The Transformers franchise has made almost $5 billion since Transformers debuted in 2007, despite increasingly negative reviews. As the series has gone on, the box office has continuously shrunk under director Michael Bay. By 2017’s Transformers: The Last Knight, the series made only $130 million in North America, almost half what the previous film Transformers: Age of Extinction had done in 2014. The franchise got a much-needed shakeup with 2018’s Bumblebee, and a new rumor suggests that another change could be coming, with the possibility of an R-rated Transformers movie possibly on the way.
According to gossip writer Daniel Richtman, Paramount would like to continue building out the Transformers universe, and are even considering making a more mature, R-rated film in that world. That being said, Richtman simply says that the idea is being discussed, which is far from a confirmation that we’re going to see Optimus Prime straight-up murdering enemies in gruesome fashion any time soon.
But the idea of an R-rated Transformers film doesn’t exactly make any sense. What would that even look like? Would Autobots and Decepticons now have blood? Would Starscream start screaming out F-bombs? Who exactly is asking for a gritty, dark version of Transformers anyway, especially when the primary audience for these films is children? This seems like an idea that was probably considered, then discarded relatively quickly.
This also seems to be the exact opposite direction that the franchise is currently headed down. While Bumblebee only made $468 million worldwide – making it technically the least successful film in the franchise so far – this spinoff of sorts took Michael Bay out of the director’s chair and showed that Transformers could be a critically-acclaimed franchise. Bumblebee skewed slightly younger, focusing on a teenage girl and her car, and the film was better for it, pushing aside the massive incomprehensible battles of the other films in the series.
There are currently several Transformers projects in the works, but so far, there’s no evidence that these will be rated R. Producer Lorenzo Di Bonaventura said in an interview last year that the future of the primary Transformers series likely won’t have Michael Bay as director anymore, and while there is work on a script for the next film, it won’t pick up where The Last Knight left off.
In addition to this, the Transformers cinematic universe shows no sign of slowing down any time soon. Supposedly, one of the upcoming movies will be based on Beast Wars, while last year, a sequel to Bumblebee was announced by Creed II director Steven Caple Jr. Paramount has announced that there will be a Transformers movie coming on June 24, 2022, but it’s unclear which project will be released on that day.
As a franchise, Transformers needs to move away from the insanity of the Michael Bay films, and Bumblebee took a smaller approach to this universe and found commercial and critical success. Going R-rated seems like it would return the franchise to the bombastic silliness that audiences seemed to tire of with the Bay films. This is a series that needs to try new things in order to stay relevant, but going darker seems like the wrong direction.