On a gut level, a lower budget seems like it would be the best thing for the next Transformers movie. The franchise has made an absurd amount of money, sure, but the quality of the movies has always been hampered by excess. A little constraint can actually mean a lot of freedom. Of course, the normal laws of physics might not apply to Michael Bay.
In an excellent feature by Geoff Boucher at Hero Complex, Bay opens up the new theme park ride alongside someone in a large Bumblebee costume and lays down some notes about the fourth installment (the one which he said he absolutely wouldn’t return for before absolutely returning for it). Among the details, a lower budget by $30m. That would bring Transformers 4 down to the earthly range of $165m or so, counteracting the tide of bloated blockbusters that can’t seem to nail down two hours worth of action without spending at least $200m. It feels strange to praise Paramount and this franchise for being sensible, but credit should go where credit is due.
At the same time, Bay said that the action might take place in outer space. “That feels like the way to go, doesn’t it? I want to go a little off but I don’t want to go too sci-fi. I still want to keep it grounded.That’s what works in these movies, that’s what makes it accessible.” Of course, no matter where the action is, the true significant change will be the cast.
Bay is done with Sam Witwicky and his various unrealistic girlfriends. He doesn’t consider the next installment to be a reboot because it still holds the history from the trilogy in tact, but there will be a new slew of humans playing off of the robots. Hopefully, that leaves the door open for a more robot-focused feature.
The slate is being wiped clean in more ways than one, but it’s the budget constraint that seems most promising. The original was made for $150m, so this budget isn’t a stretch by any means, but if it confines a director like Bay even by a little bit, it should be helpful. Strangely, it might be his experience making the intimate Pain and Gain for just $20m that could propel him into turning the next Transformers into something beloved by fans and critics instead of the noisy indulgent clatter that sells toys but doesn’t have much meat on its bones.