In spite of a rift between casual moviegoers and film critics, Michael Bay’s Transformers film series is still one of the biggest movie properties in history – with no sign of slowing down. In just four films, Paramount Pictures and Bay have amassed over $3.7 billion in ticket sales around the world and where die-hard Transformer fans might not care for Bay’s take on the iconic “Robots in Disguise,” the last installment, Age of Extinction, pulled the second-largest box office run of the franchise, falling only $19 million short of Dark of the Moon at the global box office. That’s all to say, while Bay’s Transformers movies haven’t won-over his detractors, moviegoers continue to show-up for the films in record numbers.
Nevertheless, setting aside box office success, Bay has repeatedly said that each subsequent Transformers movie would be his last. For a long time, it was assumed that Dark of the Moon would be the helmer’s final installment, only to see the director return for Age of Extinction – claiming that he was returning to reset the series (with new human leads), establish the Transformers shared universe, and position future filmmakers to take the reins (in both numbered entries and spinoffs). Then, it was announced that Bay would return for Transformers 5 (now know as The Last Knight) as well.
So, what brought that director back this time?
Last week, Screen Rant was on the Transformers: The Last Knight set, where we had the chance to ask Michael Bay what inspired the director’s return this round. Considering the intensity of a Transformers film shoot, harsh reactions from critics and detractors, not to mention the fact that Bay is one of the most successful filmmakers in Hollywood (able to pick and choose his projects as he pleases), it’s understandable the filmmaker might have been ready, several times now, to move on to something different. Bay maintains that he was ready to hand the series off – until ideas coming out of the Transformers film series “Writers Room” inspired him to return.
Here’s what Bay had to say when asked about his choice to return on set:
“The writers room was big. It was an inspiration. I think I was ready to go shoot or something in about 13 hours and I had to sit for 6 to 7 hours, I had 12 writers pitch me their 45 minute stories, and I’m sitting there and I’m concentrating, not that I’m getting bored, but my mind is also going a million miles per hour, I’m completely spacing out cause I’m trying to think “Where’s the movie? What’s the movie?” and they went from the beginning of time to whatever. Some really smart people came up with great ideas. Spielberg and I latched on to a couple ideas that are great for spinoffs, there’s a great historical thing. As I told Paramount, we were doing one movie, then the next movie, then the next movie, and it’s hard. We need a Bible where we can start really taking what we’ve done. Now, they write down all that we’ve done and try to meld it. How do you cement into something new, so that you’ve got all this?”
In addition, Bay suggested that he’s also been inspired by the challenge of finding a way to shoot things he never thought previously possible – teasing that The Last Knight will be the most “different” entry in the series so far:
“The palette on this one is the most different I’ve ever done. It will be the most different. The third act is spectacular looking. It’s stuff that I’ve never done that excites me. It’s stuff that’s really complicated. I say: “I have no f#&%ing idea how we’re going to shoot this.” It’s fun. That’s the fun of it. How do you keep it human? We’ve really grounded it with Anthony Hopkins’s character. I’ve always wanted to work with that guy.”
Unfortunately, Bay didn’t elaborate on Hopkins’ character – which many have assumed, given the actor’s stately voice, is be a yet-to-be-unveiled Transformer (or other cosmic entity).
It’s nothing new to hear a director or actor compliment a script and assert the story was a major influence in their decision to be involved – and, since plot hasn’t always been the biggest strength of Bay’s Transformers series, it’s understandable that fans might be skeptical about The Last Knight being a marked improvement. Yet, the very purpose of the Transformers writers room was to improve the series’ storytelling – build a narrative through-line rather than start (mostly) from scratch with each new entry. While it’s unlikely the Transformers series will ever be as deep or layered as the comic and book series (as these are adrenaline-fueled action movies first and foremost), there’s reason to be optimistic that The Last Knight, the Bumblebee spinoff, and future chapters in the main story will offer a more cohesive journey.
As for whether Bay will return for Transformers 6, the filmmaker didn’t dismiss the idea but, standing in 90-degree heat for a 12-hour day on set, it’s easy to understand why the director isn’t willing to commit yet:
“Never ask someone that when they’re dog tired. I’ve lost 8 pounds running around. I like doing a small one and then a big one. It’s fun doing a big one but I like small ones too. I liked 13 Hours and Pain & Gain as well. They’re fun.”
For now, with no contract to return for another film in the series, only time will tell if Bay’s next “big one” is Transformers 6 – or something else entirely.
Transformers: The Last Knight opens in U.S. theaters on June 23, 2017, followed by the Bumblebee spin-off on June 8, 2018, and Transformers 6 on June 28, 2019.