In 2007, Transformers made their leap from TV to the big screen and it’s been something of a cultural behemoth ever since. Despite lasting this long, there have been a few hiccups along the way. Transformers: The Last Knight severely underperformed previous expectations.
With this blockbuster failure, Paramount took a different approach to the spinoff/prequel Bumblebee. Slashing the budget and pushing release to Christmas of 2018, Bumblebee shifted gears from a major tentpole film to something vastly different. Instead, we have a character-driven story rooted in friendship and mutual healing.
Paramount has since announced that Bumblebee would set a soft reboot in motion. But what would really be better: going full-throttle on a reboot or keeping the old timeline?
Here’s 5 reasons why the Transformers movies should be rebooted and 5 reasons why they shouldn’t.
10 NO REBOOT - Superhero Alternative
Transformers is focused way less on the concept of heroes and villains than many big action films. Intentional or not, Bay’s Optimus comes off as angry and violence-prone. Granted, he’s been through a lot given the fact he died, was forced to destroy Cybertron in order to save some very ungrateful humans, then those ungrateful humans started hunting down all Transformers, and then got brainwashed by Quintessa.
So in some roundabout way, we could make the argument that Transformers, as it is now, has blurred morality lines and makes us question the integrity of the Autobots to a degree. The main struggle starts shifting to Cybertronians vs Humans with Autobots vs Decepticons as an underlying theme.
9 REBOOT - Streamlined Designs
The Bayhem extends beyond the nonstop explosions and incoherent fight scenes. The Transformers’ designs suffered as well. The Bay designs can be really hard to look at and are difficult for the eye to track. More moving parts isn’t necessarily a good thing and as a result, the bots end up looking really muddled. Bumblebee’s designs take a step back, embrace the '80s boxy-ness, and give us that visual coherency we were lacking.
For the most part, the bots really didn’t look out of place in the live action bits. They’re just complicated enough in design for our brains to understand that Bee’s chest is the hood of the VW Beetle. It was also just a treat to see Bee’s model change with his four vehicle modes: Cybertronian, the Jeep, the VW Beetle, and the Camaro.
8 NO REBOOT - The 2015 Writers’ Room
During pre-production for The Last Knight, Paramount announced a massive writers’ room effort to better coordinate later installments of the series. Led by Akiva Goldsman, Paramount established a room of 12 writers to help shape the future of the franchise. It gave a lot of us hope about The Last Knight actually being about Transformers.
We still didn’t get that... but the work of that writers’ room hasn’t been erased. While Transformers 6 is being tossed around (don't trust Lorenzo), what about the rest of that work? How tied is it to the current movie canon? We have questions we want possible answers to! The effort was already put in, so don’t toss it.
7 REBOOT - Transformers IN A Transformers Movie
Bay movies are notorious for having such little screen time devoted to Transformers. In The Last Knight, Bumblebee got a collective 10 minutes out of 148 minutes. Bumblebee. What even? And that’s not even considering that Optimus Freaking Prime maybe had about 5 minutes.
No, we came here to watch Transformers. Let us have Transformers.
We also get very clear fight scenes that have an overall purpose. Bumblebee definitely saves itself for that final battle of Bee and Charlie vs Shatter and Dropkick. But the way Bumblebee fights is perfect. As a smaller opponent, he constantly goes low, tries to get underfoot, did not skip leg day, and uses his environment to his advantage. Staging makes sense, characters are easy to track, and it doesn’t feel bloated with action. By the time we hit the marina fight, we’re super hype to see it.
6 NO REBOOT - Too Much Lore To Explore
Is it too much to ask for some sensible retconning? Why yes, yes it is.
All things considered, The Last Knight shouldn’t have shocked us that much. Since at least Revenge of the Fallen, Transformers have influenced Earth’s development for at least a few thousand years. Later movies play around with this to the point of retconning themselves, but at least it’s a concept being well-explored.
