This week it was announced that John Cena will be starring alongside Hailee Steinfeld in the upcoming Transformers spin-off, Bumblebee. With the latest entry in the franchise, The Last Knight, totaling less at the box office than its equally noisy predecessors, there is a great deal riding on this first solo adventure. It has been suggested that Paramount wants to return to some of the original story and design elements that older fans would recognize in the hopes of luring them back to the fold. Along with the revelation that Bumblebee would be taking place in the 1980s - the hairspray and neon pastel decade of the franchise’s birth - it opens a great deal of speculation that Cena could be playing a familiar human character from the lore, and despite being called The Transformers, there are plenty of humans to choose from.
The path of least resistance would find John Cena playing yet another member of the Witwicky family. The live-action franchise has played fast and loose with its own continuity, let alone what was established in pre-existing lore, so there are a few members of the Witwicky clan whom we’ve yet to see. While the film’s creative team could introduce an original character, there are still a few from the canon who have yet to be adapted: Sparkplug, Daniel, Buster, and Spike.
Of all of the Witwicky options, Spike is the most likely option. The connection to the lore is there: in the original 1984 cartoon, Spike and Bumblebee were a kid-friendly duo who would go off and have adventures. The first two seasons of the show heavily invested in kids buying into their friendship (and, through them, the toys). Of course, in the Michael Bay-directed films, Bumblebee’s relationship with Sam adopts a similar pattern. To “refresh” the relationship, Paramount may choose to make an important alteration.
In this instance, Cena would be playing a version of Sparkplug, Spike’s father. Since Wahlberg's Cade Yaeger was already a mechanical genius, the writers will change Sparkplug into something more effusive; a former soldier, perhaps - Cena loves playing those - or a similarly active authority figure. The focus would still be on Bumblebee and Spike, but with Hailee Steinfeld playing Spike. The gender bend has become a go-to for adapting works into film and televised media in recent years, and the change might do the character of Spike some good. In the lore, Spike has usually grown up to become a soldier (Transformers has many already) or an interstellar diplomat. Given the earthbound nature of Bumblebee’s story (as well as the Michael Bay Transformers films in general), recasting Spike as a teenage girl (in the 80s no less) could add a kitschy charm, fun, and sincerity that the live-action films have been missing.
The drawback, of course, is that we’ve had a setup like this in 2014’s Age of Extinction with Cade Yaeger and his daughter Tessa. However, their relationship was frayed to say the very least, and Tessa herself barely had any scenes opposite a Transformer and wasn’t even in this year’s follow-up, The Last Knight. If this set-up between Steinfeld’s character and Bumblebee is accurate, it would reshuffle what we’ve already seen and add a new and decidedly female lead to the human cast.
On the opposite end of the hope-spectrum, there comes the chance Cena is playing Daniel Witwicky. Daniel is likewise from the 1984 cartoon series and is a shrill irritant who makes Neelix from Star Trek: Voyager look like John Wayne. That said, in one continuity, Daniel did grow up to be a badass soldier (though he was summarily executed quickly to the chagrin of no one). As an adult, with his tapered hair, square chin and network of muscles, Daniel did resemble a character Cena could play. Regardless, the name is a stigma and one that Transformers fans would not respond to positively.
- Bumblebee (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018