Transformers The Last Knight - Advance Footage Screening with Michael Bay
It was an adrenaline crescendo to what had already been whirlwind day which started with a visit to Transformers The Ride at Universal Studios, followed by a private tour of Paramount Pictures Studios and getting up close and personal with vehicle props used in filming Optimus Prime, Crosshairs, Bumblebee, Mohawk, Drift and Barricade...
While touring the Paramount Studios facility, we had an opportunity to go behind-the-scenes to meet with the sound editors and mixers. That day, they had been working on a scene where Cade, Izzy and one of her friends were running through an abandoned town. Fascinating for us, to see this team of roughly a dozen+ men and women working on sound effects. We watched the scene as the characters lips moved, but no sound came out - only the effects, like crunching of gravel under the characters feet, the sounds of shattering glass and explosions... No music score, no dialog. Just seeing the sound professionals doing what they do, scrutinizing every auditory detail, before it moved on to the next team for processing!
We also had the opportunity to walk through a props storage warehoue which contained Transformers treasures (more on this later!) and then spent an hour and a half tour by Michael Bay of his personal office. Here, I could not resist the temptation to ask about Unicron (story told here!) and see other effects specialists working their Hollywood magic!
Alright, so we've got to talk about footage! Hard to tell this story in perfectly linear order. So we'll skip around from seeing rough clips at Michael Bay's office to seeing near-final product at IMAX Headquarters. For instance Michael showed us a pre-edited clip of knights in battle. We saw the carefully set-up explosion where the actors were launched back on cables and others burst ablaze wearing flame-retardant suits. We watched in awe as Michael Bay tells us "Okay, this guys' getting hot!" Actor's arms flailing, "Now really hot 110 degrees." Actor in flames falls, 120 about to cook!" Actor writhing on the ground still aflame "CUT!" I'm not sure if it was the Director in front of us or a recording of him yelling it! -- immediately 3-4 set personel per burning-actors - sprint onto the scene with their fire extinguishers dousing the flames. Then, later that same evening, seeing it on IMAX size and quality, effects completed - the film opens with trebuchet launching these apparently historically accurate flaming spike balls and lands in the midst of this Medieval battle - explosioin, Knights go flying, some burst into flame, and even though I've just seen how they set up this scene, it looks absolutely real, and you're living it large on that enormous IMAX screen!
Alright, so let's talk about what we were shown. First off, these weren't polished and final complete scenes. They were snipits from certain segments of the film, carefully selected to give us a taste of what the film would be like, without giving away hardly any major plot spoilers.
The film's opening wastes no time getting to Medieval Bayhem! Amidst a battle, we are introduced to characters from the times of King Arthur. Lancelot has a conversation about how their side, which is getting slaughtered, will emerge victorious, with help promised by Merlin. The scene cuts to a not-familiar rendition of the character, from what can tell, in Transformers universe, Merlin's "magic" may derive from some other-worldly (Cybertronian, perhaps?) source! My impression here - he's a well written character, his lines are funny and hit the mark the writers team was going for. Can't remember if it was in IMAX HQ or at Michael Bay's office where we see the horse-riding Wizard gallop to a mountainside where there is the distinct pattern of a crashed ship buried in the side of a mountain. It's covered in plantlife, but it's silouette otherwise looks a lot like "The Ark" - as it appears buried in Mount St. Hillary back in the G1 cartoon.
Merlin is about to begin a dialog with the ship's resident. However, without revealing too much, the scene cuts to an extended scene of the mysterious 3-headed "Dragonstorm" in flight. Apparently, at Merlin's request, the beast joins the battle and his domination takes over. Dragon versus knight battle ensues and I was lovin' it. Look, I know there are those G1 purists out there! But I make no apologies for my love of the Beast Wars era of Transformers, and seeing a Cybertronian dragon twisting and twirling in brings me back! The scene raises way more questions than it answers though and this clip cuts out before any of my burning questions are answered.
The second segment involves Izabella and Cade Yaeger. We see them running from "TRF" (that's Transformers Reaction Force) drones. In this film, humans are still unhappy about Transformers presence on Earth, and appear to still not have figured out the difference between Autobots and Decepticons. That (Star Wars reference here) AT-ST walker -like thing you see Bumblebee taking out in the Trailer? I believe that's part of TRF, with indended purpose to hunt down Cybertronians terminate without prejudgice. So in one scene Cade and Izzy are running and encounter Cogman.
