One of the most divisive film-franchises in Hollywood, the Transformers movies have earned massive box office (and merchandising) success - while simultaneously remaining a punching bag for cinephiles. The division is understandable: a large portion of casual filmgoers enjoy Michael Bay's CGI-heavy summer escapism while others cannot stand the filmmaker's choice to prioritize action over quality story development and characters. Four entries into the film series and it's clear that neither side is prepared to concede - making Transformers a regular point of debate in the conversation over what makes a film good.
Still, while critics and naysayers can certainly point to areas that should be improved in future Transformers movies, fans can rest easy knowing that Paramount's toy-to-movie film series isn't going anywhere soon. The studio earned $1.1 billion on Transformers 4 alone (not including merchandising) bringing the franchise take to over $3.7 billion globally - prompting Paramount to begin development on a cross-medium shared cinematic universe. Some might have thought that meant Bay would be taking a step back, to make room for new (and less expensive) directors to take their crack at the series but we now have official confirmation that the infamous filmmaker is back for Transformers 5 - with a planned release in summer 2017.
The news comes from an otherwise minor line in Rolling Stone's interview with Bay, in preparation for the launch of 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, where the director casually confirms that he is, once again, stepping back into the world of Autobots and Decepticons:
"Between his producing duties and directorial work, Bay usually has a half-dozen projects going at once. Right now, in addition to 13 Hours, he's doing post-production on the next Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which he's producing and which is due in 2016, and pre-production for the next Transformers, which he's directing for summer 2017. "I'm doing Transformers ... 5, is it?" Bay says, temporarily losing track. He shakes his head. "I've taken on a lot of work."
Initially, it was believed that Transformers: Age of Extinction would be a potential exit point for the director - providing a jumping off point for franchise writers to push the story into uncharted territory and, at the same time, release Bay from the responsibility of shouldering every series entry. Yet, the Rolling Stone quote makes it clear, where Bay is involved in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows post-production work as producer, he's beginning pre-production work as director for Transformers 5.
No doubt, skeptics will get a rise out of the filmmaker's flippant response - in which he can barely remember, himself, how many Transformers films he's directed; still, fans of the film series should be excited to hear that the action movie icon is back for another spin with the extraterrestrial cybernetic organisms. Love it or hate it, there are plenty who were worried that Paramount might hire a less experienced filmmaker for Transformers 5, then pressure that director to recreate Bay's approach - potentially delivering a film that would be just as thin, in terms of story, without the benefit of Bay's talent for on-screen spectacle.
That all said, the return of Michael Bay also means that fans who have been looking forward to a major seat-change in the series - one that might get back to G1-inspired Transformer basics - should not expect Transformers 5 to be a significant divergence from Bay's financially successful formula. While the filmmaker could surprise, and opt for quality storytelling on a smaller scale, there's no evidence to suggest that Bay would have any interest in retooling the series. If anything, Transformers 4 was a chance to reset the series and tell a more personal tale; yet, by the second act, it was clear a relatively intimate introduction between Mark Wahlberg's Cade Yeager and a mortally wounded Optimus Prime was just a prelude to even crazier Transformer battles - including the Autobot leader taming and then riding cybernetic dinosaur warrior, Grimlock.
Without question, the series is one of the most over-the-top franchises in Hollywood - and a far cry from the original Spielberg-esque story of a boy and his alien car. Nevertheless, with a rowdy fan base, and children who are eager to snatch-up the latest Transformers toys and t-shirts, it's apparent that Bay and Paramount aren't eager to alter their formula - especially since many of Paramount's other Hasbro adaptations (including G.I. Joe) haven't come anywhere close to Transformers' box office clout.
That all said, while it's easy to be cynical about the Transformers series, it's worth noting that Paramount is investing heavily in the franchise going forward - especially when it comes to the larger shared universe story. The studio has culled a costly batch of established (and talented) writers to help shape the Transformers universe, meaning that Transformers 5 could, if all goes well, be the first Transformers movie sequel to find a balance between Bay's eye-popping action and an engaging story that makes use of the iconic robot characters for more than selling toys and tickets.
Transformers 5 is currently scheduled for summer 2017 release.
Source: Rolling Stone
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