This past week brought us the newest trailer for Michael Bay’s Transformers: Age of Extinction. If you haven’t seen it, shame on you: it’s beautifully chaotic. There is no other film in the history of cinema where a robot that turns into a truck rides atop a robot that turns into a dinosaur who stabs the bad guy with his tail and then rips said bad guy with his teeth.
With the latest trailer came some hopes of improvement from the previous films: the robots are the main driver of the plot, there is no sign of the U.S. military, the action is not shaky, and–wait, did we just mention plot? In a Transformers film? What madness is this?
Yes, apparently there is a cohesive story that this film is going to present to us, but aside from a few hints from the trailers and toy packaging, we really have no idea what is going to happen in this film. We put together four mysteries that Age of Extinction is presenting to us, because wild speculation is the bread and butter of life and web hits.
“The Rules Have Changed.” This was the very first tagline the film’s marketing department presented us with. With the Decepticons essentially extinct after the events of 2011’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon, humankind is pretty much tired of giant robots making Earth their playground, and they want Optimus Prime and friends dead–apparently creating their own mech warriors to do the deed. Since Age of Extinction and its advertising has not been shy about this plot point, it may not be seen as much of a mystery. And yet, we see the Autobots defending the humans (with Mark Wahlberg next to Stanley Tucci yelling OH MY GOD! so loud that God is now deaf) in what we can only assume is the third act of the film.
And then there is Kelsey Grammar, who, despite being promoted as the main human bad guy in the film, has only been seen in a single shot in the trailers. A single shot. Despite being the “lead villain”. What secret is he hiding, why is he hunting the Autobots down, and does he have a secret agenda?
Of course, the Autobots end up having to protect the humans from something. Perhaps even Grammar’s character. What is it that takes the humans step in it so big that Optimus apparently goes from having his friends hit them in the face with wheels to riding giant lizard bots into battle to protect them?
Speaking of ginormous lizards…
THE ORIGIN OF THE DINOBOTS
Depending on the year and source, the Dinobots are either an elite group of Autobots who found their way to Earth in the past and took on the most powerful local creatures, or WHEELJACK BUILT THEM IN A CAVE—WITH A BOX OF SCRAPS.
Grimlock, leader of the Dinobots, has been front and center in every trailer thus far. And we’ve seen glimpses of Strafe, the two-headed amalgamation of the original Dinobot Swoop and his Technobot namesake. What we don’t have any clue is how the Dinobots came to Earth, why they came to Earth, and where their importance lies in terms of the plot of the film.
The Dinobots have firepower. Major firepower. Their size and sheer might is immensely beneficial to the regularly outnumbered Autobot cause. So their triumphant ride into battle with the Autobots means there is some threat beyond the human-powered mechs that requires their extra help. And Bay has conspicuously been hiding shots of the other (three? five? more?) Dinobots in action.
He has also been hiding another mystery character.
DRIFT, AKA STABBITY STAB HERE COMES THE STAB MAN
Screenwriter Ehren Kruger is known for using existing Transformers stories as inspirations for his scripts. Dark of the Moon was loosely (very loosely) based on two multi-part episodes from the original series, “The Ultimate Doom” and “Megatron’s Master Plan”. It also included nods from other stories, from The Xantium spaceship to Megatron sitting on Abraham Lincoln’s chair to Sentinel Prime being a dick. So it may come as no surprise to see a more recent Transformers character, Drift, be adapted to film.
What is surprising, however, is that while Drift doesn’t have tons of backstory, the background he does have is interesting, and we have thus far only seen him in the far background of a few frames in one of the trailers. Blink, and you’ll miss him. It is almost like he doesn’t exist, but you don’t hire an actor of Ken Watanabe’s caliber to voice a nobody. And you don’t choose a character like Drift unless you’re going to tap into the background that makes him unique from most other Autobots.
Who is Drift? An Autobot who used to be a Decepticon. An unapologetic, mass-murdering Decepticon with lots of swords to stab Autobots with. Drift has killed many of Optimus Prime’s friends, and considering Prime’s penchant in film continuity for taking the faces of his enemies, having Drift as one of his allies is curious. How did Drift become an Autobot? In 2010’s Transformers: Drift published by IDW Publishing, he crashed on a distant planet and encountered the Circle of Light, Transformer scientists and scholars who left the Cybertronian war ages ago and showed Drift the way of peace. In that story, Drift was hunted by a bounty hunter hired by Megatron, who looked to obtain the secrets and power of the Circle of Light. That bounty hunter’s name?
The main villain of Age of Extinction.
It all might very well be connected.
WHO SENT LOCKDOWN?
Megatron died on Earth years ago, so it wasn’t him.
Cybertron was destroyed at the end of the previous film, so that’s a big zero there.
And humans, no matter how big of an asshole they may be in this film, have no means to contact a Cybertronian bounty hunter to come for the Autobots, since they are intent on handling things themselves.
So, the big question, and likely something that won’t be revealed until the climax of the film: who hired Lockdown to come to Earth for Optimus Prime?
Three guesses, all of which would have major ramifications for the franchise and take this new trilogy in a completely different direction.
1) The Quintessons, aliens who once claimed to be the creators of the Transformers. The Quints enslaved and sold the Transformers as consumer goods and wartime products. (I would say look for Transformers: 12,000 Years a Slave in theaters summer 2017, but that would completely destroy the Transformers: Verb of Noun theme the three most recent movies have given us.)
2) Jhiaxus, leader of a separatist Cybertronian group that left the planet ages ago to cyberform other planets and spread freedom in that good ol’ American-style manifest destiny.
3) Unicron. Think robot Satan. A robot the size of a planet (once voiced by Orson Welles, a planet of a man) that eats other planets. Imagine the explosions.
Is it possible all of this speculation will lead to a more interesting conversation than the film will be? Does Michael Bay’s track record of ignoring the previous characterization of the Transformers in favor of the humans mean we may be in for another disappointing film where the title characters are simply the background? Sure. But Mark Wahlberg tells Prime something in the latest trailer that may very well have come from Bay himself.
“You have to have faith. Maybe not in who we are, but who we can be.”
And I have faith that this film will deliver in ways we have yet to see.
Transformers: Age of Extinction is in theaters and IMAX 3D June 26.