Cogman provides an opportunity to talk about the effects I was hoping to see from the "writer's room" project put together The Last Knight. Michael Bay talked about this at length in his office. I was encouraged to hear that he didn't like how each of the last four films were very much intended to be stand alone mega-stories, without connection to the rest of Transformer's bigger picture. The Last Knight is going to be different in this way. He also talked about the quality of dialog he expects to see in this film to be better than what we have come to expect in other films. To be honest, I was skeptical about this, expecting the next film to be like others, more flash than substance. I was skeptical, until I saw Cogman.
He's funny - and not like with cheap one-liners that'll make you groan. He had the audience really into his 'performance' and laughing. If what you're looking for are Cybertronians - showing personality, well written and engaging - they seem to have found their mark with Cogman. He's voiced by Jim Carter best known for his role "Mister Carter" on Downton Abbey. Cogman is butler to Sir Edmund Burton (Anthony Hopkins), except with a screw loose.
The last segment involved introductions and some explanations about where this film is going. I assume it's still fairly early in the film but we see Bumblebee and Cade approach Sir Edmund Burton's castle home, where also resides a Cybertronian who transforms into a British Mark IV (World War I) tank! Introductions are made. Then we get our first glimpse of Hot Rod, who comes roaring up, carrying Vivian Wembly (Laura Haddock) seemingly spits her out of is sexy Lamborgini as he transforms into robot mode. Unfortunately they skipped some of the good stuff as surely Bumblebee and Hot Rod will have some sort of exchange here, which we did not get to see.
The next scene cut is to inside Burton's castle, where Sir Anthony Hopkins provides some explanation. There is a lot of talk about Knights - human ones of Medieval times - specifically the Arthurian Knights - of the Round Table and it is revealed we see that each of these 12 are accompanied/watched over by a Cybertronian Knight! Remember how the Dinobots took on an esthetic of knight armor? Like that, only in ancient times. Hopkins explained that there are 12 Cybertronian Knights and they are looking for the 13th, the Last Knight! as they play the role to protect and preserve the development of human civilization... Something like that!
It was following this enormous revelation, that the scene cut, theater lights came back on and Michael Bay asked a stunned audience, "So, what did you think?" We all sat in stunned silence for what seemed like a long time before we began our dialog.
I believe it may have been me who spoke first when I said, "What I think most Transformers fans are hoping for, is to see more personality in Transformers. I think Cogman was awesome, and if the rest of the Transformers personalities shine through in the rest of the film the way Cogman's does in these few minutes... Then this film could be 12-hours long and Transformers fans wouldn't mind." This led to great conversation about wanting to see personality in Decepticons, a voice for Bumblebee, etc. Here's hoping!
Sometime later, I mentioned my thought about how seeing this clip, will be interesting to Transformers die-hard fans like myself for a few reasons - like how there are supposed to be 13 Knights - and that coincides w/ how there are 13 original Primes and will be fun to speculate about that. Also, highlighting a "Search for Knights" is a recurring theme - likely unconnected but still fun to discuss - to the current popular comic series "Lost Light" and Rodimus (Hot Rod) leading a quest to find the mystic Knights of Cybertron... Could the team of writers assembled to create the movie Universe be fans/readers of More than Meets the Eye/Lost Light?! Food for thought and fun times for speculation.
Who knows how much of what we saw will make it to the final cut of the film? I'm sure a lot can and will change. But what we saw is definitely encouraging and gives me hope the the upcoming film will have more plot and substance than its predacessors. Time will tell.
"The Unsung Heroes of Transformers Film"
We at TFDb and unicron.com were happy to have the opportunity this August (2016) to visit the set of Transformers 5 where filming of “The Last Knight” was well underway. In a quiet suburb north of Detroit, lies the discrete Michigan Motion Picture Studios facility. I say, "discrete" because from the outside, it appears as a series of generic and fairly uninteresting warehouse buildings. The inside, on the other hand, was another matter entirely!
Our day began with an escorted entrance by Tamar Teifield, VP of Digital Marketing for Paramount Pictures. Establishing the ground rules, we were asked not to take photographs - unless pre-approved, ask lots of questions and have a great time! So, we did!
It was, of course, a “closed set” not open to the public, as it concealed many carefully guarded secrets. So, we donned our press badges, proceeded through security and made our way inside. The tour began with a viewing of one of two sets we would see that day. We’ve been asked not to divulge exactly what it depicted, but rest assured, the interesting portion of the experience wasn’t specifically what it was, but rather the sheer enormity, craftsmanship and incredible attention to detail that blew me away!
Imagine a room, roughly 3 stories high and about as long as a football field. Within it, there was an extremely elaborate, incredibly meched-out Cybertronian landscape, along the lines of Lockdown’s ship interior, in Age of Extinction. If you, like me, thought most of what you see on-screen is CGI, you’d be wrong. We marveled at the skillfully handmade Cybertronian architecture which had been constructed all around us. Consider the time it would take to build something so large, authentic and awesome! This, in particular, is what really stuck with me. But who and how many people must it take to create such an elaborate and lifelike world?
