But in the Transformers sequels, any heart was cut out of the juggernaut. From a quality perspective, there were diminishing returns. Nothing could capture the magic of seeing these robotic warriors in a real sequence for the first time. Although the battles got bigger and the lore-based cuts got deeper, audiences began to move away from the series. Hardcore fans certainly weren’t being catered to, but by the time Transformers: The Last Knight struck in 2017, it was obvious something had to change. 

Bumblebee (2018) was supposed to be the cure to the plague of apathy. It wasn’t as concerned with huge explosions and ridiculous humor. It instead told a personal story of a girl and her car… that just so happened to be an alien robot. It respected the source material but brought in its own artistic flair. Director Travis Knight had a clear vision and lead Hailee Steinfeld was the perfect, grounded foil to the over-the-top world she was about to step into. Bumblebee is a showcase of learning from the chronology of toy-based moviemaking and going back to basics with a human narrative that also includes a toy. Alas, it also wasn’t a hit, hence the back-to-basics pivot in Rise of the Beasts.

Sienna Miller in GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009)

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and Snake Eyes from 2021, were essentially born from the Transformers methodology. Hit the audience with a lot of noise and action, forget the need for any true character growth, and throw in a few fun references to old lore. It’s a strategy that woefully failed, still angering diehard fans while never fully finding its mainstream crowd. Although G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013) attempted to course correct with a slightly closer adaptation to the toys, comics and animated shows, it just wasn’t enough. At least a cast overhaul and directorial change from Stephen Sommers to Jon M. Chu didn’t remove the sour taste that the 2009 entry left in the mouth. 

Still, G.I. Joe adaptations have continued to lack heart. Every iteration has been displayed as the start of a new shared universe; a concept that jaded moviegoers roll their eyes at, considering the franchise just simply hasn’t earned it. There are years of compelling stories to tell, but with the live-action versions largely hellbent on ignoring the best ones, it’s difficult to see how the toy adaptation is ever going to take off. 

Alien ship in Battleship

Battleship (2012)

The less said about Battleship the better. Directed by Peter Berg, the game-based adaptation is from the same school of thought as G.I. Joe and Transformers. In fact, there were rumors of a larger shared universe being developed that would try to cross these Hasbro properties over. The cynical development style, which put toy selling and blockbuster-building above story, can be traced to Battleship’s inevitable downfall. Perhaps part of the problem was that there was no narrative for Battleship to begin with. It turns a naval war game inspired by the Second World War into a lazy, run-of-the-mill alien invasion flick in the post-Independence Day mold.

The idea that aliens could be thrown into the mix just to make the movie seem more cinematic, or at least indistinguishable from other 2000s blockbusters, was ridiculous. With no true direction and nothing to say, the only reason behind this adaptation was financial. Upon its initial announcement fans had a sinking feeling, and they were right. 


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