Will Mark Wahlberg make a non-Transformers fan care about 'Age of Extinction'?

Mark Wahlberg in Transformers: Age of Extinction. (Courtesy)

Mark Wahlberg in Transformers: Age of Extinction. (Courtesy)

Steve Tilley, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:28 PM ET

I love giant robots. I love explosions. I love guns and gadgets and cornea-cremating action. Hell, I don’t even hate Michael Bay. Not always. Armageddon is a modern classic.

But man, do I ever not give a crap about Transformers.

Could Mark Wahlberg change that? Does the man who gave us a talking teddy bear, a giant prosthetic dong and the Funky Bunch – among his many acclaimed dramatic roles – have the power to make Transformers meaningful to a guy like me, who doesn’t know Starscream from Shockwave?

Friday’s release of Transformers: Age of Extinction is a borderline religious event for some of my robots-in-disguise-obsessed friends. They’ve been talking about it, planning for it and most likely dreaming about it for months now. This, despite the fact they’ve presumably seen the first three movies. There’s no accounting for taste.

No, that’s not a fair dig. Transformers hold a special place in the heart of the generation that grew up with the cartoons and the toys, while I’m (ahem) slightly too old to have been part of that phenomenon. In my kidhood, I was grooving on Star Wars action figures, Micronauts toys and Big Jim (sort of a dude version of Barbie), and by the time Transformers came around I’d already moved onto nerd stuff that skewed slightly older. But if they made a bazillion-dollar movie featuring computer-generated Micronauts, I’d probably lose my freaking mind. So I understand the infatuation.

Wahlberg’s starring role in Age of Extinction is a very good sign. Bay, who has directed all three previous Transformers movies, has said this will be a character reboot of sorts for the franchise, and that’s a huge step in the right direction. Love or hate Shia LaBeouf – despite some of his weird public antics, he’s a capable enough actor – the character of Sam Witwicky had gone as far as he could go, and dragging him through yet another movie would accomplish nothing.

Wahlberg, who plays a single dad to requisite Transformers hottie Nicola Peltz, is both a two-time Oscar-nominated actor and a man’s man, and it hopefully signals a slightly more mature direction for this movie. Not that anyone wants to see Transformers get the Christopher Nolan treatment (although it would be pretty hilarious to hear Optimus Prime growling like the Dark Knight), but it could certainly use some help getting out of the swamp of silliness that these films have been mired in, target audience be damned. And let us not speak of Mudflap and Skids, the robots that were such gross racist stereotypes in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen that nerd lord Harry Knowles asked his readers not to support the movie.

Early reviews from the markets where Transformers: Age of Extinction has opened have been mixed, but more positive than not. And many have said that while this is another excessive (and excessively long) carnival of Michael Bay’s patented CGI mayhem, it is better than the last two films, thanks largely to the new cast.

I don’t know if I can bring myself to actually go to a theatre and pay money to see Age of Extinction – after several attempts, I only finally managed to get all the way through 2011’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon a couple months ago – but when the time comes, I will approach it with an open mind and a held tongue.

Either way, I hope my Transformers-loving friends have a great time with it. Meanwhile, I’m still going to hold out for that Micronauts movie.

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