The original Transformers is a fascinating film. It managed to take one of the most outrageous premises of all time—robotic, humanoid extraterrestrials with the ability to transform into vehicles who wage war on Earth over a cube with unlimited power —and turn it into a *decent popcorn flick. It was able to entertain audiences across the globe to the tune of $709.7 million.
Since the film did so well at the box office, Paramount decided to make another one, and then another. Ten years and four films later, Transformers has become one of the highest grossing franchises of all time.
It is the very definition of a popcorn franchise, consisting of bombastic films that ask audiences to sit back for nearly three hours at a time while director Michael Bay hammers their senses with everything in his considerable special effects arsenal.
There's absolutely nothing wrong with this. After all, Bay must be doing something right because audiences across the globe have returned again and again over the last decade, and paid a combined $3.779 billion to watch the films in theaters. This figure doesn't even include the franchise's latest entry, Transformers: The Last Knight, which will likely add close to another billion dollars to that total before the end of its theatrical run.
You've seen the movies, so now here are 15 Things You Never Knew About The Transformers Franchise.
15 It was originally conceived as a G.I. Joe adaptation
The development of the Transformers franchise dates as far back as the early 2000s, when producer Don Murphy (whose previous credits included 1994's Natural Born Killers and 2003's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) began looking into adapting a Hasbro property into a film.
The property Murphy had in mind was... not Transformers. Instead, he was more interested in G.I. Joe, and at least one studio expressed interest in the idea. Then the political landscape of the United States changed and so did Murphy's planned film.
According to Murphy, "I had been in conversation with Hasbro to do 'GI Joe' actually, and Sony was interested in doing it. Then [the U.S.] invaded Iraq and it became kind of clear that doing a movie called 'GI Joe' was probably not the smartest idea at that point."
Murphy credits Carol Monroe, who was in charge of Hasbro Films at the time, with suggesting a film adaptation of the Transformers instead. Murphy took her advice, and the rest is history.
14 The transformers didn't speak in the early drafts of the screenplay
After the original movie was greenlit, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman were brought in to write the screenplay. The screenwriting duo (who've also worked on Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2) claim that the first and second drafts of the screenplay didn't have the Transformers uttering a single word.
According to Orci, the studio was worried that the team wouldn't be able to make the speaking Transformers believable enough in the live-action adaptation. The transformers weren't initially given any dialogue until the third draft of the screenplay, when Kurtzman decided that the needed to provide speaking Transformers, otherwise fans would revolt.
While fans may not have killed the duo, it's safe to say a Transformers film that didn't feature Optimus Prime telling the Autobots to "roll out" would have been disappointing.
13 Michael Bay recycled footage several times throughout the series
Making movies and television shows can get pretty expensive, which is why producers will recycle old sets and props as often as possible in order to save. Sometimes, producers will even recycle old clips. The producers of The Flash, for example, will recycle the same clips of Barry running at super speed over and over again throughout the season to save both time and money.
Michael Bay has done similar things a few times throughout the Transformers series. This includes re-using a shot of an aircraft carrier in Transformers that originally appeared in Pearl Harbor, and a few scenes in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen that were recycled from earlier in the series, or from earlier in the film.
The most glaring example so far comes in Transformers: Dark of the Moon, where Bay recycles an entire car crash scene from his 2005 film, The Island. In the original scene, gigantic metal weights tumble out of the back of a truck on a busy highway and one of them destroys a car in pursuit of the film's protagonists. In Dark of the Moon, the same scene is used except the weights are digitally replaced by a Decepticon, which causes the damage.
12 Shia LaBeouf's injury during Revenge of the Fallen had to be written into the film
First time viewers of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen may have been a bit confused halfway through the film when Shia LaBeouf's Sam Witwicky suddenly has a cast on his left hand. The cast appears after Sam, Mikaela, and others are teleported to Egypt by Jetfire (why and how Jetfire is able to teleport is never fully explained).
There is a brief shot of Sam landing on the ground and clutching his badly disfigured left hand, and then in the next shot his hand is fully bandaged. It stays that way for the rest of the film.
The reason for the sudden injury is LaBeouf was in a real life car accident while filming. According to published accounts of the accident, another driver ran a red light and collided with LaBeouf's Ford truck, causing it to flip.
According to LaBeouf, he had his hand outside of the truck's window at the time of the collision and required multiple surgeries soon after. The film's writers were quickly made aware of the injury and the film was changed accordingly.
11 Both Bay and LaBeouf were highly critical of Revenge of the Fallen
Looking back on the original Transformers movie, the fact that it performed as well as it did with critics is surprising. It is, after all, based on toy cars that transform into talking robots.
Despite this potential setback, the film received 127 fresh ratings on Rotten Tomatoes compared with 94 rotten ones. It's overall rating of 57% isn't stellar, but at least more than half of critics who reviewed it enjoyed it. The same can't be said of Revenge of the Fallen, which was universally panned.
