Michael Bay, director of Pearl Harbor and Armageddon, has admitted that his claim to have dropped the Transformers franchise — one of the most financially successful franchises ever — was a downright lie. Come 2014, Bay will be treating us to a fourth helping of supermassive mechanical mayhem. “Steven Spielberg and I are working on a whole new re-imagining of Transformers, the fourth installment,” he wrote on his website. “We have been working on the idea for a few months. I’m excited about where it’s headed”.
An excited Michael Bay may or may not be a good thing. Over the five years spanned by the trilogy, Transformers became Hollywood’s version of cigarettes: addictive, profitable, but ultimately cancerous. It was a testimony to juvenile comedy, bad acting, and the dwindling influence of critics on the box office. Bay’s vision of the war between Autobots and Decepticons earned him several Golden Raspberry Awards and the hatred of the old-school Transfans — but he now has an estimated net worth of million. The lure of all those bucks can’t be easy to resist.
Rumours abound as to what the reboot will involve. According to most sources it will be a direct sequel to Transformers: Dark of the Moon, but will also mark a thematic divergence from the first three films: something darker, grittier and generally more adult. With Shia LaBeouf absent, we can assume the story will no longer be told through the eyes of teen hero Sam Witwicky. In fact, it seems the entire human cast will be discarded and replaced, wiping the slate clean for a brand-new plot. “I don’t think anybody’s doing it,” Josh Duhamel — who played soldier William Lennox in all three films — told E! Online. “I know Shia’s not doing it. I don’t think Tyrese [Gibson] or Rosie [Huntington-Whiteley] or anybody else is doing it”. Insiders claim that Bay aims to recapture the ‘end-of-days’ mood of Dark of the Moon, in which Earth is crippled by a massive Decepticon invasion. The toilet humour will also be trimmed out. No official announcement has been made, but fans suspect that Unicron — a vast planet-eating destroyer-god — will appear as an antagonist. Whatever the details, Bay has promised us something new — but as we’ve seen twice before, he has no obligation to keep those promises. He claimed Dark of the Moon would be more serious than its predecessors, but viewers were still forced to sit through an eye-scalding scene in which Ken Jeong unbuckles his trousers and straddles LaBeouf in a toilet cubicle.
If Bay were the only Transformers alum returning for number four, there would be less cause for alarm — at least there would be some new blood in the mix. But MichaelBay.com states clearly that the “movie will re-unite the filmmaking team from the hit franchise”. The boys are officially back in town: Murphy, DeSanto, Bryce, even Spielberg — yet the site insists that this will be “a new take” on the Transformers franchise. The chances seem slim. With the old crew reunited, the prospect of real change in the series is out of the window and onto the scrap heap. Doubtless there will be new actors and possibly even some new ideas, but like a tyrannical government that just won’t fall, Bay will always stick to his policies: the cheese, the models, the endless explosions. It will be a challenge for him to break his old habits, and there’s no guarantee that he is up to that challenge.
My hopes for the second arc of Transformers are low. We can only pray that Spielberg, after triumphing with his latest epic War Horse, will suddenly have an allergic reaction to Bay and insist, for the sake of global safety, that he takes the director’s seat.