Being handed the keys to the Transformers film franchise might seem like a huge responsibility.
After all, with the exception of the 2018 prequel Bumblebee, the previous films were helmed by director Michael Bay and those are some ‘explosive’ shoes to fill.
However, despite the seemingly Herculean task of creating a good sequel to the well-received prequel, director Steven Caple Jr. didn’t feel any pressure in taking over the reins from Bay.
“Oh, [there was] no pressure. I'm not going to lie. I didn't feel any maybe because I've dealt with a very heavy franchise before this, which is Creed, which people liked a lot,” he told Singapore media during an interview last Friday (26 May) at Marina Bay Sands.
The 35-year-old, who was in Singapore for the world premiere of the movie, added that being a Transformers fan made things easier, and he had the bonus of knowing “where the franchise is going, like where I would like to take it”.
“I feel like more of the pressure was how to do this thing right and correctly and not necessarily ‘Are we going to make a good movie?’ I felt like we had the right ingredients to make a really good movie.”
That said, the director did get some advice from Bay (who serves as a producer) and his biggest advice was to “count the robots you have in the film”.
Caple explained that it probably came from Bay’s experience where he has “a lot of robots coming from all kinds of different directions”.
It was helpful for the director, who followed the advice by spreading out the introduction of the robots for audiences.
Is Rise of the Beasts a prequel? Sequel? Reboot?
He prepped for the film by breaking down and studying Bay’s previous Transformers films, and even approached his friend Ryan Coogler (director of Black Panther 2), but admitted that it was ultimately about developing one’s own style of directing.
And that’s perhaps why Caple also sees Rise of the Beasts as a reboot, technically, in addition to it being a sequel to Bumblebee.
It’s not a secret that the powers that be didn’t want to associate the franchise’s course correction with a “reboot”. Back in 2018, producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura described the future of the franchise as an evolution.
It was something he echoed at the press conference on the same day when he said that Rise of the Beasts is both a prequel and sequel.
“It sort of exists in its own way. What I don't think it is, is a reboot. Because it's still our characters,” said di Bonaventura, 66.
For Caple, though, Rise of the Beasts is a “new fresh take” on the franchise.
He added, “I think it's like how would you label Thor: Ragnarok? In terms of bringing back a character but tonally everything shifted and it's like we're going to do something new. Thor: Ragnarok is way different from the other Thors, and they don't even call it Thor 3 or anything.
“That’s how I approached a project… Let’s make our own project. Let it stand alone. I can't worry about what happened in Transformers 1 because I don't know if they knew what was happening in Transformers 5.
“I was like, how do we track all that? I feel like the audience will get lost. So for me, it was simplifying it and saying let's just take off from where Bumblebee left off and ride that storyline. People want to call it what they want to call it, great.”
“There’s only one Anthony Ramos”
That approach might have also eased things for leads Anthony Ramos and Dominique Fishback, who are stepping into shoes previously filled by Shia LaBeouf, Mark Wahlberg and Hailee Steinfeld.
In a separate interview with local media, also on 26 May, Fishback said that watching the first Transformers film gave her the inspiration to be an actor.
The 32-year-old, who has starred in television series like The Americans, Modern Love and Swarm (co-created by Donald Glover), said that when she gets an opportunity, she doesn’t “get in my head or try to psych myself out”.
So, there was no pressure on trying to fill the void left by her predecessors.
“It didn't feel like we were following or trying to match up. It just felt like its own thing. It was like it was being born again at its own kind of pace, its own style. And so it didn't feel like I was chasing anything,” she shared.
While Ramos admitted that it can be daunting to think about the “movie star actors” who have been the leads and Transformers being a billion-dollar franchise, it’s not something he brings with him to set.
Perhaps more known among fans of Broadway and musical theatre, Ramos has some notable works under his belt.
He originated the dual roles of John Laurens and Philip Hamilton in the Broadway musical Hamilton, and can be seen in shows such as A Star is Born, In the Heights and the upcoming MCU series Ironheart.
Ramos, 31, quipped, “When I get on set, you know, there's only one Anthony Ramos. That's it, you know, like that's it. So that's what I'm gonna bring to this and when I think of it that way, it just helps me kind of just relax because I know that there's something that I can bring to this movie that no one in the entire world can bring.”
With a ‘reboot’, comes an opportunity for new ideas and the end of Rise of the Beasts teased an exciting onscreen crossover with another big Hasbro franchise.
Though it’s probably meant to be kept under wraps till the film premieres, it has already been reported in the media (spoilers in link) - but we won’t be giving spoilers.
Should the opportunity arise to star in the crossover, Ramos confessed that he wants to hit the gym and “beef it up a little”, despite his considerably fit physique.
Fishback added, “I’m ready because I've been in the gym now. Like I've played basketball and football and things growing up, but when we were doing Transformers this time, I was not in shape at all.
“I told Stephen (the director) like now that Elena's (Fishback’s character) life has changed from experiencing this, I hope that in between, she's getting martial arts and boxing and all this cool stuff so that if there's another one, she can really get in on the action.”
Is her fitness training on the Paramount dime, though?
Fishback coyly asked “Can you guys ask them that?”, while Ramos exclaimed “Yes, it’s on Paramount’s dime!”
Guess we’re not the only ones excited to see this crossover happen.
Transformers: Rise of the Beasts releases in cinemas on 8 June.
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