New era as Michael Bay gives an extreme makeover to Transformers

New era as Michael Bay gives an extreme makeover to Transformers

He once declared he would not direct any more Transformers movies after making 2011's Transformers: Dark Of The Moon, yet Michael Bay has done a 180, dishing out another adventure for his beloved gigantic robots-in-disguise.

Transformers: Age Of Extinction, opening here tomorrow, is the start of a brand new and most likely lucrative Transformers trilogy.

Autobots, Decepticons, a mysterious bounty hunter, even more mysterious Creators, a revamped human cast, new cities for destruction - Bay has got them all.

Here is how the Hollywood heavyweight transformed his franchise with Age Of Extinction, a big-budget sequel that is badder, bolder and has a lot more boom.

NEW BEGINNINGS

Forget skinny, whiny Shia LaBeouf. The extremely buff Mark Wahlberg is calling the shots now and you'd better not mess with him and his precious teenage daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz).

It does not matter if you are the US government, the great Optimus Prime or her race-car driver boyfriend (Jack Reynor), the protective single dad will take you down if she is in danger.

Set about five years after the events of Dark Of The Moon, which saw Chicago in ruins, the US government is out to hunt and destroy all Transformers, regardless if they are Autobots or Decepticons.

Enters Wahlberg's Cade Yeager, a struggling inventor whose life gets a drastic makeover after he discovers a dormant Optimus Prime trapped within a derelict tractor-trailer.

"Cade's a very ordinary guy who has to do extraordinary things in the face of danger to protect his family. Anyone can relate to that," Wahlberg told USA Today.

NEW AUTOBOTS

Forget the sagely, helpful Optimus Prime that we know from the previous trilogy. This Optimus (again voiced by Peter Cullen) is cynical, damaged and not human-friendly.

But when Optimus uncovers a sinister plot that will annihilate humanity, he cannot just leave Cade and his family in the lurch.

Joining the sleeker and more menacing-looking Optimus are surviving Autobots Bumblebee, Ratchet, Hound, Drift, Crosshairs and Brains, and the Dinobots.

NEW VILLAINS

Even though Megatron was decapitated in Dark Of The Moon, the chief Decepticon's soul lives on in Galvatron, a robot made by scientist Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci) with metal recovered from the bodies of dead Transformers.

But Galvatron is not the main concern here - Bay's probably keeping him for the sequels.

There is Lockdown, a Transformer bounty hunter who is vicious and deadly. Neither a Decepticon or Autobot, he is the one behind the Autobot massacre to lure Optimus Prime out into the open.

NEW MYTHOLOGY

Bay and screenwriter Ehren Kruger took the Prometheus (the movie) route, where they have Lockdown expounding on "Creators" who made Optimus and all his kind.

The Creators are supposedly angry with Optimus for having a soft spot for mankind, thus the need for his capture and disciplinary action.

Seed, a kind of nuclear bomb, and a transforming matter called Transformium are also introduced. Bay is again cryptic about these and probably teasing about sequels.

NEW MONEY

China is the second-biggest film market in the world and Paramount Pictures, the studio backing Bay's movie, wisely entered into a co-operation agreement with CCTV's China Movie Channel and Jiaflix Enterprises on the US$210 million ($260 million) production.

The two Chinese companies not only helped Paramount secure filming locations in China, cast local talent, assist with post-production and theatrical marketing, they also invested an undisclosed amount in the film and will receive a share of box office.

Said Rob Moore, Paramount Pictures' vice-chairman, to Variety: "As we were looking at the film and the places we've already gone - Michael's shot at the pyramids (in Egypt), in Russia and in the Middle East - the chance to shoot in China was exciting for him both as a place where he hadn't worked and in terms of how successful the franchise had been there."

Chinese actress Li Bingbing also has a small role as Su Yueming, who is basically the "CEO" of Chinese Transformers.

joannes@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on June 25, 2014.
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