‘Transformers 5’: Why Michael Bay Should Go “Smaller” With the Next Sequel

By  · Published on June 30th, 2014

Paramount Pictures

Nobody was waiting to see how Transformers: Age of Extinction performed before deciding to do a fifth movie. Paramount knew it would wind up with the best opening of 2014, even if they had to allegedly lie about just how much it earned. The studio had previously announced Transformers 5 would arrive in 2016, and although that too might be a lie, the point is that it will be made.

The question is, what more is there to do with the franchise? Could Chicago take a third beating? Will Mark Wahlberg return, and will his character, Cade Yeager, be able to continue being humorously amazed at finding Transformers and infinite-ammo space guns and other alien technology he wants to hypocritically steal and patent for himself?

We aren’t even certain that Michael Bay is returning, though it is likely he’ll be back at the helm, more so if Paramount lets him do another “small” movie, a la Pain & Gain, beforehand. The problem for the studio would be that allowing Bay the passion project definitely means they’d be off track for an opening two years from now. If only there was a way for both sides to get what they want. Well, I think I have a solution for that compromise: Bay should make Transformers 5 his “small” movie.

You can probably deduce from the quotes that I don’t mean this would be a movie where the Autobots are just sitting around talking. Compared to Age of Extinction, though, Bay could do just about anything and it’d be considered smaller. I’ve even heard that his next “small” movie could be Bad Boys III. I guess it’s all relative. But my idea is something even more specific involving size. It wouldn’t necessarily be the movie that’s smaller so much as the robots. The next sequel ought to focus on Micromasters.

Or Headmasters, Targetmasters or Powermasters. But I think Micromasters are, as one of the last and most independent groups of the original Transformers toy line, the most appropriate.

The current presumption, going by what happens at the end of Age of Extinction, is that the next movie might be set in space, following Optimus Prime in his mission to find “the creators.” Like a robotic Prometheus. There’s no way that Paramount is going to do one of these completely away from Earth, though, especially without any human characters. There will need to be a primary plot on our planet, with our actors, including former hip hop artists and young barely legal women treated as sex objects.

So let Prime fly off to do what he’s gotta do, Superman at the end of Superman II style. (You can have Transformers 6 be called Transformer Returns and maybe there’s even a kid who turns out to be Prime’s son in a surprise twist.) Meanwhile, the main plot will see Yeager and Stanley Tucci’s Joshua Joyce team up to “invent” Transformers toys. Joyce sort of tried to do that already, but those were life-size versions. These will be for children.

With Age of Extinction, Bay showed us that he wants this “reboot” trilogy to be pretty meta. That’s why he’ll hold close-up on the charred remains of T.J. Miller until we get it, that he’s winking at us about his usual sequence where the heroes outrun an explosion in slow motion. This time one of the good guys didn’t survive. Har har. There’s also a joke about how sequels and reboots are terrible. Multiple reviewers have referred to the movie as Bay making fun of himself, though I don’t think I’d go that far.

For Transformers 5, the concept would be more like the allegory of Chef than self-parody. Where that movie had Jon Favreau playing a hardly disguised version of himself leaving the restaurant biz (Hollywood) to run a food truck (a smaller and more personal film), here we’d see Bay’s stand-in (Wahlberg) making smaller Transformers that some presume the public will be more accepting of, only they wind up causing just as many problems as the original versions (one scene has a swarm of little bots bringing down a skyscraper in the Windy City). It’d be like Pain & Gain still not winning over the critics.

It’s also about a self-awareness of the whole property, bringing it all full-circle to be literally about toys. There’s already a touch of that in the Stingers in Age of Extinction being mass-produced by Joyce’s company, only not explicitly enough for these movies’ audience. No more than the way those same manufactured Transformers seem to be metaphors for unmanned drones, particularly how uncontrollable they wind up – it doesn’t help that there are actual drones in the movie potentially confusing the designation.

Just like Pain & Gain, this “small” Transformers could have its share of action and explosions, mainly near the end when they’d probably come together to form a bigger robot, Micromaster Combiners style, but it wouldn’t be nearly as crazy as the set pieces in Age of Extinction.

And executive producer Steven Spielberg should like the idea, as it would recall his past projects featuring miniature creatures, namely Gremlins and Batteries Not Included.For Bay, he can work the micro machines into anything else he wants to comment on or lampoon – sorta like the joke in Age of Extinction with the one Autobot expecting the Dinobots to turn into giant cars, not dinosaurs – though the movie itself will already be the main gag.

If not any of this, I’ll also accept Bay just remaking Small Soldiers as his next movie, as it would offer the same reflexive point without annoying anyone expecting the Transformers movies to somehow just continue to get bigger.

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.