One of the most divisive film series in Hollywood, Paramount Pictures’ Transformers movies may have spurned longtime fans and failed to win-over reviewers; yet, thanks to Michael Bay’s no-holds-barred approach to CGI blockbuster escapism, Transformers movies remain popular among casual audiences, earning the franchise over $3.7 billion at the global box office (so far). Still, even among those who enjoy the Transformers series, with over-the-top action spectacle and a likable pair of franchise heroes (Bumblebee and Optimus Prime), there’s a call for refinement and improvement in future installments.
Bay may have produced some of the biggest and most awe-inspiring cinematic visuals in recent memory, but cohesive storytelling and character development remain problematic. To help address these shortcomings, Paramount has enlisted a team writers to develop a Star Wars-like shared film universe plan – with the intention of producing spinoff adventures in between core Transformers movie installments. Recently, it was suggested that a Cybertron-set origin story could be one of the planned films and now we’re getting word that fan-favorite Autobot Bumblebee may also be the focus of a future standalone movie.
The latest spinoff rumor kicked-off with the Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner’s presentation during the Global Consumer Conference 2015. In his keynote, Goldner reflected on 2014 at Hasbro as well as teased where the toy company-turned-feature film platform will be headed in the future.
Check out an excerpt from Goldner’s report below (thanks to TFW2005):
“Last year was Transformers 4. It was quite a good success for us last year. We’ve begun to work with writers and we are now developing the Transformers [Cinematic] Universe beyond the first four movies. And we are continuing to have Television [programs] on the air with Cartoon Network where Transformers is performing quite well in the first quarter coming off of a movie year.
“As we go forward, we would imagine several more Transformers movies. Not just in the current lineage but also spinoffs and focusing on certain key characters that are beloved by the world over. Many of you know Bumblebee: the yellow Camaro, formally known as a yellow VW Bug, and he is a beloved character by kids all over the world. We could see stories told around Bumblebee and other characters. We are in a process of building the brand equity around the Comic Book Business, our TV Business, our Digital Gaming Business and adding to that our new movie business of Transformers.”
As mentioned, this isn’t the first time that Hasbro and/or Paramount Pictures have addressed the possibility of Transformers movies centering on characters other than Optimus Prime. While fans shouldn’t expect Prime to disappear altogether (even though Age of Extinction made it clear that writers had a mostly blank slate for the character in Transformers 5), over the course of four films the Transformer series has transitioned from the story of a boy and his first car (that happens to be a extraterrestrial robot warrior) to a universe-spanning war led by the Autobot’s greatest, flame-decorated, hero riding a robot dinosaur. Based on previous comments from producers, it’s possible the TCU will put Prime at the center of numbered entries (Transformers 5, 6, 7, etc) while slotting prequels and solo adventures, centered on other “beloved” (read: bankable) Autobots, into release schedule off-years.
Without a doubt, longtime fans (many of which have given up on Bay’s movies) would be more excited if prior rumors of a Cybertron-set prequel make it to the big screen first; however, given the cost of an all CGI robot (but still live-action) adventure without humans, it’s much more likely that Paramount and Hasbro intend to maintain the status quo of Earth-set stories but, in the interest of providing more narrative flexibility as well as a wider range of toys on store shelves, feature new Autobots and Decepitcon characters.
If that turns out to be the case, and a Transformers Cinematic Universe actually does take shape, Bumblebee is an obvious choice for a spinoff movie. Given the character’s childlike and playful personality, Paramount could even shift tone – and develop a slightly more kid-friendly outing for the yellow Autobot sidekick. That’s not to say the studio should produce PG-rated Transformers films but, following the first movie, nearly every other franchise installment has featured some downright brutal robot-on-robot violence.
As we’ve seen from Marvel, not to mention the upcoming DC film slate (set to include The Flash and Green Lantern), crossing demographics is a main selling points in a shared universe business plan. It’s not just about producing more movies, it’s also about producing a greater variety of movies – to attract filmgoers who might not have been onboard prior entries. Kids love Bumblebee but how many more kids (and previously reluctant parents) could Paramount attract to the theater if their first spinoff was a bit more lighthearted?
Of course, that’s probably the opposite of what many die-hard Transformer fans want to hear – given the more cartoonish elements of Bay’s movies are often the biggest sticking points for established Transformer lovers. Nevertheless, while Transformers animated series and comic die-hards cross their fingers for a Fall of Cybertron-like adaptation, it’s important to keep in mind that Hasbro isn’t in the business of fan service, they’re in the business of selling movies and toys. After all, there’s a reason why Goldner used the phrasing, “Many of you know Bumblebee […] he is a beloved character by kids all over the world” rather than “a beloved character by thirty-five-year-old fans all over the world.”
That all said, even the most vocal naysayers (many of which still pay to see each movie) will benefit from a Bumblebee spin-off movie: if the character is going to star, someone will finally need to fix his vocal processor, right?
We’ll keep you updated on the Transformers franchise as more information becomes available.