What can we expect from Transformers 4?
With Michael Bay heading to pastures new now that Dark Of The Moon’s out, we take a look at what we could see next from the Transformers franchise…
Warning: Minor spoilers for Transformers: Dark Of The Moon follow.
Here's what we know. More Transformers films are a certainty. The CEO of Hasbro announced back in February that there would be more to come, and that was before the release of Dark Of The Moon, which looks set to be one of the biggest films this summer. Since then, producer, Don Murphy, has confirmed that the plan is not to reboot the franchise, but to carry on, probably with a new trilogy.
Michael Bay will not be back (he does seem quite adamant about this), and Shia LaBeouf doesn't see how his character can progress (as if it has been progressing anyway). This, hopefully, puts paid to the questionable comedy style and misogyny the film series has employed thus far, and the removal of one of the most punchable actors to ever grace the cinema screen.
Whatever happens with Transformers 4, I think it's a fairly safe bet that it'll involve giant robots fighting other giant robots in some capacity, and hopefully, not with an excruciating hour-long build up to the action.
Other wishful thinking includes a new director who won't merely ape Bay's movie making style, but take the franchise in a fresh direction, with relatable human and robot characters, along with a coherent plot.
Let's, then, take a look at the possibilities for Transformers 4...
Who will direct?
Obviously, you can't count Spielberg out. Having produced all the Transformer films to date, maybe he wants a shot at directing the next one. Or would his price, or reluctance to take on a franchise at episode four (or his busy schedule) stop him from stepping into a franchise on its fourth instalment?
That his next movie is a drama about a horse may be a sign that Spielberg's appetite for special effects-laden blockbusters may be on the wane, in any case. Let's class Spielberg, despite occasional rumours to the contrary, as a very long shot.
The Spider-Man versus Doc Ock on a train battle still stands out as one of my favourite action sequences in the web-slinging franchise, and Raimi's an ideal candidate, if you want to progress the franchise to a darker, grittier place. As long as he's able to tell his story and avoid any sort of studio interference, Sam Raimi's Transformers could be a very progressive move. Whether the man himself would be interested is a whole other question, though.
With the next Terminator movie on ice right now, who better than Justin Lin to take the reins? With multiple films in the Fast & Furious franchise under his belt, no one can say he doesn't know how to direct cars in action. He's also responsible for some excellent episodes of Community, so may be able to inject some decent humour into the film too. His immediate priority will be Fast & Furious 6, so it just depends how quickly Paramount wants to get Transformers 4 made.
Having directed one of the best superhero movies (Iron Man) and with Cowboys & Aliens looking set to continue his track record, Favreau is a distinct possibility for bringing a much needed gravitas and realism to a franchise primarily about big fighting robots.
Once he's done playing in Marvel's sandpit with The Avengers, why not Hasbro's? As long as the focus of the film didn't suddenly shift to telling the epic story of a young female superpowered Autobot and her pals...
A long shot, but with the Harry Potter franchise wrapped, and Yates having proven a dab hand at handling effects-intensive movies, might he be a candidate for Hasbro's battling robots?
Who will star?
We can't write an article about the future of the Transformers franchise and not mention the Statham. As mentioned previously on Geek, Statham has already been rumoured to fill the LaBeouf-sized gap, but can you actually imagine him as the lead male in a child-friendly film?
Sadly, I think this is one rumour to not take too seriously, though the idea of the mighty Stath bellowing at a thirty-foot tall Decepticon is an exciting one. The Decepticons may as well not turn up.
Who says we need a leading man? Just because Shia's quit, there's no need to assume that Rosie's going to follow him out the door. I don't think Rosie was, er, necessarily hired based on her acting ability, but she'd have a couple years to learn some basic expressions other than ‘default pout'.
Well, he's already used to acting alongside huge bulky artificial creations. Johnson's already linked to the Transformers universe through voicing Cliffjumper in an episode of Transformers: Prime. He's hardly averse to starring in kid-friendly movies, and most importantly, he's still fairly young, yet the polar opposite of LaBeouf. Maybe a Statham and Johnson buddy movie, set against a backdrop of warring robots, is in the offing?
Zac's already reportedly replaced Shia in the upcoming action thriller, The Necessary Death Of Charlie Countryman, due out next year. Could he also replace him as the lead in the Transformers franchise? Perhaps at the end of the film he could teach Optimus Prime that, instead of tearing his enemies' spines out, he could just sing and dance his anger away.
Where can the story go?
With so many years of history, from the Generation 1 cartoon through the Simon Furman comics and right up until the present with the Transformers: Prime animated series, it's difficult to avoid drawing from the source material in some way. With Megatron definitely gone (he already Galvatroned in all but name in the second movie), and Starscream out of action too, where's the next major threat going to come from?
How about the gigantic, planet-consuming Unicron, originally designed by Floro Dery for the classic Transformers: The Movie back in 1986? A menace that would pose a serious threat to both the Transformers and Earth itself (if it is, indeed, set on Earth), Unicron's the natural progression from the comparatively small city wrecking skirmishes we've seen so far. And who knows, maybe we'd see the Autobots and Decepticons team up to defeat the metal planet killer.
For me, the Insecticons were among the coolest and scariest robots in the G1 comics. Bombshell (modelled on a Japanese rhinoceros beetle, fact fans) was my favourite, with its scary ability to control the minds of both humans and other Transformers. If you're looking for some suitably evil antagonists for a future Transformers movie, an invasion of insectoid robots is surely the way to go.
We've seen the destruction of major cities a lot now. There are always new touches, or new dimensions to see them in. But there's only so many ways we can watch a robot turn into a car, drive for a bit, then turn back into a robot and hit something.
Time travel may offer a few more possibilities for future Transformers screenwriters. The Autobots helping out Allied forces in World War II, perhaps, while the Decepticons side with the Axis? Or how about giant robots in the time of the English Civil War?
Or, if you really wanted to head far back into the mists of time, why not the Jurassic period, with a revival of the mighty Dinobots, first introduced in 1985? Updated character designs of Grimlock, Sludge, Snarl and Swoop would surely be welcomed with open arms by long-time Transformers fans, though someone should probably come up with a new name for poor old Slag.
A Battle For Cybertron-style prequel would have the difficulty of the audience knowing the eventual outcome, and I have a feeling that this has probably already been explored anyway, in perhaps a more ideal medium like the comics. The idea could be tied into a period film, showing Transformers active on Earth in the recent past, perhaps. But this runs the risk of breaking continuity. Not that that's ever been a problem before.
Everyone likes an origin story. Er, don't they? With re-imaginings of other, still fresh properties like Spider-Man and Buffy on the horizon, this idea shouldn't be discarded, even though the aforementioned words of Don Murphy appear to rule it out. And given the rather fussy, over-elaborate robot designs of Bay's movies, it might be refreshing for the series to start from scratch, with some simpler designs that cleave a little more closely to the iconic Transformers of the 80s toys and cartoons.
Leave your thoughts on where Transformers 4 can go in the comments...