Today, Paramount held a virtual presentation to celebrate the start of production on the next Transformers movie, with series producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura and director Steven Caple Jr. (Creed 2) finally revealing how they’re going to keep the series going after the last Michael Bay movie kind of ran it into the ground (our words, not their words) and then Travis Knight’s Bumblebee reigned things in and found some new life in these big alien robots. The answer: They’re doing another prequel that doesn’t explicitly step on the Bay movies but casually sidesteps any of the things that happened in them.
The movie is called Transformers: Rise Of The Beasts, and it’s specifically going to take place in 1994 (a decade or so between Bumblebee and Bay’s first Transformers movie), with the action happening New York—Brooklyn, to be exact—and Peru. They’re even getting a chance to film in Machu Picchu, which seems very dangerous for a Transformers movie and is the sort of thing that probably wouldn’t have happened if Michael Bay were still at the wheel (that’s a good way to get your Machu Picchu blown up).
Plot-wise, Caple was very tight-lipped about what’s going to happen in the movie, but he did make it clear that it’s going to be pulling a lot of things from Beast Wars, the mid-‘90s computer-generated series that served as a surprise sequel to the original Transformers cartoon and replaced the vehicle robots with new animal robots (he’s apparently a huge fan of that show in particular). Rise Of The Beasts will introduce live-action versions of the Beast Wars factions, the Maximals and the Predacons, but it will also have the Autobots and a new group of villains called the Terrorcons (a name pulled from the older cartoon).
Caple explained that he was happy to see Bumblebee tell a story dedicated to that character, but when he got a chance to make a Transformers movie, he wanted to make sure that his movie was all about Optimus Prime, a.k.a. the best Transformer (again, our words). Caple says Prime is the “robot lead” of his movie, and he showed off some concept art that was very “G1-inspired” (as in, based on the original cartoon). Nobody used the term “origin story,” but Caple did say that Rise Of The Beasts will show how Optimus Prime became the Optimus Prime we know from the other movies. He doesn’t see Earth as his home yet, but he will. Also, original Prime voice actor Peter Cullen will once again be returning, with Caple saying there was “no discussion” of finding someone to potentially replace him.
There was no mention of any other voice actors, but Caple did explicitly dance around a question from the audience about other familiar names popping up for other familiar characters (implying that yes, some other established Transformers voice actors will probably be returning), which brings us to the rest of the robot cast. In addition to Optimus Prime, the Autobot team will feature Bumblebee (now with a very rad offroad mod setup for his Camaro mode), Arcee (she turns into a motorcycle was referred to as “super tough and fierce), and Mirage (a classic Porsche 911, rather than the F1 car from the old cartoon). The Terrorcons will be led by Scourge, with the concept art showing him as a big monster-like robot with filthy smokestacks and a giant claw, and his second-in-command will be the ninja-like Nightbird (another familiar name from the old cartoon, she turns into a Nissan GTR here that looks very cool).
But we said Beast Wars up above, and that means there are some Beast Wars characters here as well: Airazor (a hawk), Rhinox (a rhino), and their leader Optimus Primal (a hairy robot gorilla) will be in Rise Of The Beasts, with Caple explaining that Primal is a different guy from Prime and that the two of them will be able to have “philosophical conversations” about leadership and life on Earth that wouldn’t happen with any other characters. These characters have apparently been on the planet for a very long time, and they all have a rusted metal look with exposed machinery just beneath their wings or slightly disconcerting hairy gorilla arms.
Last but not least (hopefully), the movie will also have some humans, with Anthony Ramos (from everything lately, plus In The Heights) and Dominique Fishback (Judas And The Black Messiah) as the human leads. She’s playing a woman named Elena who works in a museum and gets unfairly ignored by her boss, and he’s playing an ex-military guy named Noah who takes care of his family in Brooklyn. Ramos said he specifically wanted to make this movie so he could prove why a Transformers movie needs people in it, because he (correctly, we should say) recognizes that a movie that’s just about Autobots and Decepticons should be able to do just fine without people. His goal for his character and for Fishback’s character is to convince viewers that there would be “no movie” without them.
That’s a tall order, but it should be encouraging to Transformers fans that he seems to agree that it’s a tall order. We’ll see how it all works out, and whether this series can really find new life post-Bay (or if Bumblebee’s success was a one-off), when Rise Of The Beasts comes out some time next summer.