Fortunately, I had a great excuse to introduce myself to members of the crew. It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that I, one of the co-founders of unicron.com have a Transformers themed home-theater room in my home. On one side stand shelves full of toys and the opposite wall has a row of autographed Transformers movie posters. Over the years, we’ve had the opportunity to meet Steven Spielberg, Michael Bay, Mark Ryan, voice of Bumblebee and Lockdown, Peter Cullen, Frank Welker, Brian Goldner, Tom DeSanto, Tyrese Gibson and many more. Their autographs are on posters I’ve collected from the first three films and until this day, my Age of Extinction poster, didn't have any. So, I brought it with me to the set, which offered a wonderful excuse to introduce myself and get to know the crew - the true ‘unsung heroes of Transformers films.’
On the first set, I had the chance to meet Mark Vahradian, Executive Producer and Karen Frick, who works as a set decorator. Each was polite and signed my poster, though time allowed for little more than a quick introduction and “Hello!” While I didn’t have an opportunity to get much understanding of Mark’s roles and responsibilities, Karen’s influence and impact was very obvious. Standing amongst this spectacular Cybertronian technological landscape, her work and that of the rest of the set design team were some of the most impressive and amazing things we saw all day. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures here.
Lorraine Crossman, “Costumer to Mark Wahlberg,” was a delight to talk to. She and I watched as Mark did several takes of a scene where he lit a flare, turned to the camera and said something like, “We’re going in there!” … I joked with Lorraine about how I could see the striations in Wahlberg’s biceps through his shirt from our vantage point ~50 yards away! Smiling ear to ear, she beamed in response, "That’s* what we’re goin’ for!”
Peter Devlin Sound Mixer for all five Transformers films, was another pleasant fellow who signed my poster “MOS.” He told me something about this being an inside joke to Sound Mixers in the industry. Perhaps someone who knows more about Sound Mixing than I do, can explain this one to me?!
Between takes, I got to meet Brooks Guyer the Pursuit Camera Operator who laughed when he told me he “must be doing something right!” explaining that he’s the only cameraman to work on all 5 Transformers films. (That, or perhaps he just has the highest pain tolerance?! :) He talked a little about shooting with the new RED Dragon Camera and IMAX filming techniques. Sounds awesome, though I must confess the technical details were over my head!
At this early portion of our day, we also met several special effects gurus with ILM – Industrial Light and Magic, the Lucasfilm VFX studio responsible for Transformers CGI and other effects. Will McCoy VFX Location Technician- and Jason Smith ILM VFX Suite were each happy to talk about technical advancements, as they have continued to evolve and improve with each successive film. They were, of course, tight lipped about plot specifics and characters of the The Last Knight.
Harry Humphries, Military Advisor to Michael Bay, provides military personnel insight and talked about how the US and other country’s military have been very happy to work with Bay, as his films have proven to be an effective recruitment tool.
The set was amazing and the film crew were genuine and gracious hosts. We got a kick out of watching the actors, Mark Wahlberg and co-star Laura Haddock, doing what they do. After seeing them reenact a scene several times, we made our way to the next stage of the tour.
I'm going to guess that the publicists and PR staff who host these set visits are more accustomed to typical Hollywood reporter-types. That which brings general audience ratings for them (ie. movie star news, casting and gossip etc.) was of much less interest to us, Transformers specific media. For us, the "real movie stars" are the Transformers themselves, which brings me to the next, perhaps favorite portion of our day: the Autobot vehicle garage and "The Boneyard!"
We took a short drive to an off-site location a with a garage and what appeared like a junkyard of derelict vehicles. Turns out, the junk vehicles we saw (shown above) are ones that had been destroyed during “Bayhem” explosion scene filming. A few dozen of these cars lined the back portion of the yard, many of them burned to a molten crisp!
Here, we met the insanely cool Randy Peters, stunt driver for Optimus Prime and other Autobot vehicles. We gathered around the truck, taking photos and posing alongside this massive and gorgeous vehicle. He then turned to us and pointed to a patch of grass, at the far end of their facility parking lot. “Alright everybody! Why don’t you walk down there. Turn back and get your cameras ready!” With gleeful anticipation, we did exactly as he instructed and witnessed what you can now see below.
We were then offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ride inside Optimus Prime, back to the garage where other Autobots (vehicles) waited for their scenes to be filmed!
