Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Transformers Update: Can Bay Do It?

Michael Bay is making "The Transformers" as a live action feature. Steven Spielberg is Executive Producing and is said to have a heavy hand in this. I don't like Michael Bay. I don't like his movies, his 1980's style, his lack of depth, his over the top action over substance...I don't like him so much, I almost hate his dog. (I love dogs!)

Steven Spielberg is a man of two film careers. The "Jaws," "Duel," "1941," "Empire of the Sun," "The Color Purple," "Munich," "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," "Catch Me If You Can," "Amastad," "Raider of the Lost Ark" Spielberg and the "War of the Worlds," "Minority Report," "AI," "Jurassic Park," "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," "Always," "Saving Private Ryan" and "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" Spielberg.

Optimus Prime is a giant robotic version of Captain America, that just happens to transform into a Mack Truck. (see "Why We Love Cap!") At ten years old, I think he was the first political leader I really believed in. (I know, I'm a sad man..) He was strong and brave, honest and wise, compassionate and peace loving, all wrapped up in an ass kicking robot that turned into a Semi!!! Optimus was John Wayne and Gregory Peck crammed into a tinfoil rollup with Vultron. Yeahhh..

Let's Wiki up some Optimus! (from HERE)

Across the assorted continuities of the "Generation One" universe(s), there have been various interpretations of Optimus Prime; the cartoon leant towards Optimus Prime as a straightforward, wise and essentially upbeat battlefield general, while the Marvel Comics series, in addition to these more obvious characteristics, suggested a Prime secretly plagued by self-doubt and, more importantly, a conflicted sense of pacifism. One of Prime's most notable characteristics was his adamant commitment to leadership by example, and avoidance of any hypocrisy in his command.

The above mentioned pacifism was not always readily apparent, but Prime's craving for peace is generally palpable. He was an extremely reluctant warrior, and it was at times implied (particularly in the Movie, albeit in a subtle manner) that the conflict with the Decepticons lasted as long as it did primarily due to his unwillingness to take a more aggressive stance. Consistent with his appearance, he had an aura of tremendous size, strength, and authority, but which at the same time was overlaid with a sense of equally great compassion and benevolence, and at times, sorrow and fatigue. Archetypically speaking, Prime was a somewhat tragic paladin whose primary motivations were both his desire for peaceful existence, and his sacrificial concern for the welfare of those other than himself. Although his massive shoulders were able to carry it, the burden of his command weighed very heavily.

A tragic constant of the character is his predilection for self-sacrifice - across all continuities and depictions of him (and later, his modern namesakes), it is almost a certainty that Prime will meet his end and later return to life (sometimes to repeat the process).

All I can tell you is if this big blockbuster realizes Optimus Prime, it will work. The fact that they would make this as a live action spectacular is a no brainer with Today's technology. If it feels like Michael Bay has changed the heart of the Autobots or Optimus Prime, who I must shameful admit to feeling a childhood reverence for, then all is lost. What I'm reading below has some good possibilities, let's hope this doesn't become the unintentional comedy that "Bad Boys" was..

Over at IGN FilmForce (HERE) Stax gives up a pretty nice update on the film.

IGN FilmForce has learned which actors are poised to join the previously announced Shia LaBeof in the cast of the DreamWorks-Paramount live-action feature film version of The Transformers. (LaBeof will star as "Sam," the unlikely teen hero of the movie.)

IGN has confirmed through multiple sources that Oscar winner Jon Voight is in talks to reunite with his Pearl Harbor director, Michael Bay, as "Keller." A casting notice online describes Keller as the U.S. Secretary of State.

Another Bay veteran, Armageddon's Michael Clarke Duncan, is closing in on the role of "Figueroa." This character is described in a casting notice posted at Sneak Peek TV as being "Dominican by way of the Louisiana Bayou. Chief Warrant officer in the Army. Spirited fellow who loves to sing. Close team member of Lennox."

And who is Lennox? Sources indicated that Vegas star Josh Duhamel has a lock on the role of the young military commander.

Bernie Mac is the frontrunner for the role of "Bobby Bolivia." A casting notice said Bolivia "could sell ice to an Eskimo. Tries to get Sam to buy a car. Your typical wheelin' dealin' used car salesman."

IGN has also learned that the following actors are being lined up for roles:

Tyrese as "Epps";

John Turturro as "Simmons";

Rachael Taylor as "Maggie," previously described as a super-hot and super-smart codebreaker for the government;

Megan Fox as "Mikaela," referred to in a casting notice as Sam's love interest;

Travis Van Winkle as "Trent";

John Robinson as "Miles."

There is still no word yet on who will be voicing the Autobots and the Decepticons. Transformers is slated to begin filming next month for a July 4, 2007 release. It is being produced by Angry Films' Don Murphy, Tom DeSanto, Ian Bryce and Lorenzo di Bonaventura. Steven Spielberg and Michael Bay are exec producing. Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci (The Island) wrote the latest draft of the screenplay; John Rogers (The Core) penned an earlier draft.

