TRANSFORMERS:AGE OF EXTINCTION-MORE REBOOT THAN SEQUEL

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Clearly, Paramount Pictures isn’t finished squeezing every last penny from the Hasbro toy line with its upcoming release of a fourth Transformers live action film.

Just don’t call it a sequel, or director/producer Michael Bay will transform into a robot, and blast you with his arm-mounted fusion cannon. Maybe only in his head, but Bay is adamant that this film is more of a soft reboot than Transformers 4.

“It’s kind of like a new Transformers,” Bay said to Entertainment Weekly. “We had three, the first trilogy, and this is going to be the next one.” The next…trilogy? “Yeah, it’s the first of a new trilogy,” he says after a moment of hesitation. “I’m not necessarily sure that I’m doing [the others], but that’s what it’s meant for.”

So it appears a new trilogy is in the works. Is it a case of meet the new boss, same as the old boss? Bay has been on full-time duty with the Transformers franchise since the first live action film in 2007, followed by Revenge of the Fallen in 2009 and Dark of the Moon in 2011. With each film Bay made lofty promises that fell short in the opinions of critics, but not with audiences; they still bought tickets, over $2.7 billion in box office receipts. That’s not a bad return considering Paramount spent $545 million on the first three films.

Age of Extinction begins four years after the events of Dark of the Moon and the destruction of Chicago. Humanity is now sick and tired of the carnage caused by the various robot battles in the first three films.  The Transformers are now outlaws, which prompts Optimus Prime and the rest to either leave or go into hiding.

Humanity might be upset at the Transformers but governments covet alien technology, and things go south quickly when the government attempts to reverse engineer some Cybertronian machinery and electronics. Call in our robo-heroes to save the day.

Shia LeBoeuf is out as Sam Witwicky, the Autobot ally from the first three films. Of LeBeouf’s departure, Bay told EW it’s “always good to freshen things up and change the story.” One can’t help but wonder if that’s a euphemism for LeBeouf’s recent erratic behaviour, from his July 2008 car crash with hints of driving under the influence, to his plagiarism accusations, to his wearing a brown paper bag that read ‘I am not famous anymore’, at the Berlin premiere of Nymphomaniac.

Taking over the lead role is Mark Wahlberg, who worked with Bay in 2013’s Pain & Gain, a black comedy about bodybuilders turned criminals. Seems Bay liked working with Wahlberg enough to hand over the keys to the franchise. Wahlberg plays an inventor who discovers his beat-up semi is Optimus Prime in disguise, a nice nod to the ‘80s Hasbro toy.

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Bay wrote on his blog that he’d had such a great time working with Wahlberg on Pain & Gain that he was excited to reunite on Age of Extinction. “Mark is awesome,” Bay wrote. “An actor of his caliber is the perfect guy to re-invigorate the franchise and carry on the Transformers legacy.”

Wahlberg seems to have drunk the Bay Kool-Aid, as he wants the film to be considered on its own merits rather than as a global franchise. “Some people think of this as a sequel,” he said in an interview with the L.A. Times. “We thought of it more as a stand-alone thing. I’ve never done a sequel.”

Wahlberg is no stranger to action films, having starred in 2 Guns, Shooter, The Fighter and Lone Survivor.  However, he had some concerns about the film’s epic stunts. “I was like ‘Oh my God, I have to do that?’” he said in a video interview with Collider. “Whether it was running on this 19 storey terrace with a ledge – you’re attached to a wire, but still – you’re running and people are screaming…it was pretty scary at times.”

Filling the short-shorts previously worn by Megan Fox, and Rosie Huntington-Whitely, is Nicola Peltz from A&E’s Bates Motel. Peltz stars as Wahlberg’s daughter, who gets nabbed by some hostile robots. This prompts Wahlberg and Jack Raynor as Peltz’s boyfriend to team up for the rescue mission.

Kelsey Grammar and Stanley Tucci are also on board as a government agent and arrogant designer, respectively. Peter Cullen returns as the voice of Optimus Prime and Frank Welker as Galvatron, while John Goodman and Ken Watanabe join the cast as the voices of Autobots Hound and Drift, respectively.

“I am pleased to welcome two gifted and versatile actors, John Goodman and Ken Watanabe, to the world of Transformers,” wrote Bay on his blog. “And to reteam with Peter Cullen and Frank Welker, who have brought Transformers

characters alive from the beginning. I’ve been fortunate to work with some of the best voice talent in the business, and together we will introduce several exciting new robots to fans of the franchise around the world.”

The Dinobots are an essential component of Age of Extinction, though Bay told EW he is trying to keep their plot mostly under wraps. “I like to keep things very much in the dark. But yes, you’ll understand why they’re there when you see the movie. If you think I’m supposed to give away a lot of story points? No way! Keep it secret.”

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Bay was willing to talk about the gun-faced Transformer seen in the trailer, who is not a previously well-known character, unless Bay is fibbing.

“Lockdown is an interesting character. He travels the galaxy, he works for somebody someone else,” said Bay to EW. “And he’s here for one person, one alien, and then he’s out of here. So he doesn’t really want to take sides. The cause and balance of the galaxy is kind of messed up when different species play with different species. And that opens up a whole other gigantic world for Transformers.”

Could that world entail taking a future film off Earth? “I think so, yeah, a little,” Bay said in an interview with the L.A. Times’ Hero Complex. “That feels like the way to go, doesn’t it? I want to go a little off but I don’t want to go too sci-fi. I still want to keep it grounded. That’s what works in these movies, that’s what makes it accessible.”

Transformers: Age of Extinction opens June 27.

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