These cars and other vehicles, were under covers to keep them clean. Kindly enough Mr. Peters took them out so we could see and photograph these spectacular vehicles. In addition to Optimus Prime, we saw other Autobots such as Bumblebee, Hound, and Drift. The Lamborgini (Hot Rod) was already in England, awaiting a scene they would be filming in subsequent weeks.
Onslaught was driven out to our location specially for us to photograph and Barricade, Mohawk (the motorcycle) and Hooligan the rusty Toaster Van were tucked away in a trailer behind the Autobot garage. Peter told me a funny story about how he and Michael Bay "went out car shopping at nearly the last minute" looking for this vehicle which would become Hooligan! We later saw character art showing this guy's robot mode looks like a rusty toaster van version of the "Dreads" threesome seen in Dark of the Moon.
Next, we had lunch and enjoyed the company of Gabriela Gutentag Unit Publicist who works closely with Michael Bay. She offered many interesting insights into what goes into the making and publicizing of these movies as well as advice on what questions to ask (and not ask!) Michael Bay most likely to result in an insightful and positive response.
After lunch we toured the costume studio and met a cadre of other unsung heroes, responsible for bringing our beloved Transformers films to life. Lisa Lovaas Costume Supervisor – is a manager in this department. Seeing everything from modern day military costumes to armored knights, to the carefully selected outfits for each movie star in every scene. Lisa was all smiles as she brought us through the department. She is very enthusiastic about what she does and is obviously a talented artist. One of the skills she joked about, it being her very thorough understanding Michael Bay’s tastes, what he likes and doesn’t like, that’s one of the reasons she gets to keep doing what she does – a career she seems to take considerable delight and pride in!
We also met several other members of the Costumers Department who graciously signed my Age of Extinction poster, and wrote short notes after their names. Chrissy Callan: Assistant Costume Designer “Lisa’s friend and Key Costumes,” Sarah Yellin, TF4 and 5 Costumes “Look out for Magic Hour!”, Dagmarette Yen: costumes, Tony Almaraz, Key Military Costumer “AKA Dead Air Force Crew.” Tony explained he signed as he did because, he was in a scene of one of the last films, as a dead Air Force crew member, but the scene got cut and he hasn’t made it onto the big screen yet! John and Fahima Atrouni: Tailors were an adorable husband and wife couple, busy sewing what appeared to be a sport coat when we happened to walk through their area.
The next department we toured contained concept and character art. There was so much to see and take in, we could've spent the entire day here and not been disappointed! Unfortunately, photography and note taking were not allowed and we've been asked not to discuss some of the things we saw. … I can tell you that I got a good look at a size comparison chart for the robot cast to appear in The Last Knight which does include some interesting (not yet revealed) additions. Unfortunately, there was no sign of Age of Extinction Galvatron anywhere. Interpret this as you will... What else can we talk about?
* Since the visit, we have been told that Grimlock is in the beginning of the film, but don't expect him to have a particularly large role.
* We can also confirm that "Mini-Dinobots" are in the film. Although I did not see any art for them there, we found this concept art (above) from TF4, c/o Wesley Burt FB Gallery. This may not bear any resemblance to what we'll see in The Last Knight, but it's still fun to see and imagine.
* I can also say that we spent some significant time staring at the concept art for the dragon! It looked so !@#$% cool - Optimus Prime duking it out with a multi-headed beast-bot... beyond awesome!! Yes, we know who it is, but are not allowed to say. (It is not Hun-Gurrr.)
* While there, we learned a little about this idea of "Transformers through time" and why they are so keen on Earth. As was eluded to in Revenge of the Fallen, Transformers have been on Earth a very long time. This film will explore the concept quite a bit further as well as detailing further interatcions they had through the course of human history.
Next, we met Ivory Stanton, who serves as the Head Ager/Dyer signed my poster “Keepin’ it Dirty” along with Tyra Youland Ager/Dyer. Ivory, was particularly enthusiastic and invested in his craft. Like so many of these unsung heroes we met, his job may seem unglamorous, but without it, the movie stars would be less authentic and shine less bright. As we entered this department, they were aging a black leather cape. (Can’t say who it belonged to, but it looked super cool!) He described the exhaustive process they have been through to get the new and otherwise beautiful piece of leather to appear several thousand years old. It was incredible, seeing the amount of time, energy and talent it takes to make a scene and everything in it appear so authentic.
Just before we left , he said, “Woah, waitaminute! I know something you guys would find cool!” Pulling out his phone he showed us images taken at a recent shoot. The photograph showed the tattered Decepticon flag seen in the movie banner above.
