Transformers is a 2007 live action film based on the Transformers franchise and toy line. Directed by Michael Bay with Steven Spielberg acting as executive producer, it stars Shia LaBeouf as Sam Witwicky, who discovers the map to the Allspark: the source of life which the heroic Autobots and evil Decepticons wage their war for. The project originated with producers Don Murphy and Tom DeSanto, who gained support from fans on the Internet to rehire Peter Cullen as the voice of Autobot leader Optimus Prime, 20 years since the original cartoon ended. This adaptation is the Transformers' first American feature film since The Transformers: The Movie, with a new complex design aesthetic for the Transformers. It will premiere on June 20, 2007 before being released across the world. Plot
In the Arctic Circle during the 1800s, Captain Archibald Witwicky falls into an abyss and lands on a robotic hand partially buried in the ice. He finds staring back at him the eyes of Decepticon leader Megatron, who burns a map showing the location of the life giving Allspark into Witwicky's eyeglasses. These are handed down to his descendant, Sam, in the present day. Elsewhere, Decepticon Blackout attacks a United States Air Force base in Qatar in the present day, grabbing and absorbing information from a computer while he destroys the base and deploys Scorponok. Scorponok chases Captain Lennox and his Special Ops team in the desert and in a village. Lennox then makes a phone call to The Pentagon, which sends a jet to fight off the Decepticon. Sam Witwicky buys his first car, which happens to be the Autobot Bumblebee. Bumblebee helps Sam to gain Mikaela as his girlfriend. The Autobots come looking for Archibald's glasses, while hiding in Sam's yard, and the nefarious Sector 7 comes to invade Sam's house. The film eventually concludes with a battle that begins at the Hoover Dam and concludes in Los Angeles as Autobot leader Optimus Prime and Megatron face off.
Peter Cullen as the voice of Optimus Prime (Semi-trailer truck): The powerful, wise leader of the Autobots, Prime comes to protect humanity from the evil Decepticons.
Mark Ryan as the voice of Bumblebee (1974/2008 Chevrolet Camaro): Bumblebee is an honest and friendly soldier who befriends humanity, namely Sam, in his efforts to find the Allspark. He has difficulty speaking after he was attacked by Megatron and communicates with songs.
Darius McCrary as the voice of Jazz (Pontiac Solstice): The smallest and feistiest of the Autobots, Jazz is one of Optimus' best warriors, talented at learning new cultures.
Jess Harnell as the voice of Ironhide (GMC Topkick pick-up truck): A tough, weathered soldier, he is always the first in battle. Ironhide is one of Optimus' oldest friends, yet he has a darker outlook on life.
Robert Foxworth as the voice of Ratchet (Search & Rescue Hummer H2): The medic and scientist, Ratchet has a strong sense of duty to protect life.
During development, Don Murphy decided upon a fan consensus for the voices from the 1980s cartoon, but Michael Bay auditioned them first, as he feared their aged voices would be noticeable. Peter Cullen, the voice of Optimus Prime, was announced to be reprising his role at the July 2006 San Diego Comic-Con. Cullen described reprising the role as easy as "slipping into an old pair of very comfortable shoes that you haven't worn for a while", and was grateful to the fans for wanting him back. His vocal performance consisted of much improvisation with Bay and bringing a sense of humor to Prime, as well as his traditional heroism.
Cullen also read for Ironhide, another character he originally voiced, during the first of two auditions, though he is not voicing him. Mark Ryan acted as a stand in during filming for the Transformers, giving actors someone to react to, both physically where appropriate and providing dialogue, and also ad-libbed characters during post-production.
Hugo Weaving as the voice of Megatron (Cybertronian jet): The missing Decepticon leader held hostage by Sector 7, Megatron desires power over the Allspark and hates organic lifeforms.
Charlie Adler as the voice of Starscream (F-22 Raptor): Megatron's second-in-command, Starscream actually desires to overthrow Megatron and take the Allspark for himself.
Jess Harnell as the voice of Barricade (Saleen-modified Ford Mustang police car) : The Decepticon hunter who masquerades in society as a symbol of the law.
Reno Wilson as the voice of Frenzy (2-speaker CD player): The smallest of the Decepticons, Frenzy attaches to Barricade. His main purpose is spying on humans, but he is still a ferocious fighter, shooting blades disguised as CDs from his chest.
Jimmie Wood as the voice of Bonecrusher (Buffalo H Mine-Protected vehicle): A Decepticon warrior who hates all others. He is only subservient to Megatron, whom he fears.
Blackout (MH-53 Pave Low): The largest Decepticon, Blackout is fiercely loyal to Megatron and can fire electromagnetic pulses, making Decepticon attacks easier. Blackout does not speak.
Scorponok (mechanical scorpion): He has a symbiotic relationship with Blackout, hiding within him until he is commanded to go and kill. Scorponok is an animalistic beast and does not speak.
Brawl (Modified M1 Abrams): A moody warrior, armed to the teeth. He does not speak.
