It’s been over 30 years since Transformers made their debut on the big screen. It was 1986 when the animated film, The Transformers: The Movie hit screens around the world. For fans of the toys, comics and cartoons it revolutionised the franchise and marked the beginning of a new era. We saw countless characters killed off, new ones introduced but for Hasbro themselves it marked the first step in what was to become an extended love affair with the cinema and the riches that Transformers movies would bring them…
Bumblebee – The Future Of Transformers Movies?
With the new Bumblebee film set to be released on 20th December 2018, hopes are high for the first film being released without the involvement of Michael Bay. Paramount are taking a huge risk with this film on so many levels. It’s the first spin-off movie in the six-film series and a huge gamble. Bumblebee may be a popular character amongst the younger audience but is he a strong enough character to carry an entire film on his own?
You could play a bonanza slot right now while we all watch and see Paramount gamble the future of the Transformers movies on the release of Bumblebee. Everything rests potentially in the hands of a small yellow Autobot film and how well he does around the world.
But how did we get to this point with the movies and why is Paramount banking on this being such a huge blockbuster success? Let’s take a trip back in time and see just why…
Back To Where It All Began
The first movie saw none of the success seen by any of its modern counterparts. While it is loved by fans today for its rich storyline, wonderful voice acting and great soundtrack that wasn’t the case back then. Criticised for being little more than a glorified toy advertisement the film was a box office flop.
Financially, the film ended up losing money for Hasbro when it was first released. It took less than $10m worldwide at the box office and it’s only been in recent years where the film’s cult status amongst fans where it has managed to successfully turn a profit. All of that was thanks to DVD and Blu Ray sales (no doubt helped through countless re-releases and remastered versions), all lapped up by enthusiastic fans.
It wasn’t for another two decades before Transformers movies returned to the big screen. It was clear that audiences wouldn’t accept another animated film – CGI or otherwise – so live action was the way to go. Special effects technology had reached the level needed to bring the Autobots and Decepticons to life on the screen and Michael Bay was brought on board. Choices he made in his directorial duties had fans conflicted over the film and the action felt cluttered and confusing. Fans were torn over the design of the bots and the script… the less said about that for now.
It couldn’t have been more detached from the G1 cartoons if it tried. But it wasn’t meant to be a film for us long-standing fans. Paramount and Hasbro needed a blockbuster action film that would appeal to the mass cinema going audience. Not a film that would just appeal to a handful of nerds who were still reminiscing about their favourite toys from the 80s. The new direction worked perfectly, bringing in an incredible $700m at the box office alone worldwide.
It’s success ran much deeper than that marking a return to the public eye for Transformers. When the first live action film reached home video it amassed sales of almost $300m in the US alone. A new generation of fans were introduced to the franchise and and it became “cool” to be a Transformers fan once more. It was easy to find toys and merchandise everywhere and it was a great time to be a fan.
The Mighty Have Fallen
Two years later and the second of the live action Transformers movies arrived. Revenge Of The Fallen was anticipated to be a bigger and hopefully better film all round. Instead it was a critical flop and cinematically something of a shambles. Fans, cast and crew alike (Michael Bay included) felt that the film was a let down compared to the first. Despite that, the film fared better at the box office globally, this time hitting a stunning $836m.
It was clear at this point that any film with the name Transformers attached to it was potentially a license to print money so it was no surprise that a third movie was set for release…
It’s Getting Dark…
Dark Of The Moon followed in 2011 and was the final film in the series to feature Shia LaBoeuf, something that delighted many hardcore fans. Once again it was a film that divided all who saw it both in the cinemas and on home video, a trend that has run throughout the Michael Bay directed Transformers movies. Regardless, there’s no denying the success of this one financially as it was the first to break the billion-dollar mark when it grossed $1.12bn worldwide. Astonishingly, it managed an impressive $167m in China alone proving that the movie franchise had become a truly global affair.
2014 saw the long awaited return of the Dinobots to the Transformers movies with the release of Age Of Extinction. A fresh cast, spearheaded by Mark Wahlberg, didn’t help the flagging script and excessive running time which many felt were amongst its flaws. The dinobots, one of the great fan favourites right from their introduction in the 1980s, bore no resemblance to what fans had come to know and love and that hampered the film even more. While the box office takings still showed an impressive total of $1.10bn worldwide, in real terms this was a drop from the previous movie.
Time To Call It A Knight…?
In the Summer of 2017 things went horribly wrong for the Transformers movies series. The Last Knight was released. Up to that point the films had average reviews from the critics and poor reviews from many of the die-hard fans but this fifth movie was in dire trouble. It was universally panned and it was clear that the series was struggling. Whether the critics had an impact on box office takings or not isn’t clear, but it would seem that cinema goers had fallen out of love with the Transformers franchise. While the film still made profit for the studio (before taking merchandise and home video sales into consideration), it’s box office takings were disappointing. Not in a wider sense, but for a Transformers movie they were awful. The film took just $605m worldwide – less than any other movie since the 1986 animated film.
As I said at the start, everything now rests on the fate of Bumblebee. Early reports are positive about the film and even the most cynical of fans are looking forward to the film. Those who have been less than enthusiastic about the previous live action films have even been swayed by the new cast, director, look and feel of the film. The question is whether or not the film can deliver on what the trailer promises. It has a tough fight on its hands being released over the Christmas period but it certainly has potential.
If it manages to even accomplish takings in the scope that Revenge Of The Fallen did then Paramount should be content with that. If that happens, Bumblebee could secure a new era of Transformers movies for many years to come…