Michael Bay’s Transformers: Age of Extinction was meant to be the start of a new trilogy. Gone were Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox, replaced by Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz and Jack Reynor. And with Bay behind the "wheel" of this massive sequel, the fourth Transformers movie did what previous Transformers movies have done: disappointed critics while earning boatloads of money.

Despite the fact that the formula continues to work, Paramount has promised sweeping changes for the Transformers franchise by the time Transformers 5 rolls into theaters. Since massive pieces already are moving into place on the upcoming sequel, we figured now was a great time to get the lay of the land and catch you up on everything we know about the ongoing cinematic battle between the Autobots, the Decepticons, and mankind.

Michael Bay
Love him or hate him, Michael Bay has been the face of the Transformers franchise, the driving creative force since Paramount unveiled the inspired-by-toys franchise in 2007. But from early indicators, Bay will move away from the massive robot series with the next movie. He recently told USA Today that he has different plans that don’t include Transformers movies, stating, "There's kind of a new chapter, a new direction in movies I want to make. I have a lot of stories to tell. And it's about flexing new muscles." That being said, Bay wavered on his interest in the Transformers series prior to settling in for Age of Extinction, and he cleansed his palette with Pain & Gain before stepping back behind the camera and staying with the series. Could Bay change his mind and direct Transformers 5? Absolutely. Something tells me if he left, he’d miss that classic give-and-take he has with fanboys and critics.

Mark Wahlberg
Speaking of Pain & Gain, it was Michael Bay’s collaboration with Mark Wahlberg on that film that led to the Happening actor taking a lead role in Transformers: Age of Extinction. But will Wahlberg and his character, Cade Yeager, stay in the story if Michael Bay moves on? It’s possible – original star Shia LaBeouf carried the initial trilogy – but unlikely. Right now, all casting is limited to rumors (as Paramount hasn’t confirmed anything), but during promotion for Transformers: Age of Extinction, Wahlberg explained to the media that he didn’t view that movie as a sequel, and that he "thought of it more as a stand-alone thing. I’ve never done a sequel." Which is true. Would he start now, for Transformers 5? He could, sure. If the price is right, and the story is there, Mark Wahlberg could be convinced to come back. Having him on the marquee helps. But the belief on Transformers has usually been that the robots sell tickets, not the all-star cast. So a new director could mean a new direction for Transformers 5, and that might mean a departure for Mark Wahlberg, as well.

Release Date
Paramount will have to make a decision on the director and possible star(s) of Transformers 5 rather quickly, because the sequel already has a release date. At CineEurope earlier this year, Paramount Pictures International SVP Edward Ryan confirmed the release date of June 24, 2016. This should come as no surprise. The Transformers movies have enjoyed the weekend leading into the July 4 weekend, giving themselves plenty of run up to what has become a lucrative box-office weekend in years past. Will that date stick? Probably, though it is worth reporting that the usually reliable Box Office Mojo has no listing for Transformers 5 on that date. The only summer 2016 release they have from the studio is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 on June 3, 2016, while Universal has The Mummy (2016) down for Transformer 5’s weekend. So we’ll see if anything changes between now and then.

The Screenwriter
With a release date in their sites, Paramount has started the process on getting Transformers 5 into production, and that begins with a screenwriter. For this, they have tapped Ehren Kruger to once again manage the ongoing adventures of the Autobots and Decepticons (according to IMDB). In a recent interview with Collider, Kruger admitted that the team works on one story at a time, but they always "certainly (are) laying the building blocks for some other stories we have in the back of our heads." To that, he added, "I have a Transformers 5 in my head. Whether that will be what Transformers 5 is, or I will work on it, who knows at this point?" That comment was followed by explanations about how Michael Bay, in the creative process, often changes – drastically – what the screenwriter pitches. Kruger says that his idea for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was "a totally different story" than the one that ended up on the screen. But the writers’ strike contributed to that change up. A director switch at the helm of Transformers 5 could damage the work that Ehren Kruger is doing at this moment. We’re hoping that Paramount hires someone, quickly, who can collaborate with the screenwriter and deliver the Transformers movie fans have been waiting for.

Megan Fox
Because the future direction of Transformers 5 is unknown at the moment, rumors have been circulating about what could happen… and what fans might really want to happen. One particular rumor that generated real heat recently was the idea that Megan Fox might return to the franchise as Mikaela Banes, arm candy to Shia LaBeouf’s Sam. Now, keep in mind that Megan Fox left the Transformers series after Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. And she had a public blowout with Michael Bay at the time, referring to him as Hitler in the press. It’s hard to come back from that. However, fans hoping for a reunion point out that Bay hired Fox to play April O’Neil in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which he produced. The two appear to be on friendly working terms, and with Bay remaining on as executive producer for Transformers 5, there’s a chance Fox could stray back. Why would she? Well, because her movie career hasn’t exactly taken off after leaving the Transformers series. The rumors suggest that Paramount would like a familiar face from the franchise to help sell Transformers 5 to fans. And have you seen Shia Labeouf lately?

A G.I. Joe Crossover Movie
The other prevailing rumor swirling around in the heads of Transformers 5 fans is that Paramount might want to boost both of its toy-based action franchise by combining them together in a Transformers / G.I. Joe mash-up movie. Can you imagine Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Bruce Willis going toe-to-toe with Optimus Prime? That’s the stuff of legend. But in an interview with Total Film, producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura went so far as to call it a "possibility" before throwing cold water on the hopes of fans. "I don't think [it’s] in the near future at all," he explained. "It's not something we talk about either. There's a lot more story to be told in both cases. And I think if at some moment we think, ‘You know what? It's time to bring the two of them together,’we'll do that. But I think they're strong enough to exist on their own." So this team up isn’t likely for Transformers 5, but maybe a few years down the road? Hold out hope.