February 16, 2012 12:39pm EST
Earlier today, E! Online ran a story with quotes from Transformers actor Josh Duhamel, stating within that he doesn't believe any of the franchise's original cast members will be returning for the recently announced fourth film: "I don't think anybody's doing it," he said, adding, "I know Shia [LaBeouf]'s not doing it. I don't think Tyrese or Rosie [Huntington-Whiteley] or anybody else is doing it."
But everyone's asking the wrong question. The RIGHT question is: does it even matter?
The answer is simple: no. Since the brand went from toys and cartoons to big Hollywood business in 2007, the property's main selling point hasn't been its actors - even the scantily clad ones - but rather its CGI components. The special effects. The Autobots. The Decepticons. Hell, even the Fallen was more important to the series' success than the ensemble cast that has returned to pick up easy paychecks over the last four years. The first film made stars out of Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox, but if those roles were occupied by other young unknowns at the time it would've been just as big a hit. Even having accomplished thespians like John Turturro, Jon Voight and, later, Frances McDormand in its roster was negligible; Transformers is about Michael Bay's visuals and the promise of unprecedented action.
In fact, I'm happy that Paramount, Bay and executive producer Steven Spielberg have decided to start with a clean slate. This presents them with an opportunity not unlike that which Universal had with its Fast and Furious films. In Fast Five, the franchise turned from its street-racing roots and utilized a heist plot that made it the top grossing entry in the series. Now, with two more films on the way, it's embracing the theme to change the very nature of a lucrative, decade-old property.
This isn't to say that a cast isn't necessary. We'll always need actual performers to give audiences a personal stake in the outcome of any Transformers flick, it just doesn't really matter who. It will be interesting to see who ends up fighting the good fight alongside Bumblebee and company, but it's not an issue worth losing sleep over. When the untitled fourth film hits theaters on June 29, 2014, three years will have passed since last summer's billion dollar hit Dark of the Moon, and while we'll all be happy to see Optimus in his Prime again, the human characters of the past will be a faded memory.
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