In March 2007, Hugo Weaving was revealed to be playing Megatron. TV series voice actor Frank Welker auditioned, but his voice didn't fit Megatron's new look, though he is voicing the character in the video game. Weaving's voice was used for facial animation tests.
"I think it's going to be something the audience has never seen before. In all the years of movie-making, I don't think the image of a truck transforming into a 20-foot tall robot has ever been captured on screen. I also want to make a film that's a homage to 1980s movies and gets back to the sense of wonder that Hollywood has lost over the years. It will have those Spielberg-ian moments where you have the push-in on the wide-eyed kid and you feel like you're 10 years old even if you're 35."
— Tom DeSanto on why he wanted to produce the film
Producer Don Murphy had been looking to do a G.I. Joe film but following the outbreak of the Iraq War, he negotiated the rights with Hasbro for a Transformers film instead. Tom DeSanto also came onto the project having been a big childhood fan of the characters, and they wrote a treatment that explored why the Transformers exist, as well as the real possibilities of the concept, similar to a disaster film. DeSanto studied many of the cartoons and comics to create a story, even meeting with comic book writer Simon Furman, while Murphy invited fans to discuss the film on his website. DeSanto intended Optimus Prime, Ironhide, Jazz, Prowl, Ratchet, Wheeljack, Bumblebee, Megatron, Starscream, Soundwave, Ravage, Laserbeak, Rumble, Skywarp and Shockwave to be the characters.
DreamWorks bought the property in 2004. President of production Adam Goodman felt it was a good opportunity for Dreamworks to have a tentpole franchise, while Steven Spielberg came to know the franchise through the toys and cartoons that his children loved. John Rogers was hired as screenwriter on November 4, 2004 to adapt DeSanto's story, and turned in his draft in January 2005. 4 Transformers were on each side in John Rogers' version of the script, and the draft also included the Ark. Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, big fans of the cartoon, were hired the following month to start over. Although they always included Optimus Prime, Megatron, Bumblebee and Starscream, their first draft focused almost exclusively on Sam and Mikaela, and expanded in their second for more of the military and giving the Transformers dialogue despite initial studio concerns. Spielberg added his input, saying he wanted the film to be about "a boy and his car", focusing on the relationship between Sam and Bumblebee. Inspired by E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Kurtzman made Bumblebee a mute, to stress Sam's relationship with Bumblebee as going beyond words, and Orci cut the Ark, feeling "Why would aliens who moonlight as vehicles need other vehicles to travel inside?"
Michael Bay was negotiated with to direct, but turned it down as a "stupid toy movie". Realising he had been wrong as a teenager at Lucasfilm regarding Raiders of the Lost Ark' box office potential, he was put through "Transformers school", and in April 2005 he confirmed he was directing the film. Bay took the job due to a desire to make a family film, though he wanted to make it edgier than usual. Orci and Kurtzman continued to experiment with characters such as Ravage and Arcee, the latter of whom was cut due to poor fan reaction. They added more Decepticons to increase the threat against the Autobots, stressing their teamwork, and they also removed Soundwave, as Don Murphy felt his role sidelined the character. First the Decepticon spy was renamed Soundbyte, then Frenzy, a minion of Soundwave in G1. Other characters given temporary names were Brawl, who was known as "Devastator" and "Demolisher", and Blackout, known as Vortex and Incinerator. These were their on-set names, and the official names were only confirmed during filming.
Principal photography began on May 22, 2006. Two Bell Boeing CV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft (of only three in the United States Air Force inventory) were filmed in flight at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, on May 26 for the film. Other military aircraft were being filmed at Holloman and at nearby White Sands Missile Range. On June 9, filming was onsite at the Hoover Dam, for scenes involving Sector 7 at Area 52. Shooting around August focused on Pentagon interiors, and filming of destruction in Los Angeles was also taking place. Filming took place in Rialto, California on finished-but unopened portion of Interstate 210 between Alder Ave. and Linden Ave. Filming at Edwards AFB began on September 6, 2006 and ended two days later. Production then wrapped on September 24, although second unit shooting continued in the Arctic and Detroit, where it finally finished on October 5.
Bay did not want the animated aspects of the film to overwhelm the live-action elements, spending most of the $150 million budget on over 14 practical action sequences, including the destruction of a bus during Bonecrusher's rampage. KNB Effects provided animatronics to portray the Transformers, including a blue version of Optimus' head with motion capture points, a full-scale Bumblebee standing around 5.1m (17 feet) tall, Megatron's legs and Blackout's feet. To portray the sentient cars, stunt drivers had to wear black, and wore balaclavas to conceal themselves from view. The U.S. military also heavily collaborated with Bay, supplying vehicles and jets for the film.
