At this stage in the franchise, it’s pretty easy to be cynical about Transformers. Michael Bay has directed all four existing films, and has also directed the upcoming Transformers: The Last Knight, the fifth entry in the series. So despite the fact that Paramount seemed set on doing things differently going forward (as evidenced by the writers room), Bay’s continued involvement only seems to enforce the fact that they’re falling back on what’s worked for them, even if it isn’t all that good.
Perhaps the real winds of change will be evident in the next effort: the currently untitled Bumblebee spinoff. This film will have Kubo and the Two Strings director Travis Knight at the helm (already quite a change from the explosion-happy Bay), and will star Oscar-nominated actress Hailee Steinfeld in the lead role as a tomboy who can fix cars (I know, shocker). This seems to be steps in the right direction, but after seeing the same old metal-scraping action in all the Transformers: The Last Knight trailer, it’s hard not to feel a little discouraged.
But for those ready to call it quits on the Autobots, the latest comments from producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura may help to assuage those thoughts. Speaking with Collider, di Bonaventura said:
“I know we’re doing a spinoff first in the Bumblebee movie, and that is a very distinctive departure from what you’ve been seeing so far… The objective of that movie is to develop more time with less robots in a way, and to go back to 1985 and go back to sort of the original heritage if you would of the Transformers. G1.”
I’m admittedly not much a Transformers guy — that was before my time — so while it’s cool they’ll be going back to the first generation of toys back in 1985, what really grabs me is the objective to have less robots, and be something of a departure from the main series.
Di Bonaventura continued:
“There are dramatically less Transformers. We hired purposefully Travis Knight, who is a very distinct filmmaker. You can’t compete with Michael — you’re gonna lose. And also I think the audience wants something different all the time, let’s keep them interested. They’re gonna get a very emotionally complex story, a very tight story in terms of its location and in terms of its storytelling.”
Di Bonaventura then dropped the biggest bombshell quote on the outlet:
“In fact it reminds me a little bit of Iron Giant years ago when I did that movie at Warner Bros. It just reminds me a little bit of that where it was very contained and yet it didn’t feel small.”
For those who somehow don’t know, The Iron Giant was a stellar animated film from the 1990s directed by The Incredibles helmer Brad Bird. The movie was sort of a traditional “boy and his dog” type of story, except with a giant metal man from outer space. That film had a lot of heart, and was a surprisingly mature animated take for its time. The big takeaway here is the emphasis the producer seems to be putting on a lower key story — something that doesn’t require 2,000 visual effects shots.
In essence, we may be getting something closer to the first half of the first Transformers film, before Optimus Prime and the rest of the Autobots were introduced. We’d be on board with something like that, but we hope that Paramount doesn’t get cold feet on this concept and try to thrown in some ridiculous third act mayhem. Guess we’ll have to wait and see.
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