There are a lot of unknowns about Michael Bay's in-the-works fourth entry to his wildly lucrative Transformers franchise. We know that Shia LeBeouf will not be returning for Transformers 4 (still officially known as Untitled Transformers Sequel), and while the addition of Bay's Pain and Gain star Mark Wahlberg to the cast will be the clear draw for audiences, actor Jack Reynor (What Richard Did) will take the lead role as the human face in the fight against the Decepticons.
We know Reynor and Wahlberg will be joined by Kelsey Grammer (Frasier, X-Men: The Last Stand) as the human villain, Nicola Peltz (Bates Motel) as Reynor's love interest and the always welcome Stanley Tucci in an unspecified role. We also know that a supposedly leaked script found online was a fake, and so far only Bay and screenwriter Ehren Kruger (who wrote the last two Transformers entries) know anything about the plot.
Now, thanks to casting notices in Los Angeles and Austin, TX - as reported by Examiner - we have human character names to go with the actors' faces. We already know that Grammar will be playing Harold Attinger, a “counter-intelligence” agent; Reynor's role is still unnamed, but he'll be portraying a "race car driver," with Peltz as his girlfirned and Wahlberg as Peltz's father, Flynn Vincent. Peter Cullen will once again voice Optimus Prime, Glenn Morshower will be back as General Morshower, and Sophia Myles (MI-5) has "a major role" as a scientist.
With casting directors looking for extras in Austin as well as in L.A., we can surmise that the Texas city will be a major setting. We also know that China will be a significant background as well - thanks to a Chinese reality show competition to cast four more roles and the Chinese government actively involved with the production.
Still no plot details, but keeping true to Bay's promise to "freshen the franchise," we have a young cast and a new A-lister involved. Yet a big question remains: is this a sequel or a reboot? The vague description of Grammer's human villain is strongly reminiscent of Jon Voight's insidious Defense Secretary from the original. Add in a couple of attractive young lovers in the lead and a more experienced mentor figure (Wahlberg plays the girl's father, apparently, but could he eventually show the lad how to be a real man? Is there anybody better than Wahlberg for that kind of thing?), and we have a project that leans toward a near-remake - plus, no one named "Witwicky" is in sight.
We'll know more as details emerge - and this will be an interesting project to watch develop. The promise of Wahlberg in a tentpole like this could be a promising proposition. It could also prove to be another mind-numbing, robot-smashing batch of incoherence. With Guillermo Del Toro's Pacific Rim trying to set a new bar for the giant robots genre, Bay might have to raise his game to keep audiences involved.