There is a point when sequels, spin offs and TV series need to stop and take a break for a decade or three; and yet, even though the recently-announced plans for a further three Transformers movies after the release of Transformers 5 in 2017 (not to mention the slew of likely spin-offs and tied-in properties) have probably already been condemned in the collective minds of fans, Hasbro Studios seem determined to flog this particular horse until the money runs dry. Sadly, the money keeps coming: the film’s latest instalment, Age of Extinction, was the series’ most lucrative to date, raking in more than one billion dollars globally thanks in large part to China’s booming box office and some commercially-savvy creative decisions – including, among others, the casting of one of China’s biggest stars, Li Bingbing, and setting some of the film’s key scenes in China and Hong Kong.
The franchise, born initially from toys and a TV series, has had a long and multi-faceted existence, with its own ‘multiverse’ and expanded franchise, similar to Marvel and DC’s but with one unfortunate difference: their success in recent years. DC released their teaser for Suicide Squad earlier this year – more than twelve months before the film’s expected release date – sending the online fan community wild with opinions on styling, storylines and casting; but with Paramount’s announcement that another three Transformers movies are planned up until 2025, the reaction was somewhere between remorse, resignation, and regret.
Close followers of the current Transformers films will remember the (at the time) polite dismissals of Megan Fox and later Shia LaBeouf and with them the dissolving of the franchise as it was, before Mark Wahlberg took over the reins at the head of the franchise and, with his new friends, guided the films in a new (but equally criticised) direction. Now, we have rumours that after the next instalment, Wahlberg may be departing the series, leaving Michael Bay as the only franchise’s only stalwart. So can the old director, a new cast, and the launch of a new, connected storyline save the next films from the critics? Only time will tell, but even die-hard fans are growing disheartened, and time may only make things worse.
Blockbuster superhero and sci-fi action films are appealing to the financier right now; even if a film is criticised in the long-run and groaning fans becomes its legacy, it is likely that the movie’s profits will have justified the time, effort and cash invested in its production, and this will be enough to dignify yet another sequel — whether the fans want one or not. It seems that Studios are using an “if you build it, they will come” mentality, and more than likely fans will come out of some misguided hope; the cycle will only continue until fashions shift and we see the end of the dominance of franchise films for the next 20 years. This will be a sad day for many, but ultimately for the best. Even the best things in life can become tiresome after long enough, so perhaps it’s time the Autobots took a break.
Image: Paramount/Hasbro Studios