Easily one of the most contentious movie franchises currently in Hollywood, despite successful runs as the box office, the Transformers films have divided moviegoers in an on-going, and especially contentious, debate. Many dismiss the mega-blockbuster series as hollow action with little substance (and an affront to childhood memories) while others view the movies as the epitome of popcorn entertainment – excitedly waiting for each new installment (to see how director Michael Bay intends to go bigger and louder).
Nevertheless, many viewers, even those who have enjoyed Bay’s four TF movies, have begun to question if a director change-up in Transformers 5 might ultimately provide slight improvements to the series going forward. Bay himself had previously stated that he was not interested in making Transformers movies the rest of his life (even questioning whether he’d come back for Transformers 4) – while also indicating that Age of Extinction was designed as the first installment in a new trilogy that could be handed-off to a new helmer. Yet, in our interview with producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura, the filmmaker was adamant that Paramount Pictures wants Bay back for Transformers 5 (and beyond) – and apparently the studio and producer are not the only ones.
Speaking with Cinema Blend, longtime Optimus Prime voice actor Peter Cullen, a man who is synonymous with one of the most beloved cartoon/movie heroes in pop culture, indicated that he absolutely hopes that Bay returns to direct Transformers 5 – calling the controversial filmmaker “brilliant.” Beyond the financial success of the series which, despite plenty of unenthusiastic cinephiles and classic Transformers fans, has also culled an entirely new generation of young fans (aka toy buyers), Cullen also has a very personal reason for praising the filmmaker’s work – his son, Clay Cullen (Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice), is one of the stunt drivers on set:
“I have a great deal of respect for him. He generates a great deal of excitement and energy. He’s really a hands-on director. My son is a stunt man and worked in Chicago doing a lot of the driving sequences… he said he’s a very, very diligent, hands-on guy. He creates a great deal of energy and puts everybody on their toes. I would certainly miss him. I think he’s brilliant, his mind is unbelievable.
“Michael if you’re [reading] this, I certainly hope you are coming back.”
Positioned as a soft relaunch of the series, Transformers: Age of Extinction managed to improve on certain elements – while also retaining plenty of the same shortcomings that previously fueled ire among non-fans. As pointed out in our review, Lockdown proved to be an intriguing villain but many of the robot heroes remain underdeveloped – not to mention, in spite of Dinobot-heavy marketing, Grimlock and his team were ultimately very short on screen time (and satisfying backstory). Nevertheless, Bay once again delivered eye-popping CGI spectacle (sometimes at the expense of a coherent/impactful story) and, just as in prior installments, set the global box office on fire – to the tune of $1 billion.
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Pressed for what might be next in the series, Cullen remained tight-lipped – which makes complete sense given that, despite being a beloved part of the franchise, the voice actor’s actual work comes very late in the process:
“It would be very difficult me to express any of the future on Transformers, but certainly the excitement that it’s generated of where it could possibly go is up to anybody to figure out. I don’t have access to any of that information.”
That said, Cullen is dead-on when he points out that Age of Extinction left a lot of options for where the series could lead going forward. Fans continue to bring up the possibility of Unicron – though Bonaventura was less than enthusiastic about both a space-set Transformers movie as well as a film that would feature a planet-sized Transformer. Still, Transformers 4 planted a number of intriguing (and some frustrating) seeds – the rebirth of Galvatron, Optimus Prime’s self-imposed exile into space, as well as the revelation that Lockdown had been hired by creators of the Cybertronian race. As mentioned, future installments could also finally provide fans with deeper backstory for the Dinobots – specifically more than just a throwaway line about “Legendary Warriors.”
In prior interviews, Bay stated the threads would become someone else’s responsibility – though, as indicated, he said the same thing about Transformers 4. Still, a director change wouldn’t be much a surprise – especially since the filmmaker has been named in connection to several other in-development projects, including Bad Boys 3, an adaptation of the Ghost Recon video game, and WWII thriller, Sabotage.
Regardless of who signs-on to helm Transformers 5, skeptics should probably temper expectations. The films continue to make big money with solid user ratings from casual attendees – meaning that even if Bay does not return for the next one, whoever steps into his shoes will likely be working under very tight constraints and guided through the process by an established team of cinematographers, VFX artists, and second-unit staff. As a result, Paramount isn’t going to hand the keys to one of their biggest franchises over to an up-and-comer with a new vision that stays true to the animated series and comic books, they’ll be looking for someone that can replicate Bay’s style and box office performance.
That’s not to say that a change of pace (via a new director) wouldn’t make any difference at all. Bay’s work on Transformers 4 showed signs of fatigue. While the film had some genuinely exciting moments, this time going bigger didn’t necessarily translate into better – especially when comparing the third act to Transformers: Dark of the Moon (which, in spite of plenty of shortcomings possessed a passion and innovation that was absent for much of Age of Extinction). For that reason, a fresh set of eyes might be capable of ironing out some of the wrinkles that continue to plague the series – even after the filmmakers drastically altered the main cast of humans and robots.
After rumors of a 2016 target release were debunked, Transformers 5 does not currently have a set premiere date – but we’ll be sure to post any relevant updates as official news breaks.
Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for any future updates on the Transformers series, as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.