UPDATE: Bumblebee director Travis Knight, and actors John Cena and Jorge Lendenborg Jr., have now weighed in on the G.I. Joe theory presented below.
Is John Cena's mysterious Bumblebee character actually a G.I. Joe, setting up a big crossover as part of the Hasbro shared universe? Bumblebee is a very different sort of Transformers film, but will still have the typical subplot of military intrigue and menace familiar to the franchise, thanks to 'Bee and new friend Charlie's (Hailee Steinfeld) pursuit by franchise military outfit, Sector-7 - with John Cena's Agent Burns at its lead.
This isn't just moving away from the Michael Bay era of Transformers, but looking towards a fresh future. Paramount Pictures and Hasbro are looking to re-energize their combined IP on the big screen, with the hopes of creating a shared universe between the likes of Transformers, G.I. Joe, Power Rangers and M.A.S.K. It began with the writers room they organized in 2015, and might now be continuing with the release of Bumblebee.
The current status of the G.I. Joe franchise is unclear. A third movie has a 2020 release date, but whether Dwayne Johnson will return as Roadblock - and if it will be connected to the previous entries - has yet to be made official. It’s very possible that G.I. Joe 3 is, or will end up being, another step forward for a Hasbro crossover, especially with the report that incoming director D.J. Caruso came up with an ending to his script that tied the Transformers in. Caruso also said that Paramount and Hasbro weren't ready to do so just yet, suggesting Michael Bay's continued involvement in the franchise (he serves as a producer on Bumblebee) as a hurdle, but that might no longer be the case.
If G.I. Joe 3 isn't another standalone Joe movie, it could equally be a soft reboot for the franchise - whilst continuing to hang onto key player Johnson - that actually factors the Transformers into its structure, thanks to a theorized intro in Bumblebee. So how do they get from a Bumblebee movie to a Transformers/G.I. Joe crossover? Perhaps by presenting John Cena's Agent Burns as the original G.I. Joe in the 1987-set prequel.
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Is John Cena A G.I. Joe In Bumblebee?
So far, John Cena's Bumblebee character has been kept under wraps. From the trailers, we can glean that he's scarred Sector-7 emissary Agent Burns, on the trail of Bee somewhere in California. The plot finds him and the rest of automaton-alien watchdogs Sector-7 manipulated by Decepticons into thinking that Bee is a war criminal and attempting to capture or kill the titular Autobot. It’s likely that his character trajectory will follow the age-old redemption arc, leading to Burns realizing that Bumblebee is a good guy and assisting him in some way (with his own motives throughout most likely being inherently altruistic, as a soldier concerned with his country - or planet's - safety).
Previous theories surrounding his character’s name suggested a planned link to 80s cartoon M.A.S.K., touted to be in the running for crossover material, but the latest Bumblebee trailer's revelation of Burns' scar - given such intriguingly prominent pride-of-place - suggests that if the character is going to be a crossover with anything, it’s G.I. Joe. After all, the original G.I. Joe action figures carried a facial scar on the right cheek as a trademark to prevent cheap imitation of the human body - a form which is legally unable to be trademarked.
Related: Why G.I. Joe Needs the Transformers
The scar has been synonymous with G.I. Joe ever since, even being indoctrinated into the appearance of one of their main characters, Duke, with his creation in 1983. Channing Tatum, when appearing as Duke in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, proudly sported the very distinctive scar. One would imagine it was non-negotiable when bringing G.I. Joe to the big screen. Could John Cena really be playing an original G.I. Joe in a new cinematic iteration of the franchise, with Sector-7 providing the 80s prototype of the organization that produces the Joes as a fully-fledged team in the present day?
Does Sector-7 Become G.I. Joe?
If Cena is a Joe, then is Sector-7 their command? The "Real American Heroes" of the G.I. Joe network definitely share the clandestine US paramilitary organization that Sector-7 has as its modus operandi, albeit with some different goals; Sector-7 attempts to contain or eradicate all Cybertronian beings (sometimes, just Decepticons, sometimes not) whilst the Joes are most often found combating worldwide terrorist organization Cobra.
It would be a piece of cake for the collective power of Akiva Goldsman’s writers room to have put two and two together, making Sector-7 and the Joes part of one and the same organization. In doing so, the writers can reboot the entire Transformers franchise, starting with Bumblebee - who doesn’t have to end up allying with no-no-no-ing Sam Witwicky or cardboard-cutout, one-liner-machine military types in the first Michael Bay iteration.
Instead, John Cena’s G.I. Joe could be the main human connection (in a robot-led movie that sorely needs one), alongside a less-confused Sector-7 - who truly begin to act like the good guys they should be. What’s thrilling is that by the same logic, fans could potentially see Cobra being backed by the Decepticons and all their tech. Imagine Storm Shadow piloting Starscream, and you’re on the right track.
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- Bumblebee (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018