John Cena only appears for a few seconds in the Bumblebee trailer but fans are already speculating that his presence could be more than meets the eye: could Cena's character end up linking together the planned Hasbro shared universe?
Bumblebee is a prequel to Michael Bay's five Transformers films. Directed by Travis Knight (Kubo and the Two Strings) and set in 1987, twenty years before the benevolent yellow Autobot meets Shia LaBeouf's Sam Witwicky, Bumblebee tells a similar tale of the robot in disguise meeting a teenage girl named Charlie Watson, played by Academy Award-nominee Hailee Steinfeld. Much of the excitement and goodwill Bumblebee's trailer has generated is due to what appears to be a more grounded story in the vein of E.T. and The Iron Giant as well as the welcome Generation-1-style designs of the robots, which includes the villainous Decepticon Starscream.
However, John Cena's silent appearance in the trailer has definitely caused a stir. The multi-time WWE Champion has followed in the footsteps of his peers Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Dave Bautista by breaking through into Hollywood stardom, but he is currently in search of a major franchise to star in, a la The Rock in Fast And Furious and Bautista in Guardians of the Galaxy. Transformers could be Cena's big-ticket, and indeed, Bumblebee may only be the beginning considering Hasbro's big plans. Here's how John Cena could even be more important to the connected film franchise Hasbro has in the works:
- This Page: Who Is John Cena In Bumblebee?
- Page 2: How John Cena Could Link To The Hasbro Cinematic Universe
The Mystery of John Cena's Bumblebee Character
Details about John Cena's role in Bumblebee are scarce, but what we do know from the trailer is that he's named Agent Burns and that he's part of Sector Seven. Since Bumblebee is (so far) part of the established Transformers movie universe, what fans know about Sector Seven still holds: it's an American agency founded during the Hoover Administration after the discovery of the Allspark Cube and Megatron himself in the Arctic. Designated N.B.E.-1, Megatron and the Allspark were secretly held and studied for decades, with the Hoover Dam built around the lab containing the aliens. Sector Seven made sure that other events concerning the Transformers, such as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin's 1969 moon landing and their subsequent discovery of the presence of Transformers on Earth's only natural satellite, were never disclosed to the general public.
Sector Seven continued to serve as America's anti-alien robot task force well into the 1980s, which is where John Cena's Agent Burns comes in. Bumblebee and Starscream's conflict in a California beach town undoubtedly draws the government agency in to contain the alien threat. It's not clear how aware Burns is about which Transformers are good and which are evil; in The Last Knight, Bumblebee is established to have fought on the side of the Allies against the Nazis in World War II, but that happened four decades before the events of Bumblebee so that may not be information immediately in Agent Burns' possession. Sector Seven looks to serve in a role as antagonists to Bumblebee and Charlie Watson, at least on the outset before all parties' intentions are made clear.
In any case, the interesting name choice of John Cena's character raises eyebrows for fans in the know about the Hasbro properties. "Burns" is a common enough surname, but it's also one that could have significance to the larger shared universe and could shed greater light on the Sector Seven Agent's true identity and greater purpose.
Meet Calhoun Burns of MASK
There's another important character named "Burns" who comes from a Hasbro franchise, one who could have a future on the big screen. Hasbro and Paramount Pictures recently announced The Fate of the Furious director F. Gary Gray as the helmer of the M.A.S.K. movie. Like Transformers, M.A.S.K. is a 1980s toy property that was sold to children of that decade with a fondly-remembered cartoon. The acronym M.A.S.K. stands for Mobile Armored Strike Kommand; the M.A.S.K. team itself are crime-fighters from all walks of life recruited by billionaire Matt Trakker to wear superpowered helmets and drive vehicles that transform into various combat modes. M.A.S.K.'s main enemy is the Vicious Evil Network of Mayhem, a.k.a. V.E.N.O.M.
The man with the last name Burns in M.A.S.K. is Calhoun Burns, an architect who pilots a black Corvette seaplane called the Raven. His mask is called the Gulliver, which allows Burns to shrink and enlarge objects, including himself, not unlike Marvel's Ant-Man. Whether or not John Cena's Agent Burns is actually Calhoun Burns - or is even related to the M.A.S.K. character - isn't yet known, but it's a potential link between Bumblebee/Transformers and M.A.S.K. that Hasbro could easily pull on. If Cena's Agent Burns eventually is revealed as Calhoun Burns and later joins M.A.S.K., it makes perfect sense for Matt Trakker's covert mobile strike force to recruit a former Sector Seven agent experienced in battling alien robots; an easy bridge between the two franchises and could span several others as well.
