Transformers: Age of Extinction is not only director Michael Bay's fourth installment in the Hasbro-based sci-fi franchise, it will (supposedly) also clear the table (read: be a soft reboot of the series) so that another director may assume the reins on the franchise hereon out.
The film includes an entirely different main human cast (from previous installments) - Mark Wahlberg (Lone Survivor), Nicola Peltz (Bates Motel) and Jack Reynor (Delivery Man) - in addition to new players in supporting roles, like Stanley Tucci (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) and Kelsey Grammer (The Expendables 3). Meanwhile, on the Autobot/Decepticon side, there are several robotic aliens making their live-action movie debut in Age of Extinction; that includes, the long-awaited fan-favorite Dinobots.
However, there will be a familiar face among the newcomers: Optimus Prime, once again voiced by Peter Cullen. We previously broke down the character's tweaked design in Age of Extinction, based on the toy version that was unveiled at the 2013 New York Comic-Con.
Now, you can see the real thing - well, "real thing" - on the cover of the latest Empire Magazine issue (for comparison's sake, we've also included an image of Optimus in Transformers: Dark of the Moon, alongside the Empire cover that reveals his look in Age of Extinction):
CLICK FOR FULL-SIZED VERSION
[gallery columns="2" ids="394287,122120"]
Pictured alongside Optimus on the Empire cover is Wahlberg as a gearhead named Cade, alongside his daughter (Peltz) and her hot-shot car racer boyfriend (Reynor). While the individual parts may have changed, the bare-bones Transformers formula looks to be carried over into Age of Extinction. Hence, the father-daughter conflict between Wahlberg and Peltz will serve as the "heart" of the film, in addition to being a cost-cutting measure for the expensive CGI Transformers (a la Shia LaBeouf's storyline throughout the previous three movies).
Of course, what would a Michael Bay Transformers movie be without practical effects and set pieces, which are also destroyed alongside the various digital elements in the film? Empire has unveiled an official Age of Extinction behind the scenes photo, which includes Bay giddily filming as members of his cast are suspended in the air (while shooting a scene that appears to involve their car taking a bit of a dive):
CLICK FOR LARGER VERSION
[gallery columns="1" ids="394286"]
On Dark of the Moon, Bay definitely stepped up his game in terms of spectacle, when he incorporated 3D to produce the best action sequences featured in the Transformers franchise to date. Unfortunately, the script written by Ehren Kruger (who also wrote Age of Extinction) was lacking in the department of a human story core hook (read: "heart") compared to the first movie - and even the maligned sequel, Revenge of the Fallen, was (arguably) better able to find a way to justify the inclusion of humans in the ongoing Autobot/Deception war story.
Will that change with Age of Extinction? Well, the "heart" may still be lacking, but at least the rumored storyline - which involves humans tinkering with Transformer technology to produce new creations - provides a simple reason for why the humans are such a large part of the story (that includes Wahlberg's character). And no doubt, Bay will bring on the expected fireworks like it's the Fourth of July.
Transformers: Age of Extinction opens in U.S. theaters on June 27th, 2014.