Despite being old fashioned, rollicking fun in the early stages, the Transformers franchise hit a road block with Transformers: The Last Knight. The fifth chapter in the series didn't perform as expected at the box office, leaving Paramount to ponder the future of the property.
Spinoffs and prequels seem to be taking higher priority than a sequel, a very telling decision given the last installment ended on a cliffhanger introducing Unicron in the mix. Many have since wondered what's the next step as something inevitably needs to happen with the main line of films. Using the reception to Bumblebee as a gauge, the solution may well be moving away from the man who brought the robots to life, Michael Bay.
The question then, is, can Transformers truly be redeemed without the director who helmed all its movies so far? Well, if Bumblebee turns out to be as fun as the first trailer indicates, the answer is likely, "Yes."
Director Travis Knight captured in one Bumblebee trailer what Bay failed to do since he first introduced the robots-in-disguise to the big screen in 2007. Knight brought us a sense of awe, innocence and wonder, all synonymous with various iterations of Transformers cartoons and comics.
Of course, proponents of Bay's take will argue the debut film captured a large portion of this excitement, mixing it with nostalgia and then peppering the necessary ingredients in to create a Hollywood blockbuster. Since then, however, the movies have been products instead of art, pieces steeped in style over substance, resulting in gimmicky flicks designed solely to sell toys. This novelty eventually wore off, with The Last Knight as the red flag signaling the need for a recalibration, perhaps even full reset.
Bay's over-the-top, excessively violent action sequences, immature jokes, racist characterizations and female objectification quickly grew old. Seeing as we're in an age of greater awareness than ever before, it's no surprise his vibe has lost its appeal. Basically, Bay has beaten the franchise into a soulless pulp which not even nostalgia could carry any longer. Audiences became cognizant there was no heart in these films, evidenced from the random swapping in and out of stars, overall narratives which had no character development or emotional connection, and, of course, the universal panning by critics.
Knight's trailer, though, brought an air of hope, the essence of childhood joy which Bay killed off as soon as his first movie ended. Instead of meticulously crafted stories, Bay kept throwing multitudes of Decepticons at the Autobots, while repeatedly using Earth as some sort of storage unit for cosmic artifacts. In short, Bay was lazy. Bring in a big bad, find a way to take Optimus Prime out the equation, use humans to find the MacGuffin, bring Optimus back to save the day, and tease a villain for the next film.
Simply put, Michael Bay killed his own franchise.