Now that Michael Bay has wrapped his trilogy of Transformers films, it looks like he’s ready to move on to other exploding pastures. Since Paramount and Hasbro want to keep the fire burning on one of their biggest moneymakers, two major decisions lay ahead: when to release the next movie and who should direct it. Bay has been able to crank out Transformers film every two years since 2007, but his infrastructure, crew, and designs have remained in place as opposed to a new director who will, to some extent, have to start from scratch so as not to simply imitate Bay. Transformers 4 could come as early as summer 2013, but I would bet a summer 2014 date is more likely.
But who will direct it? Who can fill Bay’s expensive, nonsensical shoes? It needs to be someone who can manage a big budget and even bigger special effects. It’s not enough to make stuff blow up. You need to understand how to do it properly. After the jump you can check out my suggestions for six directors who could handle Optimus Prime and Friends.
Yes, the Foundation trilogy and Singularity, and he’s been offered Asteroids, but no one likes destruction like Roland Emmerich. He’s destroyed the Earth with aliens, weather, and a cataclysm, so why not with giant robots? Like Bay, he’s a storyteller who doesn’t seem to care so much about telling stories as much as creating intense, unrelenting thrill rides for the audience. Also like Bay, while he’s unpopular with critics, but his movies make a ton of money. Of everyone on this list, he’s the most similar to Bay and if he didn’t have other commitments, I’d consider him as a top choice for the job.
Joe Johnston is in prime position to take over a major franchise as early buzz on Captain America: The First Avenger indicates that it will be both a box office and critical success. Johnston is a bit of a journeyman director and twice in his career he’s been asked to take over a film or a franchise. In 2001, he took over the Jurassic Park franchise from Steven Spielberg (who just happens to be the executive producer on the Transformers films) and Johnston was brought in at the last minute to replace Mark Romanek on The Wolfman. Like Transformers, Captain America is set up at Paramount and the studio may want to keep him in house but place the Transformers franchise in his charge. However, if Captain America is a success, he may want to stick around and direct Captain America 2 instead of trying to serve as the follow-up to Michael Bay.
Like the majority of directors on this list, Turteltaub is a journeyman. He doesn’t exercise a strong creative vision but can competently put together an action film, and that’s what Hasbro and Paramount want. They want a guy who won’t make waves, will happily include as many robots as necessary so Hasbro can sell more toys, and won’t take Transformers too far away from the formula that has made it one of the most successful franchises of all-time. Turteltaub made a splash with the National Treasure films and then got a much larger budget to make last year’s flop The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. However, one could argue that Apprentice failed not because Turteltaub didn’t know how to do special effects or handle a big budget, but because it wasn’t based on anything more than a Fantasia segment. Transformers has a built-in audience so Turteltaub wouldn’t have that problem.
This one is a bit of a long shot since it doesn’t seem like Sommers and Paramount parted on good terms after G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. There were rumors that he’d been locked out of the editing room and then he chose not to return for G.I. Joe 2. But the fact of the matter remains that big dumb action is Sommers’ forte and he’s already delivered a CGI-heavy blockbuster film based on a Hasbro line of action figures. He’s currently at work on an adaptation of Dean Koontz’ supernatural mystery novel Odd Thomas, but I doubt that Sommers’ hiatus from blockbusters will last for long.
Following the success of Clash of the Titans, Leterrier had this eye on The Avengers, but didn’t get the gig. He’s also interested in adapting Brian K. Vaughan’s Y: The Last Man, but is currently at work on the magician heist thriller Now You See Me and he’s attached to the disaster film G, which follows “a father who has to search for his lost child as the world stops spinning and Earth begins to lose its gravity.” But if Paramount swooped in and offered him Transformers 4, it could conceivably take prime position in his schedule. Keep in mind: Transformers 4 is a sure-fire hit and little kids don’t care who’s in the director’s chair. What Paramount and Hasbro are looking for is someone who has handled big budget action films before, understands CGI, and preferably has some hits to their name. Because of Clash of the Titans, Leterrier absolutely fits that description.
When the Harry Potter franchise is finally over, David Yates will be one of the most in-demand directors in Hollywood. He has delivered the best films in the franchise and has balanced pulse-pounding action scenes with thoughtful, moving drama. With the exception of Johnston, Yates is the only director on this list who seems to really care about characters and story and that may make him absolutely the wrong choice for Transformers. Keep in mind that Steve Kloves has done an incredible job adapting the Harry Potter novels and making good movies is made easier when you’re working from such strong source material. The Transformers films, on the other hand, have scripts that are written on the back of cocktail napkins. Yates will have a lot of offers following Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 and I can’t help but wonder if he would care to take his talents from a rich, wonderful franchise like Harry Potter and move them to a world as vapid as Transformers.
Remember that sometimes studios take chances. Marc Webb had only directed one critically acclaimed indie flick ((500) Days of Summer) but Sony thought it was good enough to hire him for The Amazing Spider-Man. However, I would bank on a director like the six mentioned above more than someone known for their smaller, non-CGI heavy work. I’m sure there are plenty of other directors we’ve forgotten so please sound off in the comments section on who you think should take over the Transformers franchise (and keep in mind that Paramount and Hasbro aren’t thinking just one more film; they’re thinking of at least another trilogy) and tell us why you think that director is right for the job.
One more thing to consider: With Shia LaBeouf also leaving the franchise, Paramount has some options on where to take the series next. They could do a reboot, but it’s unlikely since it would mean reintroducing all the Transformers. It’s possible that a supporting cast member could be elevated to the lead role, but that’s also a slim chance. With Spielberg still working behind the scenes, I would bet on another male teenage protagonist in the lead role and then that protagonist can grow over the course of three movies. That’s the formula that’s worked for the previous three movies and I don’t see any reason why Paramount would want to break from a formula that’s made them a ridiculous amount of money.