According to Transformers producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura, one thing is to blame for Michael Bay's most maligned sequels.
While Bay may have taken a step back from directing movies set within the universe of the beloved transforming toy line, the Transformers franchise marches on.
Despite averaging a meager 41% on Rotten Tomatoes across its big-screen efforts (including three movies under 20%), the franchise has thrived at the global box office, making over $5.28 billion since 2007.
Transformers 2 Had One Problem
Speaking in a new interview Transformers producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura revealed the one problem that plagued Micheal Bay's 2009 blockbuster sequel Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.
Widely regarded as one of the worst movies of the 21st century, di Bonaventura remarked in the latest issue of Empire Magazine that it was mostly to blame on the 2008 writers' strike.
"That really screwed us up," di Bonaventura opined, saying because of the job action they "[didn't] get to evolve [the] script" like they would have hoped to:
“That really screwed us up. I’ve had this happen to me a few times. The problem is you don’t get to evolve your script. At the time, Paramount felt very strongly that sequels should come out every two, max three years."
He added that despite not being able to work with writers, the studio decided to "plough forward," explaining that strikes do not "affect the bigger ideas or the visuals," but more the "emotional relationships" between characters:
"They didn’t have a lot of other assets at that time, so the decision was to plough forward. I think a strike doesn’t affect the bigger ideas or the visuals. What’s hard is the characterisations, the emotional relationships. That’s where it takes a lot of writing.”
The Transformers producer also reminisced about getting started on the first film in the franchise, remembering being told "You’re too old to have watched it," but he understood the impact the IP had made on generations of fans:
"When I first approached Hasbro about the rights, they said, ‘You’re too old to have watched it.’ But I had friends who had younger brothers and sisters who watched it avidly."
He said both he and Steven Spielberg had been trying to get the rights for the film, letting slip that Paramount had actually "passed on it [at least] five times" before they eventually greenlit what would eventually become a box office juggernaut:
"And at the same time, Steven was chasing the rights, and Steven understood it from a play level. He really got the fascination of something that can transform. What was interesting about the process was that Paramount passed on it, I think, five times. But I kept coming back. I understood how capable the visual effects were of creating something astonishing. And when we saw our first movie preview, we knew we were gonna have a sequel.”
Was the Writers' Strike to Blame for Revenge of the Fallen?
Coming out of yet another writers' strike - having run this year from May until mid-October - it is fascinating to see the sort of impact a work stoppage of this size can have on the entertainment industry.
Using Transformers 2 as an example of what can happen when making a movie without writers (of which there are many from the 2008 strike), should make audiences thankful that the actors also opted to hit the picket line this past summer, meaning productions could not move forward in any way.
But was it all the writers' strike's fault for Revenge of the Fallen's failures?
Director Michael Bay previously addressed the movie's shortcomings, also citing the writers' strike, telling The Guardian in 2011 that "the writers' strike was coming hard and fast," so they had to put together the story in "three weeks" before job action commenced:
"When I look back at it, that was crap. The writers' strike was coming hard and fast. It was just terrible to do a movie where you've got to have a story in three weeks."
At the time, this felt like a justifiable excuse. The first Transformers movie was generally well-liked by audiences, with Revenge of the Fallen being the only real stinker up to that point.
However, that would change as the series went on, with the franchise never being able to recapture some of that goodwill of the 2007 original (aside from the oft-celebrated Bumblebee semi-reboot).
Hopefully, with Michael Bay having left the series behind (only serving as an executive producer at this point), the blockbuster franchise can get back on track and give fans something to celebrate with its inevitable sequels.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen can be streamed now on Paramount+.