When it was originally announced that critical pariah Michael Bay was to be directing the big screen incarnation of the nostalgically popular 1980’s vehicular metamorphoses toys The Transformers, it seemed to be the perfect match of artistic vision and material. With large scale auto-centric set-pieces already scattered throughout his CV, recall the spectacular freeway chase from the otherwise ridiculous Bad Boys 2, and a penchant for a genuinely enjoyable sense of infectious fun, evident in apologists favourites such as The Rock and Armageddon, his pyrotechnic pornographic sensibilities would make real the plastic clashes between the Autobots and Decepticons in a way every big kid dreamed of.

A franchise on the verge of Extinction? No chance.
A franchise on the verge of Extinction? No chance.

The notion that Age of Extinction is a “reboot” isn’t an altogether welcome one, because for all of the crass, ibuprofen accompanied volume control, and Nuts magazine incarnate issues scattered throughout Revenge of the Fallen and Dark of the Moon, Bay, perhaps most tellingly under the tutorship of a hands-on Steven Spielberg, got it right with 2007’s original. If he can channel the template of that franchise launcher, which balanced comedy, action, and a pace which allowed the story to build to a crescendo, rather than throw a third world country’s GDP worth of CGI in our face from the get-go, then this has the potential to align the huge box-office with some cinematic credibility.

There are a number of things in its favour, elements which will hopefully come together to make a singular, spectacular beast. To begin with, the cast has been jettisoned, which means no more Shia LaBeouf, whose waning appeal as an actor appears to have run parallel with his performances throughout the franchise. Instead we get Mark Wahlberg, an actor who seems out of sync with the fourth instalment of an action franchise, especially when he’s fresh off the success of Ted, 2 Guns, and Lone Survivor, he ought to be able to pick his projects, and as such, his decision to battle bots should be viewed as a sign that there is a significant improvement in the material rather than a simple case of cheque cashing.

Mark Wahlberg as the new Shia Labeouf.

It’s fair to say that as the franchise progressed the human element had become a superfluous back seat passenger to the impressive set-pieces, with the actors required simply to run around and occasionally shout in slow-mo whilst mayhem ensued. All of the best summer blockbusters keep a relatable family unit front-and-centre – Jurassic Park, Close Encounters – so the chance to keep the action under wraps whilst we’re introduced to Marky Mark and his family bunch was a very promising aspect of the trailer.

He plays single father to Bay’s staple Victoria Secrets model, this time Nicola Peltz, who we’re hoping is more Megan Fox in Transformers (2007), than the splinter inducing Rosie Huntington-Whiteley of the last film. He comes into the possession of a battered up Peterbilt 379 truck, which just happens to be everyone’s favourite Peter Cullen voiced Autobot, and as is the way with these things, they must join forces to defeat multiple threats, both earthbound and alien, to not only save the world, but potentially save this franchise.

Word from the production camp also suggests that they’ll dial back the “goofiness”, although that was never really a major problem, mainly because there were genuine laughs to be found in LaBeouf’s first film antics, but it at least indicates their willingness to accept that the machines have malfunctioned during the bloated sequels and that they don’t simply want to copy ‘n’ paste the same formula and watch the Mega [Tron] bucks roll in.

As well as the intrigue associated with the reset button being applied to the cast list, there is also a palpable sense of excitement as to how the plot mechanisms will unfold this time around. Who are the big bad bots with the Independence Day sized ships looming behind them on the teaser poster, and in particular the introduction and origin story of the Dinobots, spectacularly glimpsed going mano-a-mano, or robo-a-dino, with Optimus Prime in the trailer. These prehistoric oddities, led by a metallic Tyrannosaurus Rex named Grimlock, should mean that the wise-cracking peripheral robots which have blighted the sequels get much less screen time, and a new visual dynamic is introduced to what had become tediously choreographed robotic smackdowns.

Optimus Prime goes head-to-head with Dinobot leader Grimlock.

What we know of the plot seems to set Age of Extinction in a landscape burnt by the events of Dark of the Moon’s climactic Chicago battle, a post 9/11 analogy which grounds the movie with a level of realism that has been thus far absent. Admittedly this sounds redundant when discussing a film about giant alien robots, but a real world context has benefitted some of the more recent blockbuster success stories.

Confidence is high, although that’s never been an issue with Bay, especially with Paramount recently announcing that Age of Extinction will be the first instalment in a new trilogy. So let’s embrace the spectacle and pray that on this occasion there are plenty of smarts underneath the hood. Let’s roll.

Release date –

US: 27th June

UK: 10th July