Ladies and gentlemen, we may have finally taken this shared universe thing too far. Since 2008’s Iron Man, we’ve seen an explosion of movies and television shows in which various characters and teams that populate the same canon jump in and out of each other’s stories. Marvel Studios started the trend with Paramount before moving on to perfect it with Disney. The House of Mouse then continued to roll with that game plan by scheduling a barrage of Star Wars sequels and spin-offs. Warner Brothers, likely tired of being a laughing stock for their inability to capitalize cinematically on their own DC Comics properties, finally followed suit by announcing a massive slate of Justice League oriented features.
I bring all of this up because on Friday, Paramount announced that they have enlisted Akiva Goldsman (of Batman & Robin fame) to help put together a “writer’s room” with the goal of generating Transformers sequels and spin-offs. Yes, as in the Michael Bay films.
If nothing else, it should prove interesting to see what comes out of this endeavor. The Transformers franchise is a long and storied one, with all manner of different iterations and niches to draw from. That being said, let’s take a look at ten potential sequels and spin-offs that could (and maybe even should) happen…and then analyze what could go horribly, horribly wrong.
1. Beast Wars
Perhaps the most famous departure from the standard “robots who turn into vehicles” concept that defines the franchise, Beast Wars: Transformers sees the descendants of the Autobots and Decepticons become stranded on prehistoric Earth. At the time, the planet is so loaded with Energon that most of it is toxic to the heroic Maximals and villainous Predacons alike. This forces them to adopt organic alternative forms for day-to-day existence; although they can still transform into robots when it’s time to whup some Cybertronian ass. Gone are the cars and trucks and planes. Now we have robots that turn into gorillas, rats, dinosaurs and a dragon.
Despite some fervent protests (seriously, Google “trukk not munky“), Beast Wars is renowned to this day as a smartly written cartoon with endearing characters and real emotional depth. Players switched allegiances. Some ‘bots died noble deaths; others, ignominious ones. And poor Waspinator had plans. There’s a lot to love about the concept and it certainly warrants another take on it. So why not branch the Transformers film canon into the animal kingdom?
Well…I could argue that Bay wouldn’t do any justice to the characters. Or I could make the argument that watching a live action rhinoceros unfold into a humanoid robot with chain guns is almost certainly ****ing nightmare fuel.
Instead I’ll simply point out that, since Bay couldn’t make it one movie without having Bumblebee pee on another character, you can’t hand him a giant cybernetic gorilla and not expect it to start throwing electro-poop.
2. The Lost Transformers
If you’re going to start a shared Transformers universe, you might as well start with the foundation you already have (flawed though it may be). That means using already established characters that could use more screen time in order to flesh them out. In fact, this is a perfect opportunity to solve one of the most annoying story elements of the film series – the constantly disappearing Autobots.
At least seven of the heroic ‘bots have just completely vanished from the movie narrative. Jolt and the twins are no where to be seen by Dark of the Moon while Sideswipe, Roadbuster, Topspin and Dino are all gone by Age of Extinction.
Now, there’s a perfectly plausible explanation as to what happened to all of them. The fourth film introduces a CIA black-ops unit known as Cemetery Wind, revealed to have assassinated an extensive number of Cybertronians. It’s pretty safe to assume that at least some of our missing Autobots also got scrapped by Kelsey Grammar and his goons.
So let’s see that story. Grab one of the existing characters (Jolt would be perfect since he’s a blank slate personality-wise) and craft an “Autobot on the run” thriller. Show Cemetery Wind brutally and ruthlessly taking out his teammates to really establish what a ominous threat they actually are while the hero desperately tries to stay one step ahead of them with only a lone human to help hide and protect him.
Of course, there’s always the chance that Goldsman and Bay would make Skids and Mudflap the central protagonists and – you know what? Never mind. Forget I said anything.
It’s not worth the risk.
3. Transformers vs. G.I. Joe
First of all – how in the blue Hell has this not already been made? If there’s one thing Michael Bay loves more than scantily-clad women, potty humor and huge-ass ‘splosions it’s…well…
Okay, so he doesn’t love anything more than those things. That said, he still really, really has a thing for the U.S. military. They’ve been protecting our interests / thumping evil robots in the Transformers films since the very first one! In fact, the only movie character that defeats or kills more Decepticons than our military is Optimus “Death on Wheels” Prime!
