Did the New ‘Transformers’ Kill Shia LaBeouf’s Character Off-Screen?
The following post contains SPOILERS for Transformers: The Last Knight.
The new Transformers movie is all about buried secrets. Texan Bostonian inventor bro Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) and brainy Oxford professor Vivian Burplesmith (okay I admit it: I didn’t catch her last name so I made that up) discover a world they never knew: The hidden history of Transformers on Earth. It turns out the Transformers have played a role in every armed conflict throughout time. The Transformers helped King Arthur, and they threw an assist to the Allies during World War II. There’s more than meets the eye in those history books, doncha know.
Cade and Vivian learn all this exposition from a possibly senile, definitely strange historian named Sir Edward Burton, played by Anthony Hopkins. Sir Edward lives in a castle with his sociopathic robot assistant Cogman, guarding this knowledge along with ancient mystical relics like the actual round table Arthur and his knights (and, sigh, the Transformers) gathered around in days of yore. He spends like 10 straight minutes delivering this rambling monologue about the Transformers and a secret society charged with protecting this alternate history. (You can see a little of this scene in this trailer.)
In the middle of this rambling monologue, Sir Edward drops what probably should be a huge plot point: Shia LaBeouf’s Transformers character, Sam Witwicky, is apparently dead.
Sam was the hero of the first three live-action Transformers film. An ordinary teenager whose first car turns out to be Bumblebee, Sam stumbles into the war between Autobots and Decepticons. It later turns out Sam’s grandfather, Archibald Witwicky, was an old ally of Optimus Prime and his team, and his glasses become a big MacGuffin in the film.
Sam goes on to assist the Transformers in Revenge of the Fallen and Dark of the Moon, saving the world on several occasions even as he tries to continue his personal life by going to college, getting a job, and romancing a supermodel. He’s supposed to be an regular guy, but he seems kind of unkillable, surviving, among other things, a teleportation mishap that shatters his hand and the collapse of a giant Chicago skyscraper.
And yet, when Sir Edward talks about his Secret Society, “the Witwiccans,” he claims he is the last surviving member of the organization. Now, this is a Michael Bay Transformers movie, so even with this ten-minute monologue, it’s not precisely clear who the Witwiccans are or how they were formed, or how their organization was maintained. But his brief overview of the group includes a mention of Archibald Witwicky and a picture of Sam. (I’m pretty sure the wacky headshot they show is Sam’s profile pic from eBay in the first Transformers.)
So Sam definitely counts as a member of the group. And if Hopkins really is the last surviving member of the Witwiccan Order, that means Sam is dead, right? Which would mean that the Transformers series is so bizarre and disinterested in its own continuity that it killed its most important human character in between movies and never mentioned it until now.
(Technically, if Sir Edward is the last Witwiccan, that also means Sam’s parents are dead too. Which means we’re getting into off-screen mass murder territory.)
The Last Knight leaves these questions hanging in the air and never brings them back up. But in an interview with Yahoo! before the premiere of Transformers: Age of Extinction three years ago, Mark Wahlberg was already joking that Sam Witwicky was dead and gone. When asked what happened to the previous human face of the Transformers franchise he quipped: "Two years ago, Sam and his entirely family were swept away. Not by robots ... by a tornado while crossing country, so they won’t be in this film. Cut to boom.”
It’s a weirdly anticlimactic ending, but until we hear otherwise from Michael Bay or the inevitable Transformers 6, this is now canon: The Witwicky family was killed by a rogue tornado. (I reached out to Paramount for confirmation about my theory; if they respond one way or the other, I will update this article.) Basically: Shia LaBeouf is Poochie from The Simpsons. Rest in peace, Sam Witwicky. You were too beautiful and too into The Strokes for this world.