Bumblebee Could Restart Transformers
One of the reasons fans are anticipating Bumblebee and hope it's successful is because the prequel is also being looked at as a possible fresh start for the entire Transformers franchise. Michael Bay oversaw the Transformers cinematic saga since 2007 and after directing all five films in the span of a decade, both diehard fans and general audiences found their patience for the Bayformers was spent. Transformers: The Last Knight was meant to introduce a whole new angle to move the series forward - it established a new war between Cybertron and Earth with the revelation that the humans' planet was secretly itself the Transformer called Unicron - but Transformers 5 ended being the lowest grossing film of the series. For many fans, The Last Knight was simply the last straw.
Paramount has even canceled plans for Transformers 6, placing hopes for the future of the franchise entirely on Bumblebee, who remains a beloved character despite how inconsistently he was portrayed in Bay's films. The opportunity here is that, if Bumblebee works both as a film and as a money-making machine, Paramount could use the spinoff instead as the springboard for a new Transformers continuity. This could potentially mean that the events that began with Bumblebee meeting Sam Witwicky in 2007 would never happen.
That's good for Transformers, but it could have some major steps for the future of Hasbro. A reboot could lead to the robots from Cybertron meeting G.I. Joe, M.A.S.K., and even the Power Rangers in a brand new continuity, offering some very exciting possibilities.
Hasbro Wants A Big Shared Universe
It's no secret Hasbro and Paramount are keen to get in on the shared movie universe game; the toy company even created an in-house film division called Allspark Pictures to oversee the development of their many I.P.s into feature film franchises. With Transformers, G.I. Joe, Micronauts, M.A.S.K., Power Rangers, ROM, and Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light, Hasbro certainly boasts brand name properties with global recognition as well as decades of nostalgia attached to compete with Marvel Studios and other major movie franchises. Hasbro has even been testing their shared universe in the pages of IDW Comics, where Transformers, G.I. Joe, ROM, and M.A.S.K. have shared a comics crossover. The next step is to bring this heavy metal mayhem into movie theaters, and that could start, fittingly, with Bumblebee, the most popular Transformer besides Optimus Prime. Meanwhile, along with the M.A.S.K. film, Hasbro is also in the early stages of producing a G.I. Joe spinoff about Snake-Eyes. How this all ties into John Cena's Agent Burns would be if he becomes part of M.A.S.K. or, if not, whether Sector Seven becomes akin to the S.H.I.E.L.D. of the Hasbro shared universe, with Burns himself potentially serving as their equivalent of Agent Phil Coulson.
Casting a rising star like Cena, who has comedic and action chops as well as a global following from his wrestling career, is already a masterstroke. Cena has been well-liked by movie fans and Hollywood producers for his roles in Trainwreck and Blockers, and he's been itching to show off his action hero skills in a major franchise (Cena has led several action movies produced by WWE Films). Transformers could launch John Cena to the next level in Hollywood, not unlike how G.I. Joe: Retaliation helped elevate Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson (and vice versa). Johnson has also expressed interest in joining a G.I. Joe movie reboot; this could result in a long-awaited on-screen cinematic team up by the former WrestleMania rivals.
There is a catch to this John Cena theory, however: Bumblebee is set 30 years in the past, while the Hasbro cinematic universe films seem to be planned for the modern day. This means Cena's character would likely be into his 60s if he were to appear in any films set in the current era. However, these are movies about alien robots, soldiers armed with future-tech, and teenagers who pilot mechanical dinosaurs; such a freewheeling sci-fi universe could easily posit any number of explanations for a fit and youthful Agent Burns running around in the 21st century. The biggest mistake would be casting a leading man like John Cena and Hasbro not utilizing his star power to its utmost across their franchises.
As the WWE's franchise player, John Cena dubbed himself "the Face That Runs the Place". Hasbro would be wise to let John Cena be the glue bonding Transformers, G.I. Joe, and their entire shared universe so that their films become known as the place where fans can see John Cena outside of the wrestling ring. Cena's presence in Bumblebee could be just the beginning.