Below, Quint from Aintitcool News invades Bay's world and comes up with some interesting info...link is HERE!

One thing I can confirm, straight from Bay's mouth (and this is something he wanted the fans to know) is that he is going to audition the original voice actors for the Autobots and Decepticons. He said it's no guarantee they'll get cast, but he's going to give them a listen. His main fear is that the actors have aged since the cartoon and that age may be noticeable in their voices.

Bay then showed me a rough design for the TRANSFORMERS teaser poster. It was a robotic eye overlooking planet Earth, kind of peeking over the curvature of the globe. The eye was in a brow the shape of a right triangle and looked very mechanical, iris and all. The tagline was "Their War. Our World."

The biggest difference from the cartoon and toys is that the Autobots and Decepticons aren't going to be as blocky. Bay said that when they started breaking down how these robots transform from vehicles to robots the blocky end result didn't make any sense and looked pretty silly. So, you see the working parts of the vehicles much more on the robots, you see sharper angles, but they all stem from them transforming.

He showed me another robot, a Decepticon called Scorponok (if I remember correctly, although it could have been called Skorpikon), a giant robot scorpion which had three long, thin pliable blades for each of its pincers that could join together and rotate, becoming drills. The tail folded up over its body and had a long sharp barbed pole that would shoot out of the end (presumably to skewer anything in the immediate area).

It was around here that I got my first look at Optimus Prime. I saw three concept art pieces on Optimus. The first was a headshot. He is blue, like the cartoon, but I noticed a lack of red in the early stuff I saw. Mostly steel gray and blue. Not sure what I think about that. His face is a bit longer than I remember the cartoon being, but the image I think of when I picture Optimus Prime is when his face guard is up. Bay was quick to point out that the Optimus I was seeing was him without his battle mask. Like the other robot I saw, Optimus was more angular than the cartoon, but he was still hulking. He was by no means lithe and skinny. Bulky, but not blocky.

The second piece of art I saw had him standing full size, head to toe , on the right side and his vehicle form on the left. Yes, it's still a Mac truck.

The third piece was a close up on his eyes. There was actually 2 different pieces here, two different options for how the eyes would look. They still haven't decided on the eyes yet, but Bay said the robots, and Optimus Prime especially, had to show emotion and you couldn't do that with just glowing red eyes. The one I liked the most had the iris of the eye looking like a turbine engine. Very mechanical, but like a camera shutter it appeared that he could dilate the "pupils." There were metal slats around his eyes as well that looked like they could slide over each other to give the area around the eyes specific movement and life. The other option was exactly the same, but the iris had what looked like wires instead of slats (turbine engine thingys). It was very pretty and mimicked the look of a human iris a bit more, but felt out of place in the robotic skull.

It was very obvious to me that Bay was getting excited about the project as he was revealing these little bits to me, which was very cool to see. Mostly because the more excited he got, the more he wanted to share about the film. He picked another page and slid it to me and told me that when he was first approached he wasn't sure about the movie, thinking it would just a giant toy commercial. What hooked him was Shia LaBeouf's character, a teen that is getting his first car. He said that rite of passage for a teenage boy, that of getting your first car, is something he connected with and gave him a human angle to get involved emotionally with the story. Of course, Shia's character ends up with a banana yellow '70s looking car with lots of wear... and of course, that car is a Transformer.

The art Bay slid over to me was like the Optimus Prime work, with Shia's yellow beat up old car on the left and the car transformed into a giant robot on the right.

We talked a bit about the beginning of the movie. It starts in the Antarctica with a man chipping away at a giant ice wall. Something happens, his dogs run away and ice wall opens, the man falling into an icy cave, sliding down into the earth. When he stops, the camera pulls back and shows him resting in a giant robotic hand, half in and half out of the ice. I saw this piece in production art and it was very atmospheric with giant shapes in the surrounding ice walls and the tiny man resting in the palm of a robot. palm of a robot.

Bay later revealed that although this is the beginning of the movie, it isn't the first thing we see. Bay's words were, "We will actually see Cybertron," which is the planet where the Autobots hail from.

I then saw about 10 minutes of animatics....the action seemed to be huge and what you'd want from a movie like this... I saw fights between fully transformed Autobots and Decepticons that had them plucking lamp posts out of the ground and smashing the other with the blocky concrete end, I saw them jumping all over each other, only to be shot back by an arm cannon, I saw mid-air transformations from a Jet into a robot as it collides a standing robot in downtown LA...

The other animatic sequence I want to mention before I wrap up this report is a freeway chase. Bay said he has done many chase scenes in his career, but he wanted this one to feel different from his other chases. The sequence has Optimus and a Decepticon speeding along a crowded freeway, the Decepticon's truck flipping over any vehicle in its way. Optimus is catching up to him and transforms as he gets close, keeping the tires on the ground and avoiding as many cars as he can. The transformation was everything Transformers geeks would want to see big. It was smooth and ended with Optimus crouching, the wheels still on the ground.

I still wonder what Soundwave will be? An 8track? Rumor says a heliocopter...nahh... How about a Karaoke machine?

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