While the live action of Paramount and Hasbro Transformers movies have always been fan-service-oriented visual triumphs, they’ve been consistently held back by the studio’s mistaken belief that people line up for these things and want to see ordinary human beings befriend robots. Although that has never been and never will be the case, a detail from the latest trailer for Transformers: Rise of the Beasts – with at least two human protagonists – suggests that Paramount has been thinking about how to address this issue. And their solution is wild.
Human/Cybertronian partnerships were a big part of the Transformers franchise long before Michael Bay got his hands on it, and Sam Witwitcky, Shia LaBeouf’s character, in Bay’s first three Transformers movies was intended as a nod to Daniel Witwicky, the teenage boy who assists the Autobots in the original Transformers animated series from 1984 and film from 1986. But while the classic Transformers cartoons were always adventure fantasies aimed at young children – that is, stories where a kid scuttling around the side of small buildings with killer robots makes “sensible” – Paramount’s live-action movies were much grittier, relatively mature, pointing out how dangerous Transformers in general are.
While it was presumably always meant to give viewers a way to better project themselves into the fantastical, CGI-heavy action of Paramount’s Transformers movies, it always remained strange to see the likes of Sam Witwicky, Megan Fox’s Mikaela Banes, and Mark Wahlberg’s Cade Yeager march into battle with the Transformers for reasons that should be obvious. As little people armed only with guns, there was usually little they could do to keep themselves out of the way when things got serious. The films tended to bend over backwards to find ways to justify their presence in particularly action-packed set pieces.
Although this particular problem is not unique to Transformers (see: Universal’s recent Godzilla movies), it stands out among Paramount’s movies in part because of how “realistic” they’ve all tried to be – something that has certainly worked out much better for them in other respects.
Between Anthony Ramos’ Noah Diaz and Dominique Fishback’s Elena Wallace, the new movie from director Steven J. Caple Transformers: Rise of the Beasts seems poised to follow in the footsteps of its predecessors when it comes to spotlighting commoners who become honorary Cybertronians. But a shot from the film’s latest trailer makes it seem certain Rise of the Beasts perhaps devised a brilliant and ridiculous way to ensure that the human protagonists actually bring something useful to the battlefield rather than just running around as a distraction from the main event.
Towards the end of Rise of the Beasts‘ In the latest trailer, there’s a moment where the Autobot Mirage (Pete Davidson) throws something at his human friend Noah, encouraging him to “take the wheel.” Despite appearing to be a pair of keys at first, whatever Noah catches begins to encase his hand as soon as it touches his skin. And while the trailer pulls away before you can see exactly what happens to him, the shot afterward suggests that Noah may be in control of Bumblebee.
The idea of a human somehow remotely controlling an entire Transformer like a huge toy is a very new idea that would probably be interesting and a bit ethically questionable to watch play out. Because Transformers: Rise of the Beastsis largely a story about Unicron – the giant, planet-eating terror first introduced in Transformers: The Movie – however, it feels much more likely that the thing Mirage throws at Noah is an updated version of the exosuit.
In Transformers: The Movie, the exosuit Daniel Witwicky inherits from his father Spike, is a bulky human-sized suit of armor resembling a Transformer in its robot mode that the boy dons when he and the other Transformers crash land on a planet-sized garbage dump called Junk. Wearing the exosuit allows Daniel to survive on Junket’s oxygen-free surface, aid the Transformers in battle when attacked by enemies, and prevent his father from falling into a vat of acid by using the suit’s array of blasters.
Daniel’s exosuit could also transform into a compact vehicle that he could pilot on land or in the water, and while the thing always looked rather goofy, it also kept the boy alive and made him a useful member of the team. Like Bumblebee’s backspin kicking his way through a mob of what looks like Terrorcons at the very end of Rise of the Beastslatest trailer, there appears to be a human-sized white robot clinging to its leg that jumps off the screen before you get a good look at it.
Putting Noah in an exosuit might not point out exactly why he didn’t ask the Autobots to drop him off shortly after meeting them, rather than follow them into a war where he could quite reasonably die just by being caught . But it would make his (and Elaine’s, hopefully) partnership with the Transformers a lot more sense and serve as an excellent bit of fan service if all of this turns out to be the case when Transformers: Rise of the Beasts will be in cinemas from June 9.
Correction May 4, 4:20 PM ET: An earlier version of this story incorrectly credited Spike Witwicky instead of Daniel Witwicky as the teenager from the original Transformers cartoons. We regret the mistake.