The Transformers cinematic universe might one day soon visit prehistoric times. Only adaptation can save the franchise from devouring itself like a hungry dinosaur that just found its dinner taking a nap. That's right, a Beast Wars movie might be in the works.
Variety reported Monday that Paramount Pictures has plans to produce two separate Transformers movies following the moderate success of 2018’s Bumblebee. That same day, Deadline reported one of these films would be set within the Bumblebee universe and is being developed by Joby Harold, the executive producer of John Wick: Chapter 3 who also wrote Army of the Dead. The other project, developed by Murder Mystery writer James Vanderbilt, is said to be a live-action adaptation of Beast Wars, the spin-off '90s animated series that takes place on Earth during prehistoric times.
This is incredible news for the franchise that needs to move in a refreshing new direction.
Part of what made Bumblebee successful after several failures in the Transformers universe was a tighter story unlike anything that came before it. Adapting Beast Wars provides the opportunity to do something even more novel, which is the refreshing next step this franchise needs to stay alive in the 2020s. Otherwise, Cybertron fell for nothing!
Beast Wars is essentially the same endless conflict between Autobots and Decepticons, but focused on their time-traveling descendants who become the Maximals and Predacons after the Great Upgrade reduces their average size to increase fuel efficiency. Because of some time-travel shenanigans and a race to claim valuable resources, both sides wind up on Earth during prehistoric times.
And because the pesky human race hasn't developed yet, there are no mack trucks, airplanes, or flashy cars to copy. Instead, the Transformers instead resort to mimicking local wildlife — that includes dinosaurs. Unlike your typical Transformers movie, this would be something closer to Transformers mixed with the live-action Lion King in a really weird and delightful way.
I have vivid memories of watching Beast Wars before school on a daily basis when it originally aired between 1996 and 1999, relishing in what at the time were incredible computer animation graphics with memorable characters and a genuinely compelling story. And most '90s kids can relate.
Cheetor and Rattrap had a hilarious buddy-cop rivalry. Optimus Primal (lol!) was a total boy scout who was also a gorilla. There's also Tigatron, who straight up ditches the conflict to live as a white tiger in the wild, because why not?
Dinobot was, by far, the coolest character: A turncoat Predacon who defected to the Maximals simply because he did not like or respect Megatron. His redemptive arc towards grumpy goodness made him a lovable anti-hero, even more so because of the sacrifices he has to make by the end of the series.
In Beast Wars, Transformers have their typical battles with laser guns on their arms and melee weapons, or they might wrestle in their gorilla or dinosaur forms. Did dinosaurs exist on Earth at the same time as cheetahs? Probably not, but in a story where a metal alien can become a giant talking rat with wheels, who cares? Also, the toys were incredible.
Some of the dialogue is also downright hilarious too, like this memorable scene where Megatron brushes the teeth on his dinosaur arm:
Dinobot: Attention, Maximals. My name is Dinobot. I have left the Predacons to join your group ... as leader.
Cheetor: What? Did I hear the word leader?
Rhinox: This guy's got bearings of chrome steel.
In one memorable episode, all of the Transformers are forced to remain in their animal forms for an extended period of time and eventually forget they're even aliens. Their saving grace is the hippie Tigatron, who spends all his time as a tiger and learned to deal with this side effect ages ago. Watching each character grapple with their unique animal instincts is surprising, dynamic, hilarious, and it makes for a perfect bottle episode.
Beast Wars doesn't even have any humans in it, which are usually the least interesting part of any Transformers movie. Every human is either a brainless pinup, an annoying twerp, or a hard-headed military man — because that's the only kind of story Michael Bay knows how to tell as a director these days. But if you remove humans entirely from the narrative and put all of the focus on developing the Transformers as the characters, it becomes endlessly more interesting.
Dark of the Moon, Age of Extinction, and The Last Knight fell victim to Michael Bay's "Bayhem," an increasingly more bloated approach to bombastic action at the expense of a coherent story and characters we could actually care about. Most of Michael Bay's Transformers movies totally fail at delivering anything that even remotely resembles a compelling narrative because his Transformers are literal vehicles but also figurative vehicles that do little more than deliver explosions. They have nothing interesting to do or say. They're just flashy set dressing.
Bumblebee had a more tenderhearted retro approach in a story set in 1987 involving everyone's favorite yellow Autobot and his budding relationship with a headstrong, charismatic young woman played by the engaging Hailee Steinfeld. It worked because it gave Bumblebee a personality and real reason to fight beyond bland plot requirements.
The Transformers franchises got a soft reboot with Bumblebee, but a Beast Wars adaptation offers a chance to do something genuinely interesting. It just so happens that it would also make my childhood dreams come true.
Anyone can watch all of Beast Wars for free on Tubi.