Even the film's director and star were highly critical after its release. Michael Bay blamed much of the film's failure on the 2007-2008 Writers Guild of America strike. With regard to the film being panned Bay said, "I'll take some of the criticism. It was very hard to put [the sequel] together that quickly after the writers' strike."
LaBeouf would also weigh in saying, "when I saw the second movie, I wasn't impressed with what we did. There were some really wild stunts in it, but the heart was gone."
The two would team up again for the franchise's third entry, Dark of the Moon, which was slightly better received.
10 Megan Fox was cut from Dark of the Moon after making comments about Bay's directing
Megan Fox was noticeably absent from Transformers: Dark of the Moon. According to a statement from Fox's representatives, "It was her decision not to return. She wishes the franchise the best." She was eventually replaced by Rosie Huntington-Whiteley who played Sam's new girlfriend, Carly Spencer. According to LaBeouf and Bay, however, Fox's departure was a bit more complicated than this.
While she was still slated to appear in the film, Fox said in an interview with Wonderland magazine that Bay "wants to be like Hitler on his sets, and he is. So he's a nightmare to work for."
Shortly thereafter, Bay says executive producer Steven Spielberg told him to "fire her right now." Spielberg has since denied this claim but, following Fox's sudden, exit LaBeouf would say, "criticism is one thing. Then there's public name-calling ... Which you can't do."
Bay says Fox's firing wasn't personal, but instead had to do with her work ethic. The two presumably made up, however, since Fox would go on to star in the Bay-produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
9 Production of Dark of the Moon was halted after an extra was badly injured on set
Principal photography for Transformers: Dark of the Moon officially began in May of 2010, but was temporarily delayed in September after an extra was seriously injured during the filming of a stunt.
According to witnesses, Gabriella Cedillo was driving a car on set when a steel cable towing another car snapped and part of the cable smashed the windshield on Cedillo's car. Cedillo was struck in the head and immediately flown by helicopter to a nearby hospital where she underwent emergency surgery.
Cedillo suffered permanent brain damage and partial paralysis on the left side of her body, among other injuries, which led to her family filing a lawsuit against Paramount Pictures.
Cedillo's attorney argued that Paramount was more concerned with filming the scene than the safety of its actors and that the accident was the result of shoddy welding. Cedillo eventually won the lawsuit and received an $18 million settlement in 2012.
8 Dark of the Moon is filled with Star Trek references
The writing team behind the Transformers franchise has evolved throughout the series. Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman penned the screenplay for the first film, and were then joined by Ehen Kruger for the second.
Then Orci and Kurtzman stepped away from the franchise before Dark of the Moon, leaving Kruger as the lone writer for the third film. As a self-confessed Star Trek fan, Kruger sprinkled in references to the popular sci-fi franchise throughout the movie.
The first nod to Spock and co. occurs when Brains and Wheelie are watching an episode of the original series on television in Sam's apartment. Wheelie even comments, "I've seen this one, it's the one where Spock goes mad," foreshadowing Sentinel Prime's (voiced by Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy) actions later on in the film.
There's also the scene when Sam visits Carly's workplace and compares it to the Starship Enterprise. The final Easter egg comes when Sentinal Prime borrows Spock's immortal quote, "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few."
7 Paramount was sued after leaving a product placement out of Age of Extinction
Product placement is an inescapable part of the film industry. Sometimes a brand and a production will come to an agreement to include a product in the final cut of the film with no money exchanging hands, and other times a product is featured for a price.
General Motors, for example, provided more than 200 cars for the climactic battle scene of Transformers (saving the production roughly $3 million) in exchange for its cars being featured as the Autobots alternate forms.
One placement was accidentally cut from the final version of Transformers: Age of Extinction, which led to a lawsuit filed against Paramount. According to the lawsuit, Wulong Karst Tourism paid $750,000 for a logo featuring the Chinese characters "China Wulong" to appear in the film.
The goal of the logo's placement was to boost tourism. Unfortunately, the logo didn't make the final cut. Paramount has since admitted that the logo wasn't featured in the film, but said that it did everything it could to make up for the blunder, including having Michael Bay shoot a short advertisement for the company.
Wulong is now suing for $27.7 million.
6 It's the lowest-rated blockbuster franchise ever
Making a successful blockbuster franchise isn't easy. In fact, for every series of films that successfully crushes the box office, there are usually one or two planned franchises that can't make it past the first entry.
In order for a franchise to be a success, it needs to win over critics and fans alike, while also raking in millions at the box office. It's in this regard that Transformers stands apart from the rest of the blockbuster franchise pack, since it is the most poorly reviewed of the bunch.
Of the top ten highest grossing film franchises of all time, Transformers comes in at number ten in terms of average Rotten Tomatoes rating per film. While franchises like Harry Potter, the MCU, and Star Wars average roughly 84.6%, 81.6%, and 80.3% per entry, Transformers comes in at an average of 37% per film.
