A couple of years ago, Transformers was the most bulletproof franchise in Hollywood. The films each made over $1 billion, audiences didn’t give a damn if the critics hated them, and Paramount was confident enough to start working on a whole cinematic universe dedicated to the giant robots from beyond the stars, who turned into cars and appliances when they weren’t beating the gasoline out of each other.
To that end, they created an ambitious writers room, not unlike most television series, to develop new Transformers concepts and chart a course to the future. It seemed like the safest gamble in the world… until this summer, when Transformers: The Last Knight earned a paltry $129 million in America, and only $570 million worldwide. Not only was it the lowest grossing live-action Transformers film, it grossed nearly 50% less than the previous film in the series, Transformers: Age of Extinction.
There will still be Transformers movies – a Bumblebee spin-off is already in production, and due out in theaters next year – but it appears that Paramount’s ambitious plans for a sprawling interconnected franchise have been discontinued, or at least sorely diminished. Franchise producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura revealed in a recent interview with We Live Entertainment that the writers room has been disbanded.
“The writers room which was set up by all of us was set up to explore the mythology more,” Lorenzo Di Bonaventura says, “it was set up for a few different reasons but the biggest thing that happened in it was they expanded the mythology of Transformers in a way that allowed us to go to King Arthur. There’s different areas, like we’ve examined World War II, etc.”
To be clear, that writers room was led by Akiva Goldsman (Winter’s Tale), and included an impressive – and impressively large – number of screenwriters, including Christina Hodson (Unforgettable), Lindsey Beer (Godzilla vs. Kong), Andrew Barrer & Gabriel Ferrari (Ant-Man), Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead), Art Marcum & Matt Holloway (Iron Man), Zak Penn (Pacific Rim Uprising), Jeff Pinkner (Amazing Spider-Man 2), Ken Nolan (Black Hawk Down) and Geneva Robertson-Dworet (Tomb Raider).
That means that Paramount enlisted all of those people to develop the idea that the Transformers have been on Earth throughout history… an idea which had already been introduced in earlier Transformers films (albeit not to the extent that it was explored in Transformers: The Last Knight). Maybe Lorenzo di Bonaventura is downplaying their efforts, or maybe the studio’s money would have been better spent elsewhere.
Lorenzo di Bonaventura also explained that Bumblebee is still moving forward, and that they will work on the future of the franchise after that film “gets up and running.”
The future of Transformers may very well depend on that Bumblebee spin-off, but it’s the first live-action film in the series that hasn’t been directed by Michael Bay. Is that just the change in tone that the franchise needs, or will it alienate the fans of the franchise even further?
Either way, and for better or worse, the time has finally come for these Transformers movies to transform… and roll out.
Top Photo: Paramount Pictures
William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on Canceled Too Soon and watch him on the weekly YouTube series What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.