With a fresh coat of paint on the Transformers franchise, the latest trailer for Bumblebee introduced several new elements into the upcoming prequel - not the least of which was the role of John Cena's mysterious Agent Burns.
Ditching the globe-spanning, epic scale of the past five Transformers movies, Bumblebee follows the titular Autobot as he seeks refuge in a small town in 1987. Set exactly 20 years before the first of Michael Bay's Transformers quintet, Bumblebee explores a period of time well before the Autobots and Decepticons brought their war to Earth, allowing a much more intimate, small-scale story between the titular Bumblebee and a teenage girl named Charlie Watson (played by Academy Award-nominee Hailee Steinfeld), in the vein of movies like E.T. and The Iron Giant.
However, not unlike those movies, government forces intervene once they become aware of the alien presence; and one such government operative is Agent Burns (played by John Cena). Affiliated with Sector 7 (the government agency featured in the previous Transformers movies tasked with tracking down the "robots in disguise"), Cena's character shows up briefly in the trailer, but his role in the movie will undoubtedly hold significant weight, not only in Bumblebee's fate, but potentially in the unfolding of the entire franchise.
Despite there being little in the way of concrete facts surrounding Cena's Agent Burns, the inspiration for the movie lends some weight to potential character arcs. One of the movie's producers Lorenzo di Bonaventura drew parallels between Bumblebee and The Iron Giant, not only in regards to the refugee robot but in terms of scope and tone. Paired with the E.T. parallels as well, this posits the idea that Agent Burns will lead the charge against Bumblebee, only to later come to his senses once he understands the true gravity of the situation. What's more is that, given the fact that the war between the Autobots and Decepticons remains a deep government secret well into the new millennium, Burns' involvement with Bumblebee and Charlie could potentially result in his being silenced in the end (especially given that he's nowhere to be seen in the later movies), either fatally or by some other means.
Speculation aside, it's also fitting for a professional wrestler/bodybuilder to play the badass-yet-emotionally conflicted hero-type in an '80s-set action movie. Sylvester Stallone did it in First Blood, Hulk Hogan did it in No Holds Barred, and Schwarzenegger did it in Predator, Commando, Conan the Barbarian, and countless others. And while it's impossible to predict how exactly Cena's arc will play out in the movie, his involvement, along with the tone and era of the movie, makes this '80s nod/inspiration all the more intentional.
Whether or not Agent Burns will have a change of heart by the final act of Bumblebee remains to be seen, but bringing aboard someone as likable as John Cena (who is, by all accounts, the spiritual follow-up to Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) certainly lends itself to vast speculation.
- Bumblebee (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018