Meanwhile, over here you’ve got a Hasbro-owned franchise, the main focus of which is a huge and colorful military anti-terror unit with access to all sorts of super awesome vehicles and enough guns to shoot a hole through Devastator thrice over. As far as Bay is concerned, this is the chocolate to the peanut butter that is Transformers.
So what’s the catch? Well, counted among its vast membership, G.I. Joe has a number of soldiers who are either internationally based or, barring that, from a distinctly non-Anglo-American background. And if there’s one other thing Bay seems to love, it’s cultural and/or racial stereotypes (see: Skids, Mudflap, the Wreckers, Drift). Yes, it would be wicked cool to see Snake Eyes sword duel with Sideswipe or to see Roadblock and Ironhide trying to shoot the holy hell out of each other with their ridiculously oversized machine guns. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t more than a little cautious about how some of the (already somewhat caricatured) Joes would translate to the Bayformers universe. Still, I’m sure he’d drool at the opportunity to have more big tanks to play with.
Need further proof that the man loves his all-American hardware? Four of the eight Decepticons in the first film – Starscream, Brawl, Bonecrusher and Blackout – all have alt-modes that are military vehicles.
The man knows what he likes.
4. Transformers Kre-O
Kre-O is Hasbro’s in-house line of construction toys, designed to compete with Lego and Mega Bloks. Though they’ve picked up a couple licenses (namely Star Trek and Cityville) since the line’s 2011 debut, the majority of the line’s brands have been properties either owned by Hasbro directly (G.I. Joe) or by one of their subsidiaries (the Battleship film based of the Milton Bradley board game, Wizard of the Coast’s Dungeons & Dragons). But at the end of the day, the line’s bread and butter is clearly Transformers, which utterly dwarfs all of the other Kre-O brands when it comes to sheer volume of product. Transformers Kre-O covers everything from playsets to brick-built characters to blind-bagged Kreons (think Lego Minifigures).
There’s plenty of evidence that television shows or films based on construction toys can be entertaining and/or successful. Not surprisingly, most of that evidence has the word “Lego” plastered in the title. Still, we know it can be done.
It also doesn’t hurt that, as I mentioned above, Hasbro’s already churned out a bajillion characters and sets to use as a basis. And Transformers is, in general, comprised of a very vibrant and eye-catching group of characters to begin with.
So why not Transformers Kre-O: The Movie? It seems like a sound idea in theory! The thing is – if you look at a lot of the better Lego projects (I’ll be the first to admit that not all of them are winners), you’ll notice that the best ones are great largely because they’re very, very clever in how they blend the source material with the Lego aesthetic.
Mind you I’m not saying it’s impossible for Mister Goldsman and Mister Bay to be clever. I mean…I’m sure it’s possible. Tell you what – you keep reading and I’m going to go watch Batman Forever and Revenge of the Fallen while I ponder the matter.
5. The GoBots
Ah, the GoBots. The also-rans of the transforming robot toy craze, the GoBots are something of a complicated situation these days. Oddly enough, those factors might make them easier for Goldsman and Bay to capitalize on.
Much like the original G1 Transformers toys were licensed by Hasbro from Japanese toy company Takara, so too did GoBots originate in the Land of the Rising Sun. In this case the players were Bandai and Tonka, an American company most famous for their extensive line of toy trucks. In fact, the GoBots brand actually narrowly beat Transformers to store shelves. Alas, despite a Hannah-Barbera-produced animated series to help bolster the line, they ultimately proved to have far less of an impact than our favorite Robots in Disguise.
Following the exploits of alien cyborgs from the planet Gobotron, GoBots saw the heroic Leader-1 and his Guardians constantly spar with the villainous Renegades. Other characters included evil motorbike Cy-Kill, thuggish helicopter Cop-Tur, and a cowardly scooter named…Scooter.
So clever names were not one of the brand’s strong points.
About now you’re probably asking, “Weren’t we talking about Transformers spin-offs?”
