It once was speculated, but now confirmed: Transformers 4 is coming in 2014, directed by Michael Bay. But with every new piece of information released about the upcoming film, it's seeming more and more likely that's where similarities end.
A brand new story set years in the future, new cast members, and a new direction for the next Transformers trilogy. If Bay's most recent comments are to be believed, there's no telling what aspects of the series will be completely re-imagined.
After much Internet discussion, Bay found the new face of the franchise in Mark Wahlberg after completing the bodybuilder-true-crime story Pain & Gain. Now, Bay is headed right back to the sky-high pyrotechnics and robot-on-robot carnage that the Transformers series has delivered time and time again.
With a fourth installment in a successful series, fans generally have an idea of exactly what to expect. But with Hasbro promising a completely new cast of humans and robots, a newer, younger protagonist, and rumors of beloved characters getting updated "redesigns," that's not quite the case. So not too drastic a change, just some new robots and young leads to attract key demographics, with new paint jobs, glowing lights or dubstep-ified Autobots, right?
In an interview with Forbes, Michael Bay reiterated that fans shouldn't just expect more of the same. In fact, Transformers 4 may hold a few substantial surprises:
"We’re going to start off smaller. There’s a brand new cast. To freshen the franchise we’ve redesigned everything from top to bottom. The history of the first three movies is still there, we start four years later and there’s a reason why we’re meeting a new cast.
"Mark is really excited about it and it’s a great redesign. I said that 3 [which grossed $1.1 billion] was going to be my last one. Paramount was letting me do Pain & Gain and the Transformers ride was opening at Universal and it was bittersweet to think of passing it off. I wanted to set it up on a really sure footing and to bring someone else in on that, it would have been overwhelming."
Claims from Michael Bay that a colossal blockbuster film production will be "smaller" in any way, shape or form are hard to swallow - although he's made no secret of the fact that Transformers 4 will take the series in a new direction. That's not exactly a bombshell, with the 'four years later' elapsed timeline confirmed for months now, and preventing Paramount from ignoring the previous trilogy was partly what motivated him to direct T4.
But whatever you do, don't use the term 'reboot' in front of the director:
"No, that’s wrong. We keep the Transformers the way they were, it’s just four years later. There’s a reason the Transformers are redesigned. We’re trying to broaden the franchise and give it more places to go."
Redesigned Transformers will certainly raise some hackles among the most devoted fans, especially now that we know Dinobots and Unicron won't be appearing. But it's the implied plot twists that Bay alludes to in explaining the new characters and design aesthetic that has our interest piqued. Do the Autobots make new advances in carbon fiber technology, thus updating their body panels? Or is a redesign attributed to some larger plot twist?
Michael Bay may not be the most likely party to reveal plot twists or extensive details this far out from release, but producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura shared his own enthusiasm for what the next few years have in store for the brand. Speaking with MTV, di Bonaventura corrected previous implications that Transformers 4 would be a reboot, while emphasizing what characters and themes would - and wouldn't - be continued in the new trilogy. Whether or not Bay stayed on to direct it:
"I can't speak for Michael. I hope he would [direct the next two]. It would be great, but it's certainly something in our design of this - it's going to be an ongoing story, so the possibility, again, as long as the audience shows up for us, there's a lot of story still to be told.
"There's a lot of new elements. I wouldn't say we've completely changed this world, and yet it's completely different. There are new characters, new situations. I don't think we revisit a single location. Michael really has a great way of approaching this thing... It's a different movie, but a lot of the things that you love about the other ones are joining the ride."
Those comments will be bad news for anyone hoping to see a rematch of the climactic Great Pyramid brawl from Transformers 2. However, it's also good news for those who've had their fill of Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), as di Bonaventura confirmed that cameos from existing characters is not their intention whatsoever.
What do you think of this disconnected continuation? Do you have high hopes for the 'natural' explanation for character redesigns, or think it's all in the name of selling more merchanside? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Transformers 4 opens in theaters on June 27th, 2014.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.