Before 2007, few would have ever imagined Transformers would be as big, in both senses of the word, as they have become in the decade since Paramount and Michael Bay have stepped into the picture. Even if you don't particularly care for the live action robots exploding off Hollywood's screens. The fan experience has super charged the old and new, opening it up to everyone else in the world to explore the fascinating universe of these sentient robots from Cybertron.
When paramount invited me to get a closer look at the big screen bots, I jumped at the chance to see the inner workings of the heavy metal gears that turn behind the Hollywood machine. With many varied expectations, based on what I had seen on my own. I was pleasantly surprised to be introduced to what is a huge army of highly skilled people working on so many levels to realize and deliver the Transformers movie franchise that is known the world over, today. The people at Paramount put together a virtual buffet of Transformers movie events for us to experience. Nothing was spared. The theme park rides, studio lot tour, and encounters with the actual movie vehicles would have been great alone. But this was truly more than meets the surprise when we were given prime time to meet with and share the robot love with the man behind the curtain, himself - Director Micheal Bay.
The day began in the early AM hours arriving at Universal Studios Hollywood just as the gates opened for a nice strong jolt from Megatron on Transformers The Ride 3D. A ride where you literally walk through a deep dark NEST bunker to ride an actual Transformers character, known as Evac. The super enhanced multimedia experience features virtual giant robots, explosions galore, in your face encounters with movie-verse Megatron and Optimus Prime characters, who are at WAR! The vehicle shakes and rolls, as we're propelled between scenes of total destruction, missiles firing right at you and narrow escapes from the clutches of the evil Decepticons. It may sound cheesy, but the experience is very effective. Immersed in a fully 3D environment by way of special glasses. You really feel like you are flying, and at one point falling to near death only to be saved at the last second by a valiant Autobot. It is an exhilarating experience that is a must see for any Transformers fan, young and old.
From there, the journey continues with a tour of the actual Paramount Studio's movie lot. A place where cinematic dreams are conceptualized and produced in a huge complex that accommodates every aspect of movie making at its best. Encounters with more than 30 sound stages were a crash course in how many of the best movie and television products of all time were made there. Even after seeing it with my own eyes, it was incomprehensible how much goes into producing everything from talk shows, to sitcoms, to seas that can be parted. All stitched together with cutting edge sound and visual technologies that make it all so believable.
There, I was introduced to all kind of Transformers goodness from various props to the latest vehicles that will be starring in Transformers: The Last Knight. Even taking a seat behind the wheel of the massive Optimus Prime truck cab. The real highlight for me, was the visit to the Technicolor production facility where the sound for the latest Transformers movie was being put together, literally. What comes off the screen as feeling perfectly natural is actually the incredibly meticulous work of sound designers who recreate every sound you hear in the film. Then weave it into a high definition sonic experience that may use as many as 1,000 sound elements just for one scene.
With head still spinning from the Technicolor demonstrations, a near by sound stage offers a grand encounter with the actual vehicles used in the film. The green Corvette, yellow Camaro, black Mercedes, blue and black Saleen Mustang are joined by a silver custom motorcycle. These are the alternate vehicle modes of Crosshairs, Bumblebee, Drift, Barricade and the Decepticon cycle who was revealed to be a characer named Mohawk in the new movie. These are not vehicles found at local car dealers. They are the latest and greatest models beefed up with additional customizing and detailing that is truly stunning.
Just when I thought the dilithium crystals cannot take no more. We are on route to Santa Monica, with no explanation of the destination. After a bit of googling it occurred to me the Platinum Dunes production company was located there just about as we arrived. Holy gears, was I about to have a live action encounter with Director Michael Bay himself? Once inside, there were Transformers movie props and all kind of movie bits and pieces to see from Bay's many films, as well as some adorable dogs. And then, out of no where, there he is - the master of all things Bayhem, Micheal Bay! He was warm and inviting, taking time to personally meet and introduce himself to everyone. It was somewhat surreal to be there, with him, wondering if something was going to be blown up at any moment.
