The World Does Not Need a Transformers Origin Story

By  · Published on May 28th, 2015

Paramount Pictures

Over the years, it has becoming increasingly clear that Hollywood, high on reboots and remakes and sequels, will continue to mine their past successes (and even a few failures) to pull in movie audiences that may or may not be averse to original material, but who have at least (repeatedly) proven their interest in the franchise world. Following a series is fun! And when it’s done well – when all that so-called “world-building” is crafted with skill – it can be entertaining as hell. But just because a franchise or series works, that doesn’t mean it needs to be ripped open and torn apart for every possible scrap of movie material.

Today’s best example: a Transformers origin story. We do not need a Transformers origin story.

There’s no question that Michael Bay’s Transformers series has been a giant moneymaker for all involved parties – the four-film series has pulled in over a billion dollars at the domestic box office alone, and nearly four billion at the global box office – and, despite Bay’s repeated claims to the contrary, will only continue to do so. (Remember when Bay said he was leaving the series? What a time that was.) After one blockbuster trilogy, Bay and company rolled out a new feature last year, one that managed to both reboot the story (new characters) while keeping up with a continuous timeline. If that’s the way of the future, it’s a fine way to do it, but the cinematic world of Transformers isn’t content to be confined to trilogies, and now appears to be hard at work crafting their own cinematic universe, a la Marvel.

Back in March, we learned that Transformers was going the “expanded universe” route, which sounded both numbing and totally expected at the time, and now at least comes with a kernel of a good idea: a writers room. Deadline reported earlier this month that Akiva Goldsman, who is heading up this new expanded venture and who also made the holy abomination that is Winter’s Tale, had hired on a mess of writers to churn out new ideas for said expanded universe. In addition to some interesting talent, from Robert Kirkman to Art Marcum & Matt Holloway, Goldsman’s writers room promises that there might be a bit of actual coherence between new features, what with their writers actually talking to each other and other wild stuff.

Of course, any group of creatives can still hatch a bad idea, and we might have just found the first one. Deadline reports that the Transformers writers room has now added in Andrew Barrer and Gabriel Ferrari, who most recently helped rewrite Ant-Man. Additionally, Deadline reports that the duo may have been tasked with writing one one of the current ideas kicking around, a feature tentatively titled “Transformers One and that it is more or less an origins story that takes place on Cybertron, the planet where the good-guy and bad-guy robots hail from.” This is both a totally obvious and a totally stupid idea.

There is, however, one bit of glittery silver lining behind this news: the new feature could be animated. (Moreover, Deadline holds that “Barrer & Ferrari are also going to the writers room with the expectation they’ll write a live-action Transformers movie as well,” which sounds like one hell of a trade-off.) The world doesn’t need a Transformers origin story, but it really doesn’t need a live-action one. Just imagine all the clanging.

The Transformers origin story has been well-represented across various entertainment platforms, from long-form mentions in the Bay films (basically: “we had a planet, it was cool, then some robot dudes turned evil”) to the information-packed television series to assorted comic books (especially The Transformers: Megatron Origin, which covered most of the high points of the Cyberton-set civil war). Still, it’s kind of a thin premise for a feature – bad robots, good robots, Earth later – and one that basically detracts from the fun of the franchise (you know, that robots come to Earth, you guys, what?).

There’s also the common problem that plagues all prequels: we already know what’s going to happen. The Transformers films, four features in, are already repetitive enough (and, no, that’s not a knock on the films’ CGI-heavy action, which is mostly insane in the best possible ways), lots of battles and bangs and explosions and a well-placed oil-as-pee gag or two. Watching that stuff again while knowing that the Autobots are going to be forced to roll out of their home – like, forever – sounds wearying even on the page. (At least an animated feature could offer up a little more freedom and, God forbid, a bit more fun.)

But what’s the point of examining the origins of the Transformers anyway? Isn’t the point that they’re here on Earth to help out miserable, dumb, fleshy humans from attackers that they themselves have brought upon us (the Autobots have guilt, as they should)? We don’t need to see a Transformers origin story, because every Transformers story is a retread of that Cybertron civil war. We already know what it looks like, and it mainly looks loud and expensive and unnecessary.

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