5 Ways to Prep - Transformers: The Last Knight
By George Rose
June 20, 2017
This week we have Transformers: The Last Knight. A wasted marketing opportunity might have been to refer to the movie as Transformer5 (now copy-written by yours truly), but the time has long since passed to start calling it that. Marketing materials probably leave out the 5 all together because, 1) the films have never used numbers to label sequels and, 2) this entry more than any other in the franchise is trying the hardest to be seen as a true series relaunch. Before we get deeper into Transformers 5, let’s talk about Transformers: A Brief History.
Early 1980s: Japanese toy makers start selling tons of transformable car action figures. One minute they’re robot men, the next they’re a Maserati.
1984: Transformers becomes a hit cartoon series. Optimus Prime is good. Megatron is bad. The war will continue to rage on for more than three decades and counting.
1986: Transformers: The Movie is released. It is a cartoon, just like the TV show. It bombs, earning less than $6 million. That’s not even $14 million in today’s dollars. The Transformers movies die and get cryogenically frozen for 20 years.
1990s: Little ‘80s nerd children like me are now slightly larger ‘90s pre-teens. The Transformers brand stays alive with toys, TV show cartoons and comic books.
Early 2000s: Small ‘90s pre-teens are now teens and young adults with the internet. Technology advances have made robots cool again. The internet has made talking to friends and spreading word about things of interest much easier. Geeks that used to get made fun of for being nerdy kids that watched shows like Transformers are now the ones programming the technology used to control the internet. A perfect robotic storm is brewing.
Mid-2000s: Despite nerds HATING super-Hollywood-Summer-blockbuster-superstar-jock Michael Bay, action-movie lovers that don’t know nerdy things like Transformers know and trust him. The iconic action director is paired with the legendary Steven Spielberg (as producer) to make a Transformers movie. Bay will bring the action, Spielberg will bring the prestige, and the Transformers will bring the nerds. The internet will do the rest.
2007: Poor nerdy kids of the ‘80s like me are now 22-years-old. We have money, cars, the internet, a fond memory of the Transformers, and a deep love of action movies. Like the rest of the world, we go see the first live-action Transformers movie. Against all odds, the $150 million budgeted film opens to $70 million, earns $319 million domestically, $390 million internationally, and $709 million worldwide. Paramount Pictures and Hasbro Toys have made a wise investment that the world will suffer for supporting over the next decade. This is mostly because stars Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox will soon prove to be batshit crazy and Bay/Spielberg will chose to waste the goodwill they’ve earned with lame follow-ups.
2009: Sequels released only two years after the prior film are usually too rushed to be any good. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen only helps prove that theory. However, the early 2000s were kind to trilogies, especially the first sequel. Things like the internet and the growing foreign markets helped most first sequels of that time earn more than their predecessors. Transformers 2 opened with $109 million, earned $402 million domestically, $434 million overseas and $836 million worldwide. All four numbers are bigger with the sequel so the studio is happy. The movie sucked so the fans were concerned. We all pray together that we never see another pair of robot testicles again (oh, yeah, they’re in the movie). Everything now rests on Part 3.
2011: Another short two year later, another sequel. This time there is no Megan Fox because she badmouthed Bay after Transformers 2 and nobody likes a pair of whiny tits wandering around the set. The sex symbol is never the main draw of the movie, so she gets replaced with another nobody-really-cares-because-she’s-so-hot actress, and Shia LaBeouf’s mom makes an innuendo that her son must have a big schlong if he keeps landing models. The series has officially gone off the rails. If it wasn’t for the then-growing 3D technology and that amazing action sequence with a giant robot worm tearing through skyscrapers, the movie might have killed the franchise. Instead, it opened smaller with $97 million, earned a still respectable $350 million domestically, a much larger $771 million internationally and $1.1 billion worldwide. The franchise takes a break on a high note while LaBeouf starts to go on crazy rants around Hollywood.
2013: Bay needs a break from blockbuster filmmaking because he wants to be taken more seriously. Hahahahaha, I know, right?! He makes a movie called Pain and Gain (ugh) about muscle men Mark Wahlberg and The Rock and blah blah blah. Nobody cares. Literally. It only earns $86 million worldwide. Hey, Paramount, Bay is on the phone begging to make Trans4mers so let’s jump on that. Also, China is about to explode at the box office and Asians started this whole robot nonsense so they’ll eat this crap up.
2014: Transformers: Age of Extinction is released and sort of reboots the franchise. Bay’s new boy toy Mark Wahlberg is now the star, while LaBeouf ruins his career by being weird. Also, now there are robot dinosaurs, soooooooo yeah. They don’t help much and neither does the dying 3D trend. It opens to $100 million, earns $245 domestically, a crazy $858 million internationally and $1.1 billion worldwide. China saves the day here and the franchise saves face. But, as we now know, each new reason for a burst in earnings is only good for one film. 3D only helped once and China might only save the series once.
2015: Transformers does something you’d never expect a campy, critically-trashed franchise to do; they create a writers-room. The studio hires a bunch of writers to work together to create a cohesive Transformers universe (similar to Marvel and DC and every other copy-cat around) with plans to move forward creating movies, spin-offs, sequels and everything else under the sun. While extremely ambitions and sort of presumptuous, the idea is also rather commendable. Just look at the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. They clearly didn’t care and had nothing but Depp keeping the franchise together and Part 5 was HORRIBLE. At least the Transformers are trying. The writers-room gets to work.
2016: Once again, Bay tried to be taken seriously. 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is released and bombs with only $69 million worldwide. Bay, once again, goes crawling back to the Transformers.
2017: We’re now at the present. Pirates of the Caribbean 5 proved that having no writers-room may not have been the way to go with a fifth-quel. That movie is crap. As I discussed in the Pirates 5 article, this summer, the two different fifth entries are at war. Their fourth films opened similarly and earned nearly identical final amounts ($90-100 million opening, $240-245 million domestically, $1-1.1 billion worldwide). Pirates 5 just recently opened to $63 million (over the Memorial Day holiday), will likely end around $175 million domestically, and maybe $750 million worldwide. Early estimates suggest Transformers 5 will earn about the same domestically. The wildcard here is the international total.