Megatron as he appeared in the beloved Transformers animated series.
Image: Hasbro

Bumblebee opens with something Transformers fans have been itching to see on screen for years—modern, updated takes on the classic Generation 1 Transformers designs, duking it out on Cybertron in the ultimate Autobot vs. Decepticon battle. But one titan in particular was weirdly absent, and the reason is a complex one.

Yes, while Optimus, waves of the Shock and Sound variety, and more were a part of Bumblebee’s opening action sequence, the leader of the Decepticons, Megatron himself, wasn’t. But he almost was, and he even had a G1-inspired design drawn up by the movie’s concept team to fit him among the film’s retro-inspired aesthetic.

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Speaking to Entertainment Weekly ahead of Bumblebee’s home release, director Travis Knight revealed that Megatron was cut not once, but twice from the film, for two different reasons. A big one was that there was already so much going on in the opening Cybertron sequences that at some point, the cameos had to give—and Megatron was a victim of that cutting.

But the main reason for cutting Megatron from Bumblebee altogether is actually because of Michael Bay’s Transformers saga:

I had this whole thing that I boarded out myself where I had Megatron in there. He comes into the scene just absolutely leveling shit, just laying waste to everything in his path like Sauron in The Lord of the Rings.

We had a [new] design and a partial build and everything. I was so excited, I couldn’t wait to do it, but then as we started going through, it was going to be too expensive and really did fly in the face of continuity with the [Michael] Bay films. But let’s be honest, I’m sure they have a fleeting sense of continuity themselves.

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Bumblebee’s position as a movie that both acts as a soft reboot to the blockbuster Bayhem saga and a prequel meant that Knight wanted to try and at least pay dividends to the excruciatingly bonkers timeline established in Bay’s series of films. By 1987 in that timeline, Megatron is already on Earth, having been frozen in the Arctic, uncovered, and recovered by the shady Sector 7 for analysis—and so it wouldn’t match up to have him wrecking up the Autobots back on Cybertron.

Knight attempted to let the model get into the movie later on, and considered featuring the partially-visible Megatron in the background of scenes set at Sector 7 base that appears in Bumblebee. But then he faced the opposite problem: the movie would have to try and explain the Bay-Transformers timeline to audiences to cover why Megatron was there in the first place:

We even caught a glimpse of him in the outside the war room, where the Sector 7 guys are wondering what they should do with these Decepticons. There were a couple shots were we just caught a fleeting glimpse of a frozen Megatron in the background.

[But Bumblebee had to work for] someone who didn’t know anything about the Transformers, so they could sit and enjoy the film and wouldn’t be bummed by those dense layers of mythology.

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And so, the Decepticon leader was left out entirely. Maybe one day we’ll get to see what Megatron might have looked like in Bumblebee’s style, but for now, nostalgic Transformers fans will just have to keep doing something they’ve been doing since 2007: grumbling about Michael Bay.

Update: We got our Matrices of Leadership mixed up a bit here. While the information about the Sector 7 cameo Knight scrapped from Bumblebee is new, he previously told us about Megatron’s potential role in the opening sequence back in December 2018. Read more about that, as well as insight from Bumblebee writer Christina Hodson, here. io9 regrets the error, and... err, not reading itself?

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