1981 1991, Hasbro acquired Tonka. With the purchase came all of Tonka’s intellectual properties, including GoBots. Except the purchase only covered the character names, concepts, and backstories of the brand. All of the original toy (and thus character) designs remained the property of original creator Bandai.
Despite that, the GoBot characters have long since started to bleed into the Transformers property. Multiple characters have shown up in IDW’s comic book titles. Various figures scattered throughout various lines are blatant homages to GoBot characters (including but not limited to an evil forklift).
I say that if you’ve got the characters, then use ’em! We’ve already established that humans have the ability to clone Cybertronian biology as of Age of Extinction. Kinetic Solutions Incorporated can’t be the only ones in on that action with all those Cybertronians running around! I see no reason Global Omni Bio-Organic Tactical Sciences can’t pop out a few too. Hell, it doesn’t even matter what they look like because no movie Transformer looks terribly close to its source material.
Of course, exposure to the GoBots might (read: will) give Michael Bay the idea that all transforming robots should have the least creative names possible. I can absolutely see the following being said at the GoBots pitch meeting:
“So after he rips off Cop-Tur’s face, Optimus Prime strides over to Leader-1. He raises his energy ax and says, ‘Optimus Prime is dead. Call me…Sem-I-Truk.'”
And the room bursts into applause.
6. The Junkions
Transformers: Age of Extinction ends with Optimus Prime blasting off into space in order to have a word or two with the Creators. You know what that means? Spacefaring adventures! Wooooo!
Enter the Junkions. The native inhabitants of Junkion, these guys are a unique offshoot of the Transformers race (in case you were wondering, yes, the entire rest of the universe is populated by sentient robots). Mechanical wizards, the Junkions possess the ability to repair or reassemble themselves out of whatever’s lying around. Of course, this means that the average Junkion looks like a kitbashed robotic version of an apocalyptic biker. Did I mention most of them turn into space motorcycles? Or that they ride each other? Or that they’re all batshit crazy because their entire culture is based off old television transmissions from Earth?
Basically, picture Transformers: The Road Warrior and you’ll start to get the idea. And let’s be honest – that’s a spin-off that actually sounds pretting ****ing awesome, right? A robot cybernetic apocalyptic western adventure ticks…I’m not even sure how many boxes in the pleasure center of my brain. But it’s a lot of boxes.
Alas, there’s a bit of an issue. I (and the rest of the viewing public) can barely tell what the hell is going on when regular movie Transformers do things. When two or, Primus help us, three or four Transformers start to slug it out on screen, I’m lucky that I don’t have a damn seizure. It’s just a crazy ****ing whirlwind of metal and parts and robo-crotches. And that’s with Transformers that turn into everyday objects! If you push the pause button and stare for a second, your brain will process “car guy” or “plane dude” or “toaster monster.” But an entire race of Bayformers that are comprised of random junk to begin with? My head already hurts just thinking about it.
Plus, you just know one of them would have a toilet for a head or something.
7. Pre-War Cybertron
Humans are boring. We don’t turn into cars or planes or, well, anything really. We don’t have any cool cybernetic superpowers. And I’ve never met another human being whose last name is “Prime.”
Screw it! Who needs us anyway?
Let’s see a spin-off set on Cybertron before all those pesky Earthlings got involved! For one thing, it’ll be a chance to include far more Transformers in the story. More Transformers equal more potential toys. More toys make kids and nerdy adults happy. Everybody wins!
What? I like the toys.
Okay, fine. From a narrative standpoint it means we’ll actually get a chance to expand on some Transformers personalities beyond “robot that sounds Italian” or “robot that likes guns.” How about a gritty Cybertronian murder mystery in which a cop (Prowl) must deduce who killed a celebrity racer (Blurr) by interogating shifty characters (Swindle) and femme fatales (Airachnid) in the sprawling city of Metroplex? Let’s get a flick in which the ‘bots get more than one or two lines to establish what their characters are. Transformers with real motivations and real problems beyond saving the Earth? I would watch the **** out of that movie.
