It was the perfect summer movie; loud, confident and…well, really really loud. There is a human-based plot at the center of all the metallic mayhem, but the story is fairly dumb and honestly anything pales in comparison to a dozen two-story robots fighting each other and the United States military in downtown Los Angeles. Shia LeBeouf proves why he maybe could possibly be the potentially next big movie star. He’s relatable as a somewhat nerdy kid, funny enough to impress the ladies, and exudes enough confidence to hold his own in a giant tentpole picture with CGI Transformers. So while the human stuff plays second fiddle in the cool department to Optimus Prime and his asskicking buddies, the rest of the movie with actual people is still watchable thanks mostly in part to the young star, Megan Fox’s belly button and John Turturro in full-on wacky mode.
The other big star here is ILM and Digital Domain, who set a new cinematic bar for special effects with the titular creations. The level of photorealistic detail achieved with the Autobots and Decepticons is amazing; you can really see every single bolt attached to every single spring in every part of every vehicle comprising the machines. And on top of that they’re beating the crap out of each other. It’s a new standard of believability on par with such milestones as the T-1000 and JURASSIC PARK’s T-Rex. In fact, it’s so ridiculously good that I dare anybody giving TRANSFORMERS a second watch to not first fast forward to an action scene in favor in any of the silly plot. My guess is you’ll have the same reaction as the kid in the car when he sees the robots fighting on the freeway—“Cool, mom!!”
Commentary by Michael Bay: Bay, as always is very confident and unapologetic. H seems well-versed in the Transformers mythology and is energetic and proud of what the movie he made. But still, if you already hate the guy, this won’t change your mind.
The Story Sparks (8:34): The first part in this making of documentary starts with Steven Spielberg, which is always a good idea to show a little legitimacy in your giant robot movie. This segment covers the history of the project and how the movie has come about since the 1980s. Spielberg even says Bay was perfect for the concept, while Shia admits he’s “not Elia Kazan,” but a good fit nonetheless. There’s also some behind the scenes footage and the actual physical destruction is impressive.
I Fight Giant Robots (13:59): Get a look at the U.S. military involvement in the picture (the army has a great history with Bay dating back to ARMAGEDDON) and laugh at the actors training for their role as soldiers, including making them eat MREs.
Battleground (13:36): A feature on the hectic location scouting schedule, from the Hoover Dam to the desert to downtown L.A. Another good spot to see what a grueling taskmaster Bay can be.
Rise of the Robots (13:40): A history of the TRANSFORMERS mythos, from the toys to the cartoon to the first movie to this live action version. Bolster your confidence with a look at some of the serious Tformers geeks out there. (Though they say 75% of adult men had a Transformer at one part of their life.)
Autobots Roll Out (20:00): A fascinating look at how the production had to find and equip the “hero” cars in the movie, to doing the stuntwork to pull everything off. Thanks to the behind the scenes footage there’s some stunts here done with cars that’s seriously insane (including a car that flew in to the second story of a building). And the filmmakers even discuss the much debated flames on Optimus Prime.
Decepticons Strike (14:33): Essentially the same as above, except focused on the Decepticons. It’s interesting that the military still participated despite all the bad guys being military vehicles in disguise. Guess any publicity is good publicity.
Inside the AllSpark (16:58): Finally we get to the special effects and ILM and Digital Domain’s hard work. As I mentioned in the review, there’s a truly ridiculous attention to detail and lots of great footage of the process here to back that up. These guys seriously deserved an Oscar.
More Than Meets the Eye
From Script to Sand: The Skorponok Desert Attack (8:52): Explore the scene from the script stage to storyboard to production to finished effects. Good stuff.
Concepts (2:12) Some pre-production design work.
And of course Trailers.
Extra Tidbit: The fact that ILM lost the Visual Effects Oscar for TRANSFORMERS to the f*cking polar bears from THE GOLDEN COMPASS is a complete and utter joke on par with Christian Bale not getting nominated for THE MACHINIST. Yes, I am still bitter.