With the release of Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, the seventh overall movie of the Transformers live-action franchise, the world-building moves to a new arena as lesser-known factions like Maximals, Predacons, and Terrorcons are introduced. Along with them, another important character also gets introduced, for whom long-time fans have been waiting eagerly: the planet-devouring mechanical monstrosity, Unicron. While at first glance, the character might seem like another tank-type villain like Galactus from Marvel comics, his influence, and significance in the Transformers lore run deeper than that. With Unicron’s introduction, the mechanism known as the Transwarp Key has also been brought into play, and we will take a quick look at both of their significance in the larger world-building process.
Unicron: The Ultimate Evil
In Transformers’ lore, Unicron deserves the title of antagonist of the highest echelon. To put things into perspective, just as Darkseid is considered the primordial personification of evil in the DC universe, or Morgoth in Tolkien’s Middle-Earth lore, Unicron is the evil incarnate, the big bad, who is also associated with the creation myth of the lore. Quite befittingly, the character was voiced in his first animated appearance by the legendary filmmaker Orson Wells.
According to the legend, at the beginning of time, ‘the One’ created two primeval forces: the light of creation, aka Primus, the creator of Cybertron and all its denizens, and Unicron, the bringer of chaos and decay. The twin brothers were locked in a perennial battle for millions of years, which resulted in Unicron being stuck in stasis and Primus becoming one with Cybertron. While in stasis, Unicron will generate transforming abilities, which Primus will imbue upon his creations—the Thirteen Primes and all the Cybertronians. However, Unicron’s desire to consume reality itself will become a possibility when his manipulation of lesser Cybertronians allows him to break free from the stasis.
Unicron’s Connection With Megatron
There is an interesting history that Unicron shares with the Decepticon leader, which might come into play in the aftermath of “Rise of the Beasts” as well. By the end of the movie, we see that Scourge’s succeeds in his attempt to open a portal to allow Unicron to enter Earth using the Transwarp key. However, Prime and Primal’s joint effort results in the destruction of the key and the eventual collapse of the portal, which implies Unicron is once again trapped in the galaxy he was in. Scourge was killed, and Unicron needs an enforcer, which we speculate he might acquire in another deadly Cybertronian movie in the upcoming movies.
In the Transformers animated movie of 1986, a devastating battle between Autobots and Decepticons results in both the leaders, Optimus and Megatron, collapsing into near-death conditions. While Optimus passed away and entrusted the Matrix of Leadership to his successor, Ultra Magnus, Unicron was betrayed by his second in command, Starscream, who left him and other deceased Decepticons to die in space. Megatron comes across Unicron and is offered a new, stronger body in exchange for Megatron stealing the Matrix of Leadership—an offer Megatron can’t refuse due to the alternative meaning of death. Megatron gets repurposed by Unicron into Galvatron, and Unicron uses deceased Decepticons to create Scourge and other lackeys.
Even in his empowered Galvatron form, Megatron was under the control of the dark overlord, who inflicted telepathic torture upon him otherwise. This is similar to how Terrorcons were created in Rise of the Beasts, as Scrouge was said to be a repurposed Transformer corrupted by Unicron’s life essence, Dark Energon. The prequel series hasn’t revealed its version of Megatron yet, neither in Cybertron nor on Earth, and we believe it is for a good reason. With Unicron already established as the big bad, Megatron’s eventual appearance will mean a transformation to Galvatron is going to follow as well, and instead of Matrix or Allspark in the source material, the lore of the prequel series will use the Transwarp key as the prime McGuffin.
Transwarp Key And Its Significance?
Transformers lore is permeated with numerous elusive artifacts, and ‘Transwarp Key’ is one of them. In the movie, it was shown that the key could be used to create a portal across time and space, essentially a wormhole, through which vast distances across the galaxy can be traversed in an instant. Maximals used it to flee from their home planet and reach Earth, while Unicron wanted to use the key to reach planets teeming with life and consume them to satiate his never-ending hunger. However, its source material counterpart is more complex than that and has usage that will intrigue Unicron even more than mere planet consumption.
According to Transformers lore, the Transwarp key exists beyond time and space and can be used to access different parts of the timeline and even different universes as well. And although it may seem we have only one Transformers universe at the moment, when we take into consideration how different animated series constituted different realities, how Maximals introduced themselves to Autobots as being their past and future, and how the prequel movies were radically different and, in a sense, rebooted the Bayverse, the possibility of a multiverse doesn’t seem that far-fetched at all. Adding to that, Unicron, who also lives outside time and space and, in his prime, can traverse through multiverses to bring chaos and catastrophe, makes the role of the Transwarp Key much more significant than it seemed to be in the movie. Of course, it had been destroyed by Optimus Prime by the end of the movie, but in no way will there be some loophole lying around while Cybertron still exists, and there is a possibility for the Autobots to return to their home planet.
With major comic book franchises already doubling down on the multiverse game, it is no wonder the Transformers live-action franchise is trying to dip its feet into the same narrative device. We have already seen the Maximals rolling with the Autobots, which in the source material were from different time periods; therefore, it can be taken as a sign that the creators have realized they need to utilize the rich lore of the franchise to expand on all fronts, and the multiverse is the best platform to do just that.