SPOILER ALERT: This contains major spoilers about the ending of “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts,” now playing in theaters.
Is this the beginning of the Hasbro Cinematic Universe?
After rumors of a crossover between the “Transformers” and “G.I. Joe” franchises circulated online in recent months, it seems like the ultimate ’80s action-toy mash-up is officially happening. The ending of “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” has a direct callout to the Joes, and director Steven Caple Jr. and producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura spoke to Variety at the film’s premiere about what to expect next from the series.
“Rise of the Beasts” is the seventh installment in the talking robots franchise, and di Bonaventura called it “the beginning of a new generation of ‘Transformers’ movies.” It follows 2018’s prequel “Bumblebee,” which took place in 1987, and shifts things to Brooklyn in 1994. Anthony Ramos and Dominique Fishback take over as the human leads Noah Diaz and Elena Wallace, and the film introduces the animal-themed Maximals and evil Terrorcons. With help from veteran Autobots Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen), Bumblebee and newcomers like Optimus Primal (Ron Perlman) and Mirage (Pete Davidson), the gang defeats the planet-devouring Transformer Unicron (Colman Domingo).
With the world saved, Noah returns to Brooklyn in search of a job. He interviews for a security position for a mysterious government company run by Agent Burke, played “House of Cards” star Michael Kelly. Burke thanks Noah for his service and promises the world’s best medicine for his younger brother, who has sickle cell anemia. He then gives Noah a business card and a job offer, and when Noah flips it around, it says G.I. Joe. Cue all the nostalgic, ’80s toys fans losing their minds.
“Noah goes from somebody who cannot get a job, to a guy who gets the greatest job ever. It really felt organic to put it in here because you could relate it to the story,” di Bonaventura told Variety. “It didn’t feel like we were being cynical and like, ‘Good news, we could just jam G.I. Joes in here.’ The fans want a lot of things; if we do it and we don’t figure it out well, they’re going to be disappointed. It took us a while to figure out the Maximals, and now we have the hint of how to begin the Joes story.”
The G.I. Joes, a team of world-class commandos, have hit the big screen three times. The first was in 2009, with “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra,” starring Channing Tatum as leader Duke and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the evil Cobra Commander. The supporting cast included fan favorites like Snake Eyes (Ray Park), Scarlett (Rachel Nichols), Ripcord (Marlon Wayans), Baroness (Sienna Miller) and Storm Shadow (Lee Byung-hun).
In 2013, “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” switched out some of the cast and introduced Dwayne Johnson as Roadblock and Bruce Willis as General Joe Colton. In 2021, G.I. Joe rebooted with “Snake Eyes,” a prequel starring Henry Golding as the masked ninja and Andrew Koji as Storm Shadow (plus Samara Weaving as a new Scarlett and Ursula Corbero as Baroness).
Di Bonaventura, who’s produced every “Transformers” and “G.I. Joe” movie so far, named Snake Eyes as his favorite character, but wouldn’t say if any familiar faces from previous movies would be returning.
“I don’t know honestly,” he told Variety. “We don’t plan that far ahead. We react to what the audience is reacting to, so in a way we can please them, but also in a way it makes it feel fresh, like ‘OK, they want to go that way, so let’s go explore that.’”
Kelly’s Agent Burke, however, has “got to be in it,” he teased. Caple Jr. wouldn’t go into too many details either, but hinted that a potential crossover may go beyond Earth and introduce new Joes.
“I was behind the directing chair, and the kid in me was like, ‘What do I want to see next? How could we have a sense of direction as to what’s going to happen?’” he said. “As the battle gets bigger, we can expand the universe and we might need other entities and groups.”
“The Joes are just really cool and I would love to see what I could do with them,” he continued. “There are sections of the Joes that haven’t been utilized and characters that have never been touched, and I’m excited about that. I will say this about what’s next: We have spent a lot of time on Earth and I’m curious as to what else is out there.”
This would be the first time the Transformers and Joes have crossed over on the big screen, but the two factions have already teamed up in the comics world. Since the ’80s, there have been several comic miniseries bringing together the two teams, typically battling a united Decepticon and Cobra Commando threat. Fans can expect the Transformers and Joes to be fighting the good fight if they ever cross over.
“How could they possibly not be on the same side?” di Bonaventura said. “We don’t know, that is the truth. What we expect is there’s going to be some allegiance and they’re going to go on some kind of mission together. We have to figure both those things out.”
Before they can meet up with the G.I. Joes, however, Optimus Prime and his nemesis Megatron will have their origins explored in the animated prequel, “Transformers: One,” next year. Set entirely on the Transformers’ home planet of Cybertron, the movie will follow the young robots before they take on their famous identities. The cast includes Chris Hemsworth as Optimus, Brian Tyree Henry as Megatron, Jon Hamm as Sentinel Prime, Scarlett Johansson as Elita, Keegan-Michael Key as Bumblebee and Laurence Fishburne as Alpha Trion.
“It looks different than anything I’ve ever seen before,” di Bonaventura said of the animation. “Going back to the mythology of Orion Pax and D-16, who become Optimus Prime and Megatron, is biblical. It’s a fantastic story. People are going to love it. Our job is to make it fun, but the animation is already different. And an entire movie on Cybertron? Come on!”