On May 27, 2016 the Transformers twitter account tweeted out a teaser containing a Morse code message that translated to “I’m coming for you May 31st.” On that aforementioned date, Michael Bay posted an ominous video on his instagram account that announced the start of production for the fifth live-action Transformers film, Transformers: The Last Knight.
While this is far from the first Transformers film, it looks as if it will be the start of a greater Transformers Cinematic Universe and perhaps an even larger Hasbro Cinematic Universe. On March 27, 2015 Deadline reported that Akiva Goldsman would work with Michael Bay and Steven Spielberg on developing a multi-part Transformers sequel. He will also oversee a writers room dedicated to this task. Eight months later, word came out that Goldsman will do the same for both G.I. Joe and Micronauts. Other than the recent news for the comic book properties at IDW Publishing (depicted in the image below), there hasn’t been any further word about these properties intersecting as of yet but the fact that they will all be headed by the same person opens the mind to increased speculation. I can easily envision a not too distant future where Goldman’s role at Hasbro evolves into something similar to Kevin Feige’s role at Marvel Studios. We might finally get the epic Micronauts – Transformers – GI Joe – Furby crossover that everyone (and not just me) has been clamoring for all these years.
This potential Hasbro Cinematic Universe is interesting because it could run counter to the established methods of building such a universe. It’s already not a ground-up creation like the Marvel Cinematic universe. It’s closer to what Star Wars has become. With Star Wars, Disney is growing a traditional blockbuster franchise out into something larger. However, with Hasbro we’re going to see two established film franchises and a third or more new property focus intersecting. Though, the possibility remains that the G.I. Joe franchise might be partially or totally rebooted before it crosses over with Transformers or any other Hasbro properties.
There doesn’t appear to be any word on the plot of The Last Knight as of yet. However, we do know that Michael Bay will still be directing. We also know of some returning actors, Like Mark Wahlberg and Peter Cullen, the legendary voice of Optimus Prime… and also Eeyore. The title suggests that the film may deal with The Knights of Cybertron. The Knights were referenced in the last film with the antagonist Lockdown’s ship having been a part of a faction of powerful Cybertronian knights. Also it’s entirely possible, and not just my own fanboy wishful thinking, that the title might be hinting at another Hasbro property, Rom Spaceknight. It was recently announced by IDW Publishing that they had acquired the rights from Marvel Comics to publish a new Rom series so signs pointing to this connection remain positive moving forward.
All speculation aside we know that a new Transformers film means a plethora of new Transformers toys. With all the movies, comics and video games one could be forgiven for forgetting that Transformers was a toy franchise before it became anything else. They are robots that turn into cars. They are the absolute definition of the word toyetic. If we want to get a feel for where the franchise is headed then the toys are a pretty good place to look. In fact, why don’t we examine some of the many toys that were released in support of the previous film in the franchise, Transformers: Age of Extinction.
The Age of Extinction toys saw a number of departures from the traditional Transformers model. The One Step Changer figures simplified the franchise’s signature feature. Rather than having to manipulate several pieces to engage a transformation these figures seek to replicate the rapid transformations seen in the movies. One action, such as folding Grimlock’s shoulders or flipping Drift inside out, converts these figures into their alternate modes. However, these figures sacrifice the accuracy of depiction and breadth of poseability offered by their more complicated counterparts. They are definitely targeted more toward children then they are collectors.
The Power Battlers are another simplified take on the Transformers concept. They are bigger and somewhat more complex than the One Step Changers but are still pretty simple. The Power Battlers have a somewhat more accurate look than their simpler counterparts. However, they have very little articulation and most of them seem to merely fold out of their vehicle modes in a few simple moves. Each figure is equipped with some kind of gimmick action that allows them to engage in their namesake battling. These gimmicks are your standard action figure features and are activated by squeezing the figures legs. This causes such effects as Lockdown launching some rockets and Optimus Prime has a sword flipping off of his back.
The biggest departures are the Dino Sparker toys. These are pullback vehicles in the shape of the Dinobots. They have a small unarticulated robot toy that serves as a rider. These figures have absolutely no transformation action but they do have sparklers. The pull back action cause sparks to fly inside of the body of the figure lighting it up. Honestly these things put me at a loss. The sparking is such a strange gimmick and the only explanation I can think of is a wild misinterpretation of the idea that every Transformer carries a spark inside of them. Somebody must have just been barely listening when they explained the franchise’s lore, heard the word “spark”, and decided to run with it.
Thankfully, there were a fair amount of actual Transformers released along with the movie. There were Deluxe Class figures produced for nearly all the robot characters in the film even rolling in the Dinobots introduced in this installment. This includes the underrated Scorn and his awesome Spinosaurus alt form. The line also saw a few Voyager Class figures. The coolest among them and the coolest Age of Extinction figures overall are the Evasion Mode and The Platinum Edition Scrapyard Optimus Prime figures. Evasion Mode Optimus Prime keeps the movie Prime’s design but gilds him in a color scheme based on his classic cartoon predecessor. The Scrapyard figure gives Optimus am impressively rusty and weathered look. The line is rounded out by two larger, Leader Class figures, one of Optimus Prime and the other of Grimlock. The leader Class Optimus Prime in particular is quite an accurate recreation of his look in the film and it’s my hope that the next generation of Transformers figures live up to this high standard.