Optimus Prime has been confirmed to return in Travis Knight's 2018 Bumblebee spinoff. Optimus Prime and Bumblebee are among the only characters who have appeared in each Transformers movie ever since Michael Bay launched the live-action franchise in 2007, thereby providing Paramount Pictures with one of their most financially successful franchises ever. And since cinematic universes are all the rage in Hollywood these days, after Bay's Transformers: Age of Extinction released in 2014, the studio decided to push full-steam ahead with their own shared universe.
Paramount had hired Oscar-winning screenwriter Akiva Goldsman to oversee their newly-formed Transformers writer's room, which consisted of some of the industry's top writers, such as Christina Hodson (Shut In), Steven DeKnight (Daredevil), Jeff Pinker (LOST), Ken Nolan (Black Hawk Down), and Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead), among others. Their job was to come up with ideas for possible sequels, prequels, and spinoffs, with Transformers: The Last Knight being the springboard for the cinematic universe. And the first spinoff to come out of that initiative was Hodson's Bumblebee film, which takes place in the '80s and stars the likes of Hailee Steinfeld and John Cena. And now, also Optimus Prime himself.
Peter Cullen, who's famously known for voicing Optimus Prime in both the '80s animated Transformers series as well as Paramount's live-action franchise, has been promoting The Last Knight's home video release, and in an interview with Cinemovie, Cullen confirmed that Optimus Prime will return for 2018's Bumblebee spinoff. When asked if audiences will hear his voice in the spinoff, Cullen replied, "Yes."
Considering that franchise producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura has promised fewer Transformers in the spinoff, it's curious as to why they would decide to include Optimus Prime in the new installment. However, it's worth noting that Cullen only confirms that his voice will be heard in the film; he doesn't explicitly say that Optimus will appear in his full form (or at all), but it's safe to say that Paramount wouldn't bring Cullen back if it wasn't to voice the Autobot leader.
Among the many questions that arise from this announcement, one of the main questions is, how will they include Optimus Prime? As far as the live-action Transformers universe is concerned, he didn't arrive on Earth until his initial encounter with Sam Witwicky in the first film. The logical explanation would be that they might have some sort of flashback of Bumblebee on Cybertron. Perhaps the Autobot had left for Earth after Sentinel Prime crash-landed on the Moon in the '60s. Of course, that question likely won't be answered until the movie hits theaters next year.
- Bumblebee (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018