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Transformers Reboot In The Works With Two Separate Movies

Paramount is getting ready to transform and roll out anew. 

The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed that the Transformers franchise is going back to the shop and swapping out parts for a reboot of the film series. 

To a certain extent, this was already true with the release of Bumblebee in 2018. Hasbro said as much at a toy convention that the film was indeed meant to launch "a new storytelling universe." As part of this franchise pivot, Paramount has hired two scribes, James Vanderbilt and Joby Harold, to write entirely separate scripts. The studio intends to produce them in tandem.

While details on the scripts for the reboot movies are scarce for the moment, this news is proof that not only is the Transformers franchise not dead, but it's also prepared to double down on creating something closer to a true cinematic universe for itself. It's the raison d'etre for all the major moviemakers today, after all. Bumblebee, with its $468 million take on an intentionally modest $135 million budget, provided a quality proof-positive that there's still demand for the franchise — and that's all the permission the studio needs to keep grinding. 

This shift in production pipeline might feel sudden, but it's more like the tail end of a turnover process that's been in the works since the box office failure of Transformers: The Last Knight in 2017. Let's take a look at what the two Transformers reboot movies mean for the future of the franchise.

The screenwriters and the possible future tone of Transformers films

James Vanderbilt (yes, of the 19th century gilt family) has a nice balance of producing and writing credits to his name, and there's a definite genre theme throughout all of his projects: horror. Zodiac, Slender Man, the 2018 remake of Suspiria – Vanderbilt definitely has a natural inclination to the dark and upsetting. On the flip side, he also wrote and produced for both of Sony's Amazing Spider-Man films starring Andrew Garfield, so Vanderbilt has certainly been around the superheroic blockbuster neighborhood before.

If Vanderbilt is meant to bring to the Transformers franchise the suspense, then Joby Harold is definitely meant to bring the action. He's done more production work than screenplay writing, but that doesn't mean this is his first time putting pen to paper. Harold's major production credits are for big-scale punch-and-shoot-em-ups like The Edge of Tomorrow, Robin Hood, and, as a particular jewel in his CV, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum.

Both men have some highs and lows in their filmographies, but the good stuff is very strong indeed. Each are apparently working on separate films, so while we might expect Harold's script to hew closer to what we're used to seeing out of the Transformers franchise with big, sweeping action, what exactly does Vanderbilt's entail? Is a more dark, cerebral Transformers on the distant horizon? The Transformers as a race are on the brink of extinction after a centuries-long war — but we've never gotten to really see that war on the big screen, and this screenwriter's potential certainly begs for it.

A cleaned house to begin again

It might feel like Michael Bay was fired from his job as director of the Transformers franchise after the disaster that was The Last Knight, but it was decided well ahead of time that the 2017 installment would be Bay's last Transformers film. He hadn't even been terribly keen to do another after Age of Extinction — and though he stayed on for one last ride, it feels fair to say that both the story format and the man making them were probably tired, and the end product suffered as a result. 

Bay has since moved on to pursue personal passion projects as a director, but he's still listed as an executive producer on the still-untitled future Transformers release. However, Akiva Goldsman — who had been brought on by Paramount to create a major story pitch roundtable with several screenplay writers, and who was credited for story planning on The Last Knightwent right back out the door again after the film was released, subsequently flopped, and was nominated for multiple Razzies. There have been no half-measures in wiping this particular franchise's slate clean.

As of now, no directors have been tapped to take on the developing Transformers screenplays, and there's no word either way as to whether Bumblebee's director Travis Knight will return in any capacity. Paramount may be most interested in ensuring it has a solid blockbuster-quality story before anything else.

The unfinished products of the past could create new opportunities

In 2015, Akiva Goldsman and Michael Bay assembled a rare thing in major studio productions: a collaborative, multi-writer story pitching group with the hopes of charting the future of the Transformers franchise beyond the fifth film that would become The Last Knight, which was still in pre-production at the time. A dozen screenwriters were hired to spend several months developing their own individual script, then collaborate to assist with their compatriots' scripts. When finished, they would present their ideas to Bay, Steven Spielberg (a producer for the franchise), and a few of Hasbro and Paramount's executive staff. This process reportedly yielded three to five possible films, of which The Last Knight was probably one. The rest of the offerings were reportedly too thin on their own to develop into a full script.

The twist in this story, considering how Bay and Goldsman are no longer attached to the franchise, is that Bumblebee came from this project. Christina Hodson had been invited to be part of the committee and it had been her script pitch. 

Whatever disaster The Last Knight represents, and however unwilling Paramount is to repeat the experiment, it ended as a net positive for the studio. It's entirely possible that part of the script-writing process for Vanderbilt and Harold may mean shopping the concepts created during this roundtable in 2015. At the very least, they may have those pitches on-hand to Waffle House-style scatter, smother, and dice into their own story ideas. Paramount spent all that time and money putting the roundtable together –it isn't a bad idea to reincorporate it into this new dawn for the franchise.