Each of the first three Transformers movies was pummeled by critics, with the second being branded the "worst blockbuster of all time." But money talks, and in the case of the $3 billion Transformers franchise, it's screaming, "More sequels!" Hence the news Tuesday that the Michael Bay series about alien robots hell-bent on destroying the world will get a fourth and fifth installment. Bay and Steven Spielberg will be back on board as producers (though Bay may not direct), but star Shia LaBeouf has publicly stated that he is done with the series. Reports are that Crank star Jason Statham will take over as the film's leading man. Is Transformers wise to soldier on without LaBeouf?
Replacements are always a bad idea: "It's almost never going to be good when the lead actor in a franchise is replaced in the sequel," says Naomi Creason at The Sentinel. Speed 2 crashed without Keanu Reeves, and it took 16 years and three attempts at recasting the Caped Crusader to make another Batman sequel work after Michael Keaton bailed. And let's not forget Transformer's own spotty track record with casting replacements. Is there anyone who thinks Rosie Huntington-Whitley is better than Megan Fox?
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But with Transformers, does the star really matter? Choosing an older star may be a mistake given that LaBeouf drew younger crowds so successfully, says Kevin Jagernauth at Indie Wire. But let's be honest: It's irrelevant who the lead actor is when it comes to the Transformers films. All the series needs is "170 pounds of a walking reflex nerve who can spout banal dialogue." If it's not going to be LaBeouf, at least "Statham can do that better than most."
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Either way, this is an opportunity to start anew: Look on the bright side, says Michael Arbeiter at Hollywood. After all the critical drubbing the franchise has received, this is a chance to relaunch with a clean slate. Perhaps a new director will bring a new perspective audiences will warm to. With a new star in the lead, the next sequel is "shaping up to be one unlike its three predecessors" — and that's a good thing.
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