformers with every movie!
Would it be too much to ask to make another sharp, well-constructed and entertaining Transformers movie? Yeah, probably. This was a silly thing to ask for.
5. Beast Wars
I barely remember watching the Transformers cartoon in the 1980s, but I know I did, because I watched all those cartoons. I have no idea if it holds up because it was a glorified toy commercial. But I definitely remember watching the truly excellent Beast Wars cartoon in the ’90s! That show was phenomenal, and I know I”m not the only one with a deep-seeded love of Dinobot, Optimus Primal, Rhinox and, my personal favorite, Silverbolt. Heck, I even loved the follow up series, Beast Machines! I’ve got it on DVD!
So why not a movie? If you’re looking to branch off into an entire Transformers Expanded Universe, throw in some Beast Wars! Animals that turn into awesome robots! There’s already precedents within the Transformers movies already. It wouldn’t be too hard.
It also wouldn’t be very lucrative for the studios. As much as I’d love a Beast Wars movie, there’s probably never going to be one because zoos don’t pay for product placement.
4. Fewer Transformers deaths
The No. 1 thing that bugs me about the Transformers movie franchise is the deaths of all the Autobots. You can’t build a successful team of recognizable heroes if you’re just going to kill them off willy nilly like! What’s the point of only having Optimus Prime and Bumblebee as iconic heroes? You’re trying to sell toys, remember? Do you think Disney is about to kill off all the popular Avengers?
Jazz was killed in the first movie, Ironhide in the third one, then Ratchet was hunted down and killed like a dog in the fourth one. And all throughout the series, new Autobots came and went without nary a care in the world. Remember the Arcee motorcycles from the second one? What about Sideswipe? Do you even remember him? Or the Wreckers? And then the fourth movie brought in a bunch of new guys with no explanation for where they came from. There was even one voiced by John Goodman!
We all like the Autobots. And if you want your fans to make any personal connections with them, and therefore want to buy their toys, stop senselessly murdering them in your movies. Let them stick around!
3. A female lead
It’s working gangbusters for Star Wars, so why not have a female protagonist for the next Transformers movie? Mark Wahlberg has already said The Last Knight will be his last flick, so the lead character needs to be replaced. After Sam Witwicky and Cade Yeager, why not do something crazy and have Bumblebee befriend a girl? Strike a blow for the idea that girls can like cars, too. And maybe team her up with a badass lady Transformer. Arcee and her motorcycle sisters were around before, why not bring some of them back? Or bring in one of the other female Transformers, there’s a bunch of them out there. And I bet they can kick Megatron’s butt as well as anybody else.
My favorite Transformer is the fire truck, Inferno. I barely remember Inferno from the original cartoon, only that he was the one real Transformers toy I had as a kid. Those things were expensive! Especially for the bigger models that had a lot of moving, transforming parts. But I owned Inferno, he was awesome, and he has yet to appear in the movies. And I’m not sure why! Fire trucks are cool and iconic! Well, I guess I do know why we don’t get more interesting looking vehicles. Obviously they couldn’t make Optimus Prime anything but a tractor trailer, but most other characters are whatever fancy cars or trucks they can squeeze in as product placement. But hey, there are some modern, fancy fire trucks out there! One of them was even used for Sentinel Prime in the third Transformers movie, but it was so modern and fancy that it didn’t even look like a fire truck!
Give us a good, old fashioned fire engine Transformer. Kids love fire trucks! Kids would love to buy fire truck Transformers toys!
1. The return of Sam Witwicky and/or Mikaela Banes
Hear me out. I know Shia LaBeouf has gone crazy, and Megan Fox has practically disappeared from Hollywood, but I still want their characters to return to the franchise, just for continuity purposes. Like how Josh Duhamel’s Captain Lennox is making a comeback for The Last Knight, I just like the idea of characters from earlier in the franchise coming back into these later movies. It kind of has the same effect as the Avengers movies. These characters, as weird as they are, became iconic within the franchise. So it would be a big deal if they suddenly came back, and it would be like building an expanded Transformers universe. Isn’t that what Hollywood wants?
Due to whatever actor/director tiffs or contract disputes came up, characters like Sam and Mikaela were pretty much just dropped from the franchise with barely a word of explanation. That makes sense when you’re making a movie, but when you’re trying to build an entire franchise, that’s leaving opportunity on the table. If there’s any continuity left in these Transformers films, then Sam Witwicky was still important to the lives of Optimus and Bumblebee. Why not show us what he’s been up to since his last appearance? Why not team up Sam and the new guy, Cade Yeager? I think it would be legitimately cool.
And once Mikaela Banes ditched that loser Sam, surely she went on to be some kind of Transformers-themed badass, right? Surely these characters are still living in this world, seeing what’s happening. Megan Fox hasn’t really made a movie since her two turns as April O’Neil in Michael Bay’s Ninja Turtles movies. I think she’s free.
Pony up the cash, sort out the contracts, bring Shia LaBeouf back into the fold; this is how you build that Transformers expanded universe you all really want.