With less than five months to go, Michael Bay’s Transformers is quickly becoming one of the most anticipated movies of the summer, something greatly helped by the preview of Hasbro’s new Transformers toy line at Toy Fair 2007. As an extra special bonus for the many fans of the toys and cartoons, Hasbro and DreamWorks brought Michael Bay to New York City to preview four extended clips from the movie at Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theatre.
ComingSoon.net/Superhero Hype! was there to take notes and share the experience with our readers what they should expect from the movie, as well as to share a preview of Activision’s multi-platform video games, which we were shown a few days earlier. (Note: The writer of this piece is not the most knowledgeable person about Transformers, so if he gets the identity of some of the robots wrong, please don’t blame ComingSoon.net or its affiliates.)
Security was tight at the Walter Reade this evening with everyone having to give up their cell phones, but that wasn’t much of a surprise after seeing the secrecy surrounding the look of the movie’s Transformers during Toy Fair. (There was one skateboard company who had a license to produce boards with images from the movie, and they couldn’t even display them!)
Before the footage was shown, Michael Bay and Adam Goodman, president of production at DreamWorks, were brought out to talk about the genesis of the project, answering questions from Wayne Charness, Senior VP of Hasbro. Goodman told the audience of press and Hasbro affiliates why producer Steven has “charm,” which is why he felt the movie would appeal to women as well as guys. Spielberg wanted to make a movie based on the Transformers, having been a fan of Hasbro’s toys and the cartoons, mainly through his kids. For DreamWorks, it was a chance to “do something revolutionary like ‘Jurassic Park’ or ‘The Matrix,'” as Goodman noted that the company hadn’t really developed any tentpole franchises. (He forgot to mention Shrek!) They really wanted to take the idea of “robots in disguise” and literally plant the robots amongst humanity until it was time for them to strike.
When asked why they went with Bay to direct the film, the director joked that he was the only one available, but really, Spielberg and Goodman had been impressed with what Bay had done in his previous movies and felt that if there was anyone who could do a 90 MPH car chase with those cars transforming into giant robots, it was Bay. Bay was tentative at first about making a “stupid, silly toy movie” and remembered how when he was 15, he told his friends that Raiders of the Lost Ark was going to suck because Steven Spielberg was doing it (a statement he retracted after seeing it for the first time). Bay was then put through Transformers School to learn more about them, which finally convinced him to do the movie.
Goodman told the audience, which probably included a few Hasbro and DreamWorks shareholders, that the movie was going to have the company’s single biggest initiative with promotional partners they couldn’t yet mention, but suggested that it would be getting an even bigger push than Spielberg’s War of the Worlds did two years ago.
Then it was time for what everyone had come to Lincoln Center to see, footage from the movie! Bay gave the caveat that many of the scenes being shown weren’t the biggest ones in the movie, but that they were the ones that were the closest to being completed.
The first clip looks like it was from the opening of the film, showing a helicarrier flying over the deserts of Qatar. Inside, we see Josh Duhamel and the men of his unit shooting the sh*t, something about eating gator and a couple laughs from the men’s banter. They land at their base and shortly after, an unknown helicopter approaches the base causing all sorts of consternation. (Some of this scene is in the trailer.) The helicopter bears the symbols USAF 4500X, which happens to be those of a copter that was recently shot down, putting the base on high alert. Sure enough, no sooner has the chopper landed that it begins to transform into the robot form of Blackout, which starts attacking everything that moves with huge EMP-like ripples that do huge amounts of damage. A hand rips the computer out of the control center and starts absorbing the military data as they throw everything they can at the deadly creature. At one point, something is jettisoned from Blackout’s body (which we’ll learn more about during a later scene.) This opening scene was classic Bay with lots of explosions, tanks and helicopters being thrown, and huge amounts of destruction, a bit like being back in Armageddon mode, though some of the early shots seemed to be homages to Apocalypse Now or Top Gun.
As the fighting intensifies, the preview cut to a tranquil outdoor scene with the introduction of Shia LaBeouf’s character Sam, hanging with his dorky friend at some sort of lakeside high school gathering and gushing over the fact that “Mikaela” is there. (Amusing aside: I’m not sure, but I think the temp music was the theme from “Six Feet Under.”) The two dorks are confronted by a jock who wants to know what they’re doing there, and we meet the aforementioned Mikaela, played by the super-hot Megan Fox. (Boy, Shia is one lucky guy to have movies that have him appearing opposite Fox and the equally attractive Sarah Roemer in the thriller Disturbia, which comes out in April.)
When Mikaela gets into a tiff with the jock she’s with–he won’t let her drive and calls her his “little bunny” suggesting she “hop in the back” (and they say chivalry is dead)–she decides to walk home, and Sam sees an opportunity to give her a ride, prompted by his car radio suddenly playing The Cars’ “Drive.” He tells his buddy to get out and he tries to be cool as he offers to “ride her home.” They drive along and he tries to make small talk with her, but then his car conveniently breaks down at a romantic overlook of the city and he blusters his way through convincing her that he didn’t do it on purpose. Apparently, she has some mechanical skills and she has him pop the hood so she could look at the engine, while Sam and we get a good look at Fox’s hot bod. (I better be careful what I say because she’s probably underage and I probably have furniture older than her.) Sam’s pretty shocked that she knows the inside of cars better than him, and she walks off insulted, at which point, the car magically starts back up with “Baby Come Back” playing on its radio, so Sam jumps in and drives after her. If it wasn’t obvious by now, it’s pretty clear at this point that Sam’s rusty, banged-up yellow ’70s Camaro is actually Autobot Bumblebee, and though we didn’t get to see the transformation, a few telling signs are the black stripped-paint stripes and a bee air freshener with the word “Bee-otch” on it. (That got a couple chuckles.)
