We haven’t gotten a lot of information around the storyline for Transformers 5. The first trailer for Transformers: The Last Knight is purposefully oblique, focusing more on visual spectacle and Sir Anthony Hopkins’ oratory skills than establishing such pitiful concerns like plot or character — no, really, what is actually happening in that trailer? — but there’s one brief image that teases something that many Transformers fans have longed for from the live-action movie for years.
(No, not the scene where there are explosions around Nazi symbols; that falls firmly under the “Wait, what?” category.)
At the 1:17 mark, there’s a glimpse of something traveling towards the Earth. It looks like nothing as much as a planet exploding in slow motion, although there’s a close-up shot that reveals a particular hexagonal texture that is then repeated at 1:25 coming together, instead of separating. In fact, looking back at the 1:17 scene again, it almost looks as if the planet is about to swallow the Earth … which raises the obvious question — will this finally be the movie that introduces Unicron to the live-action movie mythology?
Unicron, for those who weren’t raised on Transformers, is a planet-eating villain central to the core mythology of the franchise. Debuting in 1986’s The Transformers: The Movie animated feature — and voiced by Orson Welles in his final screen role — Unicron is a massive nihilist Transformer who seeks nothing more than the destruction of all life in the universe, which he considers chaotic and disruptive.
Having appeared in animated series, comic books and toy form, Unicron has become one of the primary movers and shakers of the property, at least when it comes to raw power: In various incarnations, he has been a literal force of nature, the twin brother of the godlike being responsible for the creation of the Transformers themselves, and a threat that spanning multiple parallel universes, constantly searching for new incarnations of Optimus Prime to destroy.
Bringing in Unicron for The Last Knight makes a lot of sense — not least of all because he’s previously been under consideration for a movie appearance. In terms of scale, he’s certainly the biggest threat in any of the movies, and something that offers the chance to go beyond the existing scope of the movie mythology in terms of timeframe and location; indeed, the sight of a deactivated Optimus Prime at the 0:50 mark could even be the Prime from a different reality, killed by Unicron before coming to “our” world.
If The Last Knight is, as director Michael Bay has said on more than one occasion, his final Transformers movie, using Unicron means that he’s planning on going out with a bang. (Well, it’s Michael Bay — there’ll be multiple explosions.) But bringing in a character who introduces the concept of alternate timelines and alternate versions of the Transformers does even more than that: It sets up the possibility of rebooting the franchise inside its own storyline to include a shared universe with other Hasbro properties, simply by showing that world as another reality the audience can jump into.
Of course, quite how that connects to King Arthur, dragons or Bumblebee fighting what appears to be a controlled Optimus remains a mystery, but some things have to be kept back for the movie. Finding out what the deal is with the Nazi flashback alone should be worth the price of admission, even before anyone reaches the planet-eating giant robot!
Transformers: The Last Knight is set to be released June 23.