Optimus Prime was a character who the writers admitted had a classic design that could not be altered too much. However, the original cab over truck design meant that Prime would only be 20-25 feet tall, so Bay went for the larger Peterbilt truck, making Prime 8.5m (28 feet) tall. Bay also added flame artwork to accentuate Prime's ribs, and had his faceplate made retractable. In contrast, Megatron was given a less humanoid face, which was to make him more menacing, and his alternate mode was changed from a Walther P38 as the writers felt, "It’s like Darth Vader turning into his own lightsaber and having someone else swing him around." Bumblebee was also changed: Don Murphy had wanted to retain his Volkswagen Beetle form, but Bay changed him to a Chevrolet Camaro, to avoid comparisons with Herbie the Love Bug. The other Autobots also became GM-owned vehicle lines, as part of a tie-in deal. In a nod to the cartoon, its transformation sound effect was re-used.
In rendering the Transformers on screen, Michael Bay chose a direction that heavily stressed advanced kinematics and realistic engineering. Feeling the classic "boxy" style of drawing Transformers would look fake in a three-dimensional environment, he decided to design each Transformer with thousands of visible pieces, giving the illusion of true mass. Producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura said that working out the transformations was mathematical equation of designing where parts went, to avoid cases such as Optimus Prime's disappearing trailer from the cartoon. In keeping with Bay's desire to make a film about a robot alien invasion of Earth, the characters were also made to look less humanoid, though Bay still wanted to keep them emotionally involving. One example was creating an eye design that resembled a camera shutter. Such detail meant Industrial Light and Magic spent 38 hours rendering each frame of the characters' digital models. Ironhide's gun alone has 10,000 pieces.
Composer Steve Jablonsky, who collaborated with Bay on The Island, scored music for the teaser trailer long before actual work on the film. Scoring began in April 2007 in the Sony Scoring Stage in Culver City. The score comprises six major themes over 90 minutes of score, including the teaser music. Tom DeSanto and Don Murphy wanted to work in an orchestral version of the TV series theme, but it may be merely put over the end credits or feature on the soundtrack album.
Stan Bush, who performed the songs "Dare" and "The Touch" for the 1986 film, is composing a song for the film. The official soundtrack is due to be released July 3, 2007 by Warner Bros. Records. The album will feature a remake of the original Transformers theme performed by New Orleans electro-rockers Mute Math.
The first teaser trailer was released on the Internet on June 29, 2006, depicting a Transformer attacking the Beagle 2 mission, which is not in the film. A second trailer was released on December 20, breaking Spider-Man 3's record for the number of internet hits. A third trailer was released online on on Yahoo's movie website on May 17, 2007. Another trailer was attached with Shrek the Third. Bay originally intended that "[The audience] never really get a good look at the robots until the release", but by the third trailer he had abandoned this idea.
Hasbro made deals with 200 companies across 70 countries to promote the film. Their toy line for the film was created over two months over late 2005/early 2006, collaborating heavily with the filmmakers. A pair of preview toys, Protoform Optimus Prime and Starscream, were released in the U.S.A. on May 1, 2007, before the rest of the figures were released on June 2. More toys are set for release in the autumn. Characters that do not appear in the film are also featured in the film's style. The toys feature "Automorph Technology" in which moving parts of the toy allow other parts to shift automatically. Activision produced Transformers: The Game which is set for release on PSP, PS2, PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii formats, and two games entitled Autobots and Decepticons on Nintendo DS. The game allows people to play in a free-roaming environment, with differing gameplay depending on the faction they choose.
Expanding the film's universe, IDW Publishing published a prequel comic book. Lasting for four issues, it was written by Simon Furman and IDW editor-in-chief Chris Ryall, and with art by Don Figueroa. Ryall was allowed to read the film's script to write the story, which follows Bumblebee from Cybertron to Earth and the origin of Sector 7. Following this, a weekly adaptation of the film will follow in June. David Cian was set to write the prequel novel Transformers: Ghosts of Yesterday but Alan Dean Foster took over, and he also wrote the novelization.
Transformers will premiere on June 20, 2007 at Sitges, Taormina during the annual film festival the following day, at Los Angeles on June 27, and at Rhode Island on June 28. The Rhode Island premiere is a freely avaliable event offering fans to buy tickets for $75 to benefit four charities: Rhode Island Community Food Bank, Autism Project of Rhode Island, Adoption Rhode Island, and Hasbro Children’s Hospital. On July 2, the film will premiere at the 2007 Anime Expo in Long Beach, CA.
The film will be released in Australia on June 28, in the United States and New Zealand on July 2, Canada on July 4 and in the United Kingdom on July 27. The U.S. release date of July 4, 2007 was announced at the Comic-Con International in July 2005, before being pushed forward to 8pm screenings on July 2.
Before its release, Transformers was voted "Best Summer Movie You Haven't Seen Yet" at the 2007 MTV Movie Awards.
On May 30, 2007, Dreamworks greenlit two more sequels. Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox and Peter Cullen have signed on for the sequels, while Michael Bay has not signed on to direct, saying "I'm trying to keep some leverage for the negotiations."
Soundwave is intended to be a new major character in the sequels, with his presence allowing a proper introduction of mass-shifting. Producer Tom DeSanto has "a very cool idea on how to introduce the Dinobots and Constructicons." Producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura felt production would be quicker as the design aesthetics had been worked out. Bay may put in an aircraft carrier character, an idea which was previously too expensive for the first film.
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