The third scene seems to be shortly after this, opening with a middle-aged couple, who we quickly learn are Sam’s parents, as they’re watching the non-stop news about UFO’s and strange occurrences. We cut to Optimus Prime in his truck form (met with great applause), driving down the suburban street followed by Bumblebee in Camaro form and another Autobot, which was probably Ironhide (sorry, I know my cars about as well as I know my Transformers). Sam and Mikaela get out of the Camaro and Sam runs to his house to retrieve something, but his father won’t let him in. Sam’s obviously freaked out, but even moreso when Bumblebee in robot form peers from around the corner of the house and tries to warn Sam not to let his father see them. We then get our first glimpse of Optimus Prime in his full robot form, but when Sam’s Chihuahua pees on the foot of one of the robots, it sees the terrified creature as an attack and aims his guns at him, so Sam has to convince him to back off. Sam gets into the house and begins looking for his “glasses” because that’s what the Autobots are seeking. He’s soon joined by Mikaela, as she’s picked up and placed gently in his room through the window. As she helps him look, we get a humorous scene reminiscent of Shia’s relationship with the girl next door in Disturbia, as the Autobots wait outside. During this entire sequence, we get many great close-ups of the Autobots’ expressive faces and get to see the range of emotions they’re able to express. (A few of the shots weren’t quite done, the CG robots were replaced by 2-D animation inserts.)
Suddenly, a line of jeeps with flashing lights drive down the street to the house, and we’re introduced to John Turturro’s character, an abrasive G-Man who has his men inspect the house, pissing off Sam’s mom as they start ripping out her plants. They seem to be looking for the residue of something that will let them know that the robots had been at the house, so Turturro’s character takes out a meter that shows that Sam has contacted high doses of this radiation, and he announces that they will have to take Sam with them.
One thing we were able to get out of both these scenes (and this is true for Disturbia too) is that Shia LaBeouf is very funny and between his two upcoming movies, he’s going to be winning over many new fans than some of his previous sidekick roles in I, Robot, Constantine and Charlie’s Angels. Before the footage was shown, Bay compared his young star Shia LaBeouf to “a young Tom Hanks” and though he thought the young actor “was not that attractive (but don’t tell him I said that), he has charm” which Bay thinks will help the movie appeal to women as well as guys.
That seemed to be it for the footage–and it was received with hearty applause–but really, they were just teasing everyone to beg Bay to show another clip, which was ready to go. The fourth clip took us back to Qatar where Josh Duhamel and the Special Ops team were running through the desert being chased by something, which turned out to be a giant mechanical scorpion, Scorponok from the Beast Wars era, which had been deployed by Blackout in the opening scene! It burrows through the desert sands, coming out to attack the soldiers with its deadly tail stinger, and the men run for cover in a nearby village as Scorponok continues to attack with its rockets. As the fight continues, a mysterious jet plane approaches the scene, as men in a war room watch the events unfold, one of them being Jon Voight’s Keller, who seems like a government official of some kind. This jet may have been Starscream, though it starts shooting at Scorponok and doing a good deal of damage, as the robot burrows back into the ground, leaving a piece of its tail behind. (The coolest thing about this sequence though is seeing the jet shoot from its side, which is not very common.)
For fans of the Transformers toys, comics and movie who want to be able to act as if they’re an Autobot or Decepticon themselves after seeing the movie, Activision is offering “Transformers: The Game”, which should be out around the time of the movie. It will be available on most platforms including PC and there’s a version for the Nintendo DS which will allow you to choose the Autobot version or Decepticon version and go head-to-head with your buddy’s DS (kind of like the original Pokemon games). The console version allows you to play robots and their vehicle forms from the movies, as well as older Generation 1 Transformers, and you can choose to play either as an Autobot or a Decepticon. Whichever one you choose dictates the mission parameters of what you have to do, though the main goal, like in the movie, is for them to find the “Allspark.”
Along the way, you’ll face off against your counterpart with a fully-destructible environment that allows you to pick up any object it and throw it to cause damage to your opponent. In this way, the video game combines the quest type games where you have to fulfill a mission with a fighter-type game, and during our visit to the Hasbro showroom a few days ago, we were shown some of the gameplay involved, as we watched Bumblebee stomping and driving around the city in his two forms with some nice touches like people running away in fear when he’s in giant robot mode. We then watched a battle with Decepticon Barricade that incorporated each of their weapons systems, as well as throwing objects at each other. It’s interesting to note that doing damage to buildings and structures costs you points when playing as an Autobot but gets you points if you’re playing as a Decepticon. The game seems very well thought out, in that sense. Either way, for someone who hasn’t played video games in many years, what I saw made me want to finally break down and buy a console. Even half-finished, the game looks tight!