This is even lower than other poorly rated franchises such as The Fast and the Furious and Pirates of the Caribbean, which average 55.6% and 47.8%, respectively. The Transformers films may dazzle audiences across the globe, but critics haven't been as impressed.
5 The movies make a huge percentage of their box office overseas
In recent years, however, producers have become much more reliant on the international market in order to get a return on their investment. The fact of the matter is producing a blockbuster movie requires a large budget.
For example, Transformers: The Last Knight had a budget of $260 million, but these figures don't include the money spent on marketing. This means that in order for the films' producers to turn a profit, the films must gross two or three times what they cost to make.
There just isn't enough money in the domestic market alone for producers to make a profit, which is why they rely so heavily on foreign audiences. Transformers made 45% of its box office domestically, and 55% internationally, whereas Revenge of the Fallen came in at 48.1% and 51.9%, respectively.
The last two entries, however, have skewed drastically toward the international market. Dark of the Moon made just 31.4% domestically, compared to 68.6% overseas, and the difference for Age of Extinction was even greater: 22.2% versus 77.8%.
While it seems that domestic audiences have grown tired of the Transformers films, international audiences can't get enough of them.
4 Paramount has plenty of sequels and spin-offs planned for the future
The Transformers franchise may already be ten years old, but it is just getting started according to the brain trust behind the films. In fact, according to Michael Bay, Paramount has at least fourteen different stories planned for the future of the franchise, including both sequels and spin-offs.
Though Bay has claimed that The Last Knight will be his last film in the franchise, he has also expressed interest in directing one of the future entries. On the future of the franchise the director said, "there are fourteen stories written and there’s good stuff. I would like to do one of them though… A Transformers spinoff."
The idea that Paramount would want to keep the franchise going for the foreseeable future isn't surprising. After all, the movies make a lot of money at the box office. However, fourteen sequels and spinoffs seems absurdly high.
It's one thing for franchises like the MCU and the DCEU to have dozens of future ideas in mind, considering the many superheroes waiting to be introduced on film, but nineteen movies based on Transformers seems like a bit excessive. We'll see if Paramount follows through with these plans.
3 Bumblebee is getting a solo film
When it comes to the Transformers movies, Optimus Prime is clearly the star. Yes, there are human actors constantly running around his feet, but the leader of the Autobots is always front and center.
Just look at the posters for the films and you'll see Prime prominently featured in every one of them. Bumblebee, meanwhile, despite being a fan favorite since the first film, is usually relegated to the background, but that's about to change since he's set to get his own movie next year.
On the direction the film will take, producer Lorenzo Di Bonaventura said, "it’s a more intimate movie. It’s a little bit like Iron Giant which I worked on many years ago. It’s a smaller story but it’s still about these larger issues, the same sort of titanic clashes occur. But it’s a female lead, the relationship she and Bumblebee develop is very different than what we’ve seen before."
The film is still in its infancy in terms of development, so little else is known at this time, but Hailee Steinfeld (Pitch Perfect 2, The Edge of Seventeen) is currently set to star.
2 G.I. Joe 3 came close to being a transformers crossover
While the Transformers have proven to be quite the popular Hasbro property when it comes to film, the company's other toy lines haven't been as successful at the box office.
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and Battleship each made more than $300 million at the worldwide box office, but those figures are underwhelming considering the films' budgets. G.I. Joe: Retaliation did a bit better, earning $375 million, but it wasn't enough to justify a third film, and Hasbro decided to reboot the franchise instead.
Before Hasbro decided to hit the reset button, D.J. Caruso (XXX: Return of Xander Cage) was in talks to direct the third film. In an interview with Collider, Caruso said he wanted to bring the Transformers and G.I. Joe franchises together, but that the studio felt it was too soon. On the topic of a crossover Caruso said, "they will eventually collide those two worlds and it’s probably when Mr. Bay decides he’s done with Transformers.”
There is hope for fans that both Dwayne Johnson's Roadblock and Optimus Prime will meet eventually.
1 Hasbro is trying to use the franchise to develop a cinematic universe
At a time when shared universes are all the rage, Hasbro has decided to start one of its own. After all, there's already Disney's Star Wars and Marvel Cinematic Universes, Warner Bros.' DC Extended Universe, 20th Century Fox's X-Men Universe, Universal's Dark Universe, Legendary Pictures' Monsterverse, and plenty of others in various stages of development.
So why shouldn't Hasbro develop a universe featuring all of its properties? Well, this is exactly what the company plans to do.
With the already-popular Transformers at its center, Paramount and Hasbro plan to build a shared universe that will include the G.I. Joe, the Micronauts, the Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light, M.A.S.K. (Mobile Armored Strike Kommand), and ROM The Spaceknight.
The powers that be at Paramount and Hasbro have already assembled a writer's room dedicated to developing the stories for the shared universe, which means we can expect to see plenty of the Transformers on the big screen in the years to come.
Are there any other Transformers franchise facts that we missed? Let us know in the comments.