And now we have Unicron. For anyone who doesn’t know, Unicron is the Biggest of Bads in the Transformers universe. Cybertron and any being’s continued existence are constantly threatened by Unicron’s ability to consume anything and everything in his path. More recently, he’s been designated as the “Chaos Bringer,” generally being associated with mass destruction and planet-wide panic.
So that sounds cool, but we haven’t even touched Quintessa yet. There’s a lot here and while we don’t have time to unpack all of that, we hope the movies have time to do it for us.
5 REBOOT - Losing Hypermasculinity
There’s no question that Transformers movies are teeming with testosterone. Look, there’s no shame in wanting to watch giant robots punch giant dinosaur robots. But yikes, there are some super cringe-worthy moments in the movies. Probably the most infamous examples are Bumblebee peeing on John Turturro (we’re sorry) and the five-minute explanation of incorrect Texas consent laws in Age of Extinction (we’re really, REALLY sorry).
Bumblebee turns it all upside-down. In no way is Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld) shown or written the same way as really any other woman in the movie franchise. She’s just a person getting through a tough time, finding solace and comfort through someone else. And the whole relationship with Memo doesn’t get pushed at all and becomes a friendship you want to see grow. Charlie isn’t shamed for brushing off Memo’s interest and Memo’s totally cool with taking things slow.
4 NO REBOOT - The Overseas Market
Given Marvel’s success with more progressive storytelling and representation with the success of Black Panther and Captain Marvel, overseas marketing is becoming a bit muddled. But for the most part, the Transformers franchise relies heavily on success in China.
Maybe it’s not as much of a concern given how well Bumblebee did overseas, but there’s a big difference between $1.3 billion worldwide and $465 million. The Last Knight also managed to rake in more than Bumblebee and wasn’t really a loss to the studio, so if it ain’t broke, why fix it?
3 REBOOT - Give Us Cybertron
In all seriousness, even fans who didn’t enjoy Bumblebee got some joy out of seeing five minutes on Cybertron. The only real exploration of Cybertron, of its architecture and culture that we get, is through the IDW comic line, and that just rebooted. Transformers Cyberverse makes a huge effort to show us a pre-war Cybertron through the use of flashbacks, but no other television series has really done this.
But even with how bleak the planet looked in Bumblebee, what we did see was beautiful and exactly what you’d expect out of an all-metal planet. So much of the audience responded well to that one scene and now, a film fully set on Cybertron is in the works. Yes, please!
2 NO REBOOT - Mass Appeal Factor
There’s no denying that there’s some sort of viscerally satisfying about watching a giant robot fight without thinking too hard about it. Let’s be real, these movies are fun for fans to switch off their brain and suspend that disbelief. Really, if you’re questioning the logistics of gravity but are totally cool with the whole vehicle mode scanning thing, then it’s not the right movie for you to begin with.
The mass appeal helped turn Transformers into the multi-billion franchise it is today. The 2007 movie made it a mainstream thing rather than that nerdy show from the '80s. And because of the first live action movie, it spawned not only a renewed interest in a stagnant toyline, but gave rise to Transformers Prime and High Moon Studio’s War for Cybertron and Fall of Cybertron video games. Like, Fall of Cybertron was the Most Anticipated Game of 2012. That’s a big deal.
1 REBOOT - Made By Fans
During the lead up to the film’s release, Knight wrote a letter to the fans about his approach to Bumblebee. This letter was first included in the promotional Bumblebee Boom Box, containing different classes and quality of the movie toys. It was later made public. He explained how he’d grown up with the '80s show, played with the toys and continued the never-ending battle of good vs. evil. More importantly, he showed that he understood that the robots are characters, that they feel and have motives, that they have heart. So he put that heart into the movie.
Now, we’re at a point where Hasbro is employing these longtime fans to create official works and we hope the trend continues. With the acclaim of the first IDW comics universe and continued success of the show holding the foundation, getting the right fans in the right projects seems like a good way to go.