What transpired in the next 90 minutes cannot be disclosed in much detail as I was not allowed to document the discussions in any way. Basically, I soon found myself in the editing room with Micheal showing us raw footage of a dozen or so scenes from the new movie. The clips were in various stages of completion. Some showing computer generated mock-ups, scenes without the post-production clean-up. Those that remove the wires and other location mechanics used to hurl people and other objects through the air. As well as views on various pyrotechnical mechanisms that are integrated with the computer graphics to make things look completely real for the movie goer. Bay made a point of repeatedly emphasizing, this was a "real 3D movie from the start." Not the fake 3D rendered from a 2D cut. This was evident in the raw and uncut views of the The Last Knight movie coming together. Needless to say, everyone's mind was thoroughly blown.
I was ready to go home a very happy fan boy who just had an unforgettable experience. When, we arrive at a near by IMAX movie theater that had been reserved just for us. Master of ceremonies, Director Bay, lead us into the theater to give us the first look at the extended clip reel that was being prepared for the CinemaCon event coming up in Las Vegas. What we were shown was not a continuous plot segment from the movie, but about 20 or 30 different scenes introducing both the medieval and modern aspects of the "The Last Night" movie that brings together the lore of the 13 Knights of the Round-table, 5 of which are Cybertronians, all lead by King Arthur.
Forget about any kind of introduction, or warm up to the plot as we have seen in previous films. The Paramount logo sequence appears and goes directly into a major battle sequence in the first minute of the film. The opening scene is extremely violent. Giant spiked balls on fire are hurled from a multitude of trebuchets. The bodies of metal clad knights are being crushed and hurled through the air. Out numbered by 100s or even 1000s, to one. King Arthur is desperately waiting for Merlin to deliver on his promise. Merlin is not the sparkly sage we have known before. He's a crusty old drunk we are introduced to as he's chugging down a whole bottle of whiskey. But worry not, a long shot cuts to him riding on horse back to what looks a lot like the Autobots Ark, mostly buried in a mountain side. We can only assume it was conjured from the technology found within, as a massive three-headed flying robot Dragonstorm appears over the horizon of the previous battle scene to save the day.
In a following scene, we are introduced to new characters such as "Cogman" who is a humanoid looking transformer with a subservient personality that can turn violent at any moment. The robot is super detailed with gears and levers that move and vibrate with every gesture. We are also introduced to Hot Rod as the Lamborghini Centenario LP770-4 who rolls up and transforms to reveal a combative Vivian Wembley, played by Laura Haddock. She's clearly not happy to be at the castle of Edmund Burton, played by Sir Anthony Hopkins. Worth noting in this scene, is the appearance of a WWI Mark IV tank Transformer serving as a castle guard. He is also a British bot that is bombastic with funny quirks and random bot parts falling off.
In other scenes we learn there is a human group know as the "TRF" hunting down Transformers, and Cade Yeager for an unknown reason. Strangely, the TRF use robot drones, and mecha-like walking robots in their operations. Cut to an abandoned sports stadium. Here we learn what some may have mistaken as Bumblebee missing his battle helmet. Is actually a yellow robot that gets shot down who goes by the name of "Canopy".
In the later cuts we are introduced some very very big space ships that appear to tie into the medieval aspects of the film. They are shaped much like the circle and cross insignia that has been randomly incorporated in some of the early promotional material. It is not entirely clear what these ships do or if they are friend or foe.
If you are confused by these many fragmented elements, that is no mistake. After the preview, Michael made it clear that we were not being shown the full story. The major elements that tie everything together have been left out to keep us guessing. Upon further questions and answers, he described this fifth Transformers film as a new story, that may or may not connect to the previous films even though they share known characters from them. We also learned the production for these movies have often continued to evolve until just weeks and even hours before the delivery deadline. Micheal also pointed out that what we just saw would likely be refined further still.
Based on what I have seen in the IMAX previews. The Last Knight brings together the struggle of all sentient beings throughout the Universe. Michael Bay's new work takes a fresh look at what it means to be alive - to believe in the freedom for all. In drawing parallels between the past, present and future. The Last Knight takes a deep look at how technology plays a pivotal role in leveling the odds in the battle between good and evil. By highlighting the contrast between medieval technology and the ultra-futuristic technology of the Transformers. Michael Bay offers an epic view on war, tyranny and the fight against oppression as the challenge shared by humans and beings across the Universe.
That said, I am not entirely sure how director Micheal Bay will connect all the dots we were shown in the previews. To reference the slogan from the IMAX movie poster, "Every Legend Hides a Secret" and I guess we will have to wait till June 23rd to find out what the legend and the secret are.