While Paramount and Hasbro’s live-action Transformers movies have always been fanservice-focused visual triumphs, they’ve been consistently held back by the studio’s erroneous belief that people line up for these things wanting to see regular human people become friends with robots. Though that has never and will never be the case, one detail from the latest trailer for Transformers: Rise of the Beasts — which features at least two human protagonists — suggests that Paramount’s been thinking about how to address this issue. And their solution’s a wild one.
Human / Cybertronian partnerships were a big part of the Transformers franchise long before Michael Bay got his hands on it, and Shia LaBeouf’s character Sam Witwitcky in Bay’s first three Transformers films was meant to be a nod to Daniel Witwicky, the teen boy who assists the Autobots in the original Transformers animated series from 1984 and movie from 1986. But, whereas the classic Transformers cartoons were always adventure fantasies squarely aimed at young children — which is to say stories in which a kid paling around with killer robots the side of small buildings makes “sense” — Paramount’s live-action movies have been far more gritty, relatively mature, and pointed about just how dangerous Transformers are generally.
Though it was presumably always meant to give viewers a way to better project themselves into the fantastical, CGI-heavy action of Paramount’s Transformers films, it never stopped being strange to see humans like Sam Witwicky, Megan Fox’s Mikaela Banes, and Mark Wahlberg’s Cade Yeager marching into battle with the Transformers for reasons that should be obvious. As tiny humans armed only with guns, there was usually little they could do to keep themselves out of harm’s way when things got serious. The movies tended to bend over backward to find ways of justifying their presences in especially action-packed set pieces.
While this particular problem isn’t unique to Transformers (see: Universal’s recent Godzilla films), it’s stuck out with Paramount’s movies in part because of how “realistic” they’ve all tried to be — something that’s definitely paid off much better for them in other regards.
Between Anthony Ramos’ Noah Diaz and Dominique Fishback’s Elena Wallace, director Steven J. Caple’s upcoming Transformers: Rise of the Beasts appears poised to follow in its predecessors’ footsteps when it comes to spotlighting everyday people who become honorary Cybertronians. But one shot from the movie’s latest trailer definitely makes it seem like Rise of the Beasts might have thought of a brilliant and ridiculous way of making sure that its human protagonists actually bring something useful to the battlefield rather than merely running around as distractions from the main event.
Toward the end of Rise of the Beasts’ latest trailer, there’s a moment where the Autobot Mirage (Pete Davidson) tosses something to his human pal Noah and encourages him to “take the wheel.” Despite seeming to be a pair of keys at first, whatever the thing Noah catches is begins to envelop his hand as soon as it touches his skin. And while the trailer cuts away before you can see just what’s happening to him, the shot afterward implies that Noah might be in control of Bumblebee.
The idea of a human somehow remotely controlling an entire Transformer like a massive toy is a very novel one that would probably be interesting and a bit ethically dubious to see play out. Because Transformers: Rise of the Beasts’ is largely a story about Unicron — the gargantuan, planet-eating terror first introduced in Transformers: The Movie — however, it feels much more likely that the thing Mirage is tossing to Noah is an updated take on 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 on a planet-sized garbage dump called Junk. Wearing the exosuit, Daniel is able to survive on Junket’s oxygen-free surface, assist the Transformers in battle when they’re attacked by enemies, and save his father from being dropped into a vat of acid by using the suit’s array of blasters.
Daniel’s exosuit could also transform into a compact vehicle he could pilot on land or in water, and while the thing always looked rather silly, it also kept the boy alive and made him a useful member of the team. Just as Bumblebee’s backspin-kicking his way through a crowd of what appear to be Terrorcons at the very end of Rise of the Beasts’ newest trailer, there appears to be a human-sized, white robot clinging to his leg who jumps off-screen before you can get a proper look at him.
Putting Noah in an exosuit might not exactly address why he doesn’t ask the Autobots to drop him off soon after meeting them rather than following them into a war he could very reasonably die in from just from being stepped on. But it would make his (and Elaine’s, hopefully) partnership with the Transformers make a hell of a lot more sense and serve as an excellent bit of fan service if this all turns out being the case when Transformers: Rise of the Beasts hits theaters on June 9th.
Correction May 4th, 4:20PM ET: An earlier version of this story incorrectly named Spike Witwicky rather than Daniel Witwicky as the teenager featured in the original Transformers cartoons. We regret the error.