Director: Michael Bay. Writers: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, John Rogers, from the Hasbro toy mythology
With Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, many robots
Available Oct. 16
Some of us thought this one was a snooze, apnea-sufferer-loud and Rip Van Winkle-long. I went to a screening on July 3, and I couldn't swear that the movie has ended yet. But it did gross $700 million at the worldwide box office, the second highest amount so far this year (after the $936 million amassed by Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix). As Stephen Colbert would say, the marketplace has spoken. Who am I to dissuade you from buying the Transformers two-disc DVD?
"So I get this phone call, July 30, 2005, from Steven Spielberg." That's how director Michael Bay begins his commentary track, and he's a sharper, more coherent storyteller with words than he is with CGI images. Bay, who had the notion of making a live-action version of Japanese anime, didn't think to let a Japanese director animate it. Instead, he went to Transformer School at Hasbro headquarters, then got busy matchmaking the marriage of Spielbergian child lore and his own fascination with advanced weapons systems (as showcased previously in Armageddon and Pearl Harbor). Does a Bay movie need fighter planes so new they haven't been battle-tested? No problem. As one Defense Dept. officer told him, "If we did have alien robots on earth, I think the American military would be involved." (Right: it's a slow time for the armed forces.)
In the two hours of spiffy extras, we learn that "Michael has a pretty good relationship with DOD." He visits Holliman Air Force Base, where "they have what's known as a tank graveyard," says Ltc. Paul Sinor. "And the first time I took Michael in there, he was like a kid at Christmas. 'Can I have that? Can I have that? Can I burn that? Can I blow that up?' 'Absolutely. Anything you want.'" The military officers are happy to oblige; happy too, perhaps, to think of their ideal warriors: not a dead-tired platoon slogging through a desert city serving as target practice for terrorists, but billion-dollar hardware streaking through the sky to obliterate some easy-to-spot bad guy. Wouldn't it be wonderful if war really were a video game? The PlayStation generation might actually enlist in significant numbers.
Spending time with all the extras here reminded me that a tremendous amount of expertise and sweat goes into the creation of any movie, good or bad. It's just that, with a bad movie, the DVD extras are the real show.