On top of that, just imagine how incredibly awe-inspiring it could look. With all of the incredibly talented artists and animators in the world, the end-product could be simply jaw-dropping. My brain melts at the visual potential of a live-action-style city full of Transformers.
Still…that little bit of fear lingers in the back of my mind. There’s that tiny voice that asks, “But what if it’s just an entire city of one-note slapstick characters who speak in funny accents?” And my spark diminishes a little.
Because the possibility is real. So very real.
8. Transformers: Kiss Players
Topless Robot has discussed the…singularity that is Transformers: Kiss Players before. Short version? It’s pretty ****ed up.
Basically Kiss Players was a year-long branding (believe it or not, the default main branding no less) of the Transformers franchise in Japan in the mid-2000s. The core concept was that the Transformers would get “power-ups” after being kissed ever so passionately by young women. You see, this would somehow allow them to become one with the robots, a partnership that ended with the girls naked and covered in goo.
Also, one of the bad guys is a monster robot with a penis for a tongue.
There was a sequel, but it dropped most, if not all, of the more perverse aspects of its predecessor. These days, Kiss Players is mostly a little-remembered and largely derided afterthought (although, not surprisingly, it has its defenders).
I’m not sure the boys at Paramount could really screw this one up because, frankly, it’s already pretty screwed up. But I bet if you told Michael Bay that there was a Transformers property that was nothing but gorgeous girls wearing revealing clothing and macking on powerful cars, his eyes would light up like a five-year-old’s face on Christmas morning.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I feel the need to go wash my hands.
9. The Ladies
Now this, on the other hand, is a feminine touch (and power) I can get behind. Yes, there are lady robots. It’s a little hard to explain why there are genders in a non-biological species but there are and the brand is better for it.
(Actually, it’s not that hard to explain. The IDW comics recently revealed that the majority of the heretofore unknown “female” Transformers are essentially an evolutionary offshoot of the species and that many “male” Cybertronians engage in same-gender monogamous, long-term relationships. I find this latter part to be ridiculously cool.)
Anyhow, back to the ladies. Let’s put some girl power in this franchise! I’m thinking a buddy cop movie between two strong female leads. It just happens that one of those female leads can turn into a motorcycle!
For this one, I say we just straight up reuse Arcee. It’s not like anyone remembers her from Revenge of the Fallen anyway (largely because they gave her all of jack squat to do). Team her up with human badass Marissa Faireborn and have them go undercover to bust up a crime syndicate in league with the Stunticons. Two tough girls, some kick-ass chase scenes and vehicle stunts? **** yes!
What would Michael Bay’s version be like? Exactly as I’ve described above. Except at the last second he has all of Arcee’s lines redubbed by Vin Diesel, including blatant romantic dialogue.
We all know he already has his own copy of Kiss Players.
10. Wheelie: The Movie
Who says that all of the spin-offs and sequels have to be big action tent-pole films? I say that we should throw a little comedy into the mix! Plus, I’m sure you’re all eager to know what happened to Shia LeBeouf’s character Sam Witwicky after Dark of the Moon!
Of course you are!
So hear me out! We know Sam is floating around somewhere. And if Brains survived crash landing a giant alien gunship to appear in Age of Extinction, then Wheelie probably did too! They were sitting next to each other after all!
Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Transformers Odd Couple! We’ve already seen Wheelie crashing with Witwicky in the past. Now let’s pull a classic buddy comedy out of that! We can see what kind of hilarious shenanigans a man-child and an alien remote-control monster truck can get up to! Witness Wheelie ruin Sam’s love life by humping all of his dates! See Wheelie get stoned and watch Star Trek! Laugh hysterically as Wheelie tries to hold down a job at the local toy store! Feel so many feels when Wheelie falls for a vacuum cleaner brought to life by the Allspark!
Okay, so basically it’s Ted except I stuck a Transformer in place of the magical talking teddy bear.
Still – it’s probably a better idea than what we’ll wind up getting.
In all seriousness – I love robots and Transformers in particular. While nothing we’ve gotten so far has been great (or even good), I still welcome all the Cybertronians beating the Energon out of each other that Goldsman, Bay and Paramount can muster. So I say, “Bring it on, boys!”
Just kindly keep the hentai out of it.