Eyebrows were raised when Transformers 4 was said to be making a fresh start (don’t call it a reboot) – but now Michael Bay is explaining the fictional reasons for ditching the leads, secondary characters, and majority of the robotic back-up.

The previous stars and familiar Autobots may have taken the franchise’s unique brand of action to unrivaled heights with Transformers 3, but the world is a different place come Transformers 4. Four years after the attack that leveled Chicago, T4 takes the series in a ‘different direction.’

It isn’t the first time Michael Bay has insisted that Transformers 4 will be charting a new course for the future, and the early word is that the film will possess a more serious, darker tone than its predecessors. The claim may sound like the more of the same marketing speak (how long until the word ‘Nolan’ gets thrown around), but the decimation of Chicago that served as the final battle of Dark Side of the Moon makes the premise somewhat feasible.

Speaking with TMZ, Bay provided some information on the setting of the upcoming film; specifically, how a new human and alien cast won’t be the only thing that separates 3 from 4:

“The movie is going to continue 4 years on from the attack on Chicago which was in the last movie. So it’s going still to have the same lineage but going in a full, new, different direction and it actually feels really natural how it is going in that direction.”

Besides adding deeper meaning to the Transformers 4 logo, the new timeline established by Bay gives a better sense of what the director meant when promising that the three previous films will “all still count.” The last movie offered no explanation as to how the military, government, and public at large would react to an all-out alien attack. It’s safe to assume that the battle cost thousands of lives – should T4 choose to acknowledge that, the story will automatically feels closer to Iron Man 3 than the goofy, out of place gags and slapstick of the preceding movies.

While the four-year jump will likely skip much of the actual fallout of the citywide devastation, it gives Bay and company an excuse to try something completely new – and, with an apparent second trilogy on the way, that would be welcome. Now that Mark Wahlberg is actually involved (well done, Internet) and could bring some more believable action, the opportunity to see humans primarily fighting with robots will present itself more frequently. Especially if the military takes over the vacancies left by the lack of a teenage goofballs.

Wahlberg would make a believable soldier, and his attitude alone could make any verbal sparring with Optimus Prime seem a bit easier to believe. Since Michael Bay enjoys portraying military brass as ‘them, not us’ in his films, a shift in perspective would be a wise choice (again, we point to Battleship director Peter Berg as a successor). Framing the Autobots as no longer ‘the world’s best kept secret,’ but active allies defending Earth would at least open doors for whoever replaces Bay come Transformers 5.

Call us optimists, but we’re not ready to believe that it’s impossible for Bay to tell a good story alongside immense action. Do you think the jump in time and tone is a wise move, or will you only be excited when a new director takes over (if ever)?

Transformers 4 (still waiting for a new subtitle) will hit theaters June 29th, 2014.

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Source: TMZ (via BleedingCool)