Warning: This post contains spoilers for Transformers: The Last Knight.
If pictures speak louder than words, then Shia LaBeouf is practically screaming while re-watching his three Transformers films during his 2015 career-encompassing piece of performance art, #ALLMYMOVIES. As photos illustrated at the time, the actor grew visibly distraught while the trilogy-capping Transformers: Dark of the Moon unspooled onscreen, even getting up and leaving the theater for an hour after it concluded. In case there was any lingering doubt, that reaction pretty much guaranteed that we wouldn’t be seeing his robot nerd Sam Witwicky fighting alongside the Autobots again anytime soon.
Leave it to Transformers auteur Michael Bay to find a way to give his former leading man a shout-out in what the director is vowing will be his own franchise swan song a decade after the original 2007 summer blockbuster. Sam’s face is briefly glimpsed in a mugshot-quality photo midway through Transformers: The Last Knight, which depicts the young hero flashing a ridiculously goofy grin, as well as a hairstyle that vaguely resembles “Weird Al” Yankovic’s Coolio look circa the Bad Hair Day album. The photo is part of a mid-movie info dump delivered by Anthony Hopkins’s character, Sir Edmund Burton, who knows a lot — perhaps too much — about the history of Transformer activity on Earth.
Because as you may or may not remember from the franchise’s increasingly complicated mythology, Sam wasn’t the first human to come face to face with a citizen of Cybertron. The Transformers have been stomping around on Earth since the supposedly mythical days of King Arthur, handing all-powerful staffs to drunken charlatans like that fake wizard Merlin — played in The Last Knight by Stanley Tucci in a performance that would feel right at home in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Said staff, which is the object that both the Autobots and the Decepticons are pursuing throughout the film, is then passed down through Merlin’s bloodline, the lineage of which is known by the “Order of Witwiccans,” a secret society that has reached its last living member in Burton.
It’s the job of the Witwiccans to curate the lengthy legacy and many mementos of Transformer-human relations, and their own family tree has many offshoots. And as LaBeouf’s photographic cameo heavily implies, one of those branches appears to be the Los Angeles-based Witwicky family, which, besides Sam, includes his eternally bickering mother and father Ron and Judy (Kevin Dunn and Julie White). Their connection to the larger Witwiccan clan has clearly been lost to the mists of time, although Sam’s great-great-grandfather, Archibald Witwicky–who discovered Megatron on a 19th century Arctic Circle expedition glimpsed in the original Transformers–may have been a more active member. But Burton, at least, knows about them, and furthermore probably has some idea of Sam’s whereabouts after the events of Dark of the Moon. Based on Sam’s appearance in the photo, we’re assuming he’s either living large in Silicon Valley after inventing some kind of Autobot app or in lock up for being a public nuisance.
Whether intended as funny Easter egg or a more pointed jab at an actor whom Bay has clashed with in the past, LaBeouf’s ultra-brief appearance in The Last Knight does bring this era of the franchise to a close just before its planned expansion. And the actor has gone on record encouraging his former director to expand his horizons beyond robots in disguise. “He’s got to get a little ballsier with his moves,” LaBeouf told Variety in 2016. “He’s trying to toe the line and be James Cameron, but James Camerons are dying. I don’t know what he’s chasing, but that version of director is dead. If Mike is to sustain, he’s got to get f–ing weird.” Weirder than Transformers at the Round Table?
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