More than meets the eye

When it comes to pleasing the crowds this summer, the new Transformers movie has one hell of a weapon in its arsenal - tons of really big robots. Of course, it requires a bit more than that to make a big-budget blockbuster work, but now we’ve seen Optimus Prime, Bumblebee and other members of the Autobot posse walking, talking and generally doing the things you’d expect a shape-shifting car-man to do, we’re starting to think Michael Bay might just pull it off.

SFX was invited to catch four scenes from the movie, and we liked the 30 minutes of Transformery goodness we saw. They may have been works in progress, with unfinished CG and temporary music - “They’re the only scenes that are remotely close to having the special effects in them,”
top Hollywood producer bod Lorenzo di Bonaventura told us) - but that didn’t diminish the wow factor one bit.

So what exactly did we see? Well, the first scene featured immense helicopter Decepticon Blackout going postal on a US military base in Qatar. It had all the bangs and bullets that make Michael Bay Michael Bay, but we were far more excited by our first glimpse of a live-action “Transform”. So complex it’ll be analysed repeatedly on freeze-frame once the movie comes out on DVD, the process looked fantastic, and we’ll swear we heard the old-school transforming sound effect from the cartoon. The other action sequence showed robo-arachnid Scorponok tormenting the military and, as with Blackout, the amazing CGI suggests that ILM’s effects peeps are going the extra mile to earn their pay.

No surprises there, but the two other scenes, both of them more human-led, went off in quite unexpected directions. Having clearly realised that the idea of two factions of giant robots coming to Earth is just a little bit preposterous, the filmmakers have gone for a surprisingly fun, tongue-in-cheek vibe. So we saw young hero Sam Witwicky (an excellent Shia LaBeouf - it’s good news if this guy does, as rumoured, end up playing Indiana Jones’s son) getting love tips from a self-aware car, AKA Autobot Bumblebee, doing his best Herbie impression. And in the best scene of all, the Autobots hit suburbia and hide out in a back garden, avoiding the twin menaces of chihuahuas and Coen brothers regular John Turturro as an amusingly creepy government agent.

Are we excited? That’ll be a resounding yes. We still have some reservations about Michael Bay reining in his tendency for utterly preposterous action sequences, but we’ve seen enough to make us think that this could be that rare beast - a blockbuster that works.
Spider-Man who? Roll on 27 July!

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