There’s nothing like a shared universe idea to get audiences excited about the potential of films that haven’t been made yet. One of the more intriguing of these recent rumors is the possibility of a crossover film between G.I. Joe and Transformers, courtesy of comments made by director D.J. Caruso during the press tour for xXx: The Return of Xander Cage. In his comments, he mentioned that the script he was writing for G.I. Joe 3 included a moment at the end where the worlds of the Transformers and G.I. Joe collided, but because of where both film franchises were, it didn’t make a ton of sense.
As our own Cooper Hood explains, not much has changed from that discussion and there do not appear to be plans in the immediate future to bring these two franchises together. Given that the third G.I. Joe film has been on hold for a while and its main star, Dwayne Johnson, has an insane schedule that includes two TV shows, several blockbuster movies like San Andreas 2, Shazam, and the recently announced Black Adam feature, this is to be expected.
However, stakeholders in both of these franchises might want to consider putting this idea back on the table, as both are seemingly at a crossroads. Michael Bay has stated repeatedly that Transformers: The Last Knight is going to be his final outing in the cash cow franchise he launched all the way back in 2007, so Transformers is going to need a new direction with its guiding force moving on to greener pastures. There are unlimited options for where the Transformers universe could go, and one of them definitely should be to team up with the Joes - even if only to leverage the power of the brand to help the G.I. Joe franchise.
It's easy to understand why Caruso was trying to work towards mashing up the two properties. The G.I. Joe movie franchise is in desperate need of a jolt of energy - something to make it more exciting and drive moviegoers to theaters. The two previous films, G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra and G.I. Joe: Retaliation, grossed $302 million and $374 million respectively, to coincide with their 35% and 23% Rotten Tomatoes critics rankings. To make matters worse, those numbers came on budgets of $175 million and $130 million. In short, it hasn’t been an easy road to hoe for the Joes.
Tying the G.I. Joe franchise in with Transformers seems like a good idea for a multitude of reasons. Both franchises were very popular 80s cartoons (the G.I. Joes started as action figures first, however), both are own by Hasbro, and both were featured very recently in their own comic book series together, Transformers vs. G.I. Joe, which ran for two years. The shared history is there for these properties, a good thing given today’s movie climate. Team up films and shared universes are all the rage now, building on the massive success of Marvel’s The Avengers in 2012, a year before G.I. Joe Retaliation came out.
Studios have gone all in on these kinds of films, and even when they are about a titular character, like Captain America: Civil War or Spider-Man: Homecoming, fans want to see more of their favorite characters. Paramount, in particular, has realized this demand and done something that seems pretty unique for a movie studio, in that they’ve developed a writers room for their expanded Hasbro universe. Led by Oscar winning writer Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind), the writers room contains Lindsey Beer (Wizard of Oz), Michael Chabon (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay), Cheo Coker (Luke Cage), Jonathan Goldstein & John Francis Daley (Spider-Man: Homecoming), Joe Robert Cole (Black Panther), Nicole Perlman (Guardians of the Galaxy), Jeff Pinkner (The Dark Tower), Nicole Riegel (Soldier Girls), Geneva Robertson (Tomb Raider) and Brian K Vaughan (Lost). That’s a lot of talented writers now set to collaborate on projects that include Transformers, G.I. Joe, Micronauts, Visionaries, M.A.S.K. (Mobile Armored Strike Kommand), and ROM.
The main reason why G.I. Joe really needs the Transformers is for the financial power the brand brings. This is a business after all. In a world of cars that can turn into robots, Dinobots, and kinetic bombardment weapons, it wouldn’t take much for audiences to suspend their disbelief if the concept was cool enough and seemed genuine enough to support. The Transformers franchise hasn't fared much better than G.I. Joe critically, but the films have proved to be the most "critic proof" franchise ever, with the past two installments ranking as the 13th and 16th highest grossing movies of all time, in spite of their poor reviews.
Transformers defiance of critic scores has been an impressive ongoing feat. Even the franchise's lowest-grossing entry, the original Transformers film, made $709 million worldwide. That's more than the G.I. Joe films have made combined ($678 million). In fact, even with the addition of then-burgeoning superstar Dwayne Johnson and legend Bruce Willis, and slicing the budget by $45 million, G.I. Joe Retaliation only made about $74 million more than the first film. The goal posts for blockbusters have seriously moved in the past 10-15 years - as evidenced by Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice being seen as a failure by some, despite grossing $873 million worldwide. Making $370 million on a $130 million budget isn't enough to demarcate a movie as a big hit, or even to necessarily guarantee a sequel.
It's not just at the box office that the G.I. Joe series could see a welcome injection from the Transformers franchise, put in production as well. The previous Transformers film, Transformers: Age of Extinction, was filmed in Texas, Chicago, and China - three areas with heavy production incentives. The G.I. Joe franchise is already wonderfully diverse with stars like Dwayne Johnson and Byung-hun Lee at the forefront, and appealing to the global audience is crucial for the blockbuster success. Combining these two franchises would potentially allow for the same kind of production access and global impact that the Transformers franchise has, a boon to the G. I. Joe franchise and hopefully allowing for more exciting films.
Do you want to see the Joes team up with the Transformers? Let us know in the comments!
- Transformers 5/Transformers: The Last Knight (2017) release date: Jun 21, 2017
- Bumblebee (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018