Can ‘Transformers’ Pull Off Its Own Marvel-Style Universe?

Source: Paramount Pictures

Source: Paramount Pictures

If you thought the Transformers franchise would be wrapping up soon, think again. Paramount Pictures is reportedly planning on bringing plenty more of the Hasbro toy-inspired flicks to screen, including a mix of potential sequels and spin-offs.

According to Deadline, the studio has enlisted Oscar-winning writer Avika Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind, I Am Legend) to work alongside director Michael Bay, executive producer Steven Spielberg, and producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura to help form a “writer’s room,” which will be responsible for brainstorming ideas for a multi-part Transformers sequel and other possible offshoots. The plan is basically to turn Transformers into its own shared film universe, similar to Marvel’s superhero worlds. In formulating this “incubator,” Paramount is apparently hoping to follow in the same paths as Fox, which is currently building the Avatar franchise with three upcoming sequels and Disney, which has helped revive Star Wars with a combination of scheduled follow-ups and spin-offs.

Per Deadline, Goldsman won’t actually be penning any of the new scripts. Instead, he’ll be acting more as an overseer, securing other writers and hatching the movies they’ll script. The process is reportedly set to happen relatively quickly, as the studio is hoping to get something new set up for Bay to work on. Bay, who has helmed all four installments of the Transformers franchise so far, is just beginning filming on the Benghazi siege drama, 13 Hours, and has previously stated that he won’t direct the upcoming fifth Transformers film. Despite these claims, it seems he apparently hasn’t ditched the series altogether, as Deadline reports he’s hoping to return to Transformers after wrapping production on his current project.

It’s no surprise that Paramount is making the Transformers franchise such a high priority. While not exactly critical favorites, the films have proven to be hugely successful at the box office, grossing a whopping $3.8 billion worldwide. The most recent installment, Transformers: Age of Extinction, was itself a reboot of sorts, seeing a change in leads with Mark Wahlberg taking over for former star Shia LaBeouf. Though the movie received dismal reviews, it still went on to earn $1.1 billion worldwide and was the highest grossing film of 2014. With those kinds of earnings, it’s not hard to see why the studio sees potential to turn the series into a full-fledged cinematic universe – especially since Wahlberg has already made it clear he’s willing to stay on for at least a few more films.

The move comes just as studios are placing huge importance on launching and building tentpole franchises. In fact, there are several other studios, aside from Paramount, also attempting to replicate Marvel’s interconnected film formula with their own properties. Universal is planning a monsters-themed variation, starting with next year’s remake of The Mummy. Sony is currently working on both its Ghostbusters world (including Paul Feig’s much-discussed female-focused take and another male-oriented reboot) and a Robin Hood-themed universe. Meanwhile, Warner Brothers is continuing to push Batman through its DC Universe.

Whether or not this strategy will pay off for Paramount and the Transformers franchise remains to be seen. So far, the films have managed to stay hugely profitable, despite repeatedly awful critical reception. But an onslaught of future sequels begs the question: Will audiences keep showing up or will the studio’s plans only kick start a bad case of franchise fatigue?

Paramount is clearly willing to make a serious commitment to the franchise’s future, so we’ll have to stay tuned to see how it plays out. In the meantime, the next Transformers movie, again starring Wahlberg, is expected to hit theaters in summer 2016.

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