This flag was produced by his department and Ivory was kind enough to provide us with what he called, “Flag Swag!” some of the tattered shreds of what had been cut from the flag. It will now forever adorn my Movie Decepticons toy shelf, and perhaps can serve as a cape for TF5-TLK Megatron!
In the last leg of the tour, we visited a second set piece, even more elaborate and impressive, where filming another scene with Mark Wahlberg and Laura Haddock was taking place. Even more than the first set/scene, what we saw the actors do and where they were cannot be divulged. Suffice it to say it was another MASSIVE Cybertronian-technology set, with deactivated robots, floors, walls and passageways. What impressed us here again was how little of what’s seen on screen is CGI. Wish we were allowed to take pictures! You’ll just have to trust me when I say, you’d be amazed how much of what you see is handmade, and how little is CGI!
During our time here, I had the chance to shake hands and meet Kevin Cerchiai – Boom Operator for all Transformers films, Andrew Cooper, Still Photographer for set and filming, Dave Deever Video Assist Operators, and Marc Brown who records footage that will be used in “Behind the Scenes” features when the film is released on Blu-Ray/DVD.
Between takes on the second set, Michael Bay was nice enough to swing by and say hello to our group. We talked about the grandeur of these enormous set pieces and all that we had seen this day. He was, understandably, guarded about discussing plot details of the upcoming film. While he’s not exactly an “unsung hero” I think most of what he does day-to day goes largely under-appreciated. That’s not to say I agree with every decision he’s made with respect to plot or artistic direction of these films, but there’s no disputing the talent and energy he has invested over the years is pretty remarkable.
Between takes, I was hanging back near one of the background green screens. At one point I was shocked to notice Mark Wahlberg standing right next to me! He was talking to one of the cameramen about this protein shake he’s been using and was happy about. With poster in hand, I was about to aks for an autograph when I had to do a double take. WAIT, this wasn’t Mark Wahlberg! It was a different cool dude named Dan Mast, who is Mark Wahlberg's stunt double. Too funny, their likeness is so remarkable he even had me fooled in real life! A very nice guy he too signed my poster just before we made our way to the final leg of our tour.
Near dusk, or as they call it on set, “Magic Hour.” Michael Bay was about to film a Facebook Live segment with Barricade. Before they began shooting, we had the chance to get up close and personal with this Decepticon: Barridade. This boy in blue, literally now *in blue* was looking more bad@$$ than ever!
We would like to thank everyone at Paramount Publicity and Digital Marketing for hosting us and showing us such hospitality on this wonderful day! We would also like to extend special thanks to all those, “unsung heroes,” the hard working men and women of the crew on the set, whose labors often go unnoticed or under-appreciated to bring our beloved Transformers to life and seem so real, on the big screen. Here’s to all of your hard work and dedication!
We at unicron.com and TFDb are ecstatic to have received an advance copy of the first ever release of Transformers The Movie, on Blu-Ray. Between us Lukis Bros, I'm sure we've seen it well over a hundred times. We've studied its beautiful animation frame-by-frame. We can recite every carefully thought out line of dialog - well, except maybe other than Blurr's because we can't talk that fast! We can sing every song llyric and hum every note of its exqusite score. Between us, we own every known version of its release, from the infamous VHS cassette with Spike's "Oh shit! What're we gonna do now?" edited out, to the 20th Anniversary DVD, and many more in between. So, the question is, does a 30th Anniversary Blu-Ray release have anything for discerning fans like us to get excited about? The answer: YES!
Let's start with the packaging. I like the art of IDW Transformers Comic artist Livio Ramondelli, but I'll admit I think there are other artists, in my opinion whose style would have been better suited for this film cover. Even if you don't care for the new art, there's good news. One can reverse the sleve and have the cover image from the original Japanese home media release of the movie.
TFTM - Blu-Ray Case
So, sure. The new case and art are cool. But, it's what's inside that fires me up! At the time this article was written, the digital download site was not yet available. So, therefore, I simply took photos of my TV screen with my iPhone to use as comparison. For what it's worth, my new home theater set-up is pretty awesome, including a 65" Ultra HD Samsung with 4K Blu-ray player. For me, on this screen, the differences between Blu-ray release and every version prior are EXTREME and DRAMATIC! Of course, for now, I don't have time to frame-by-frame analyze the entire film (maybe someday!) So for now, we'll analyze just a few frames in the opening scene, which will serve as a useful comparison. Let's start here, Unicron's great feast!
Below, the opening sequence featuring Unicron's annihilation of the planet Lithone. To get a fair comparison, on a computer screen, let's zoom in on Unicron's equator. On the left, the Remastered 20th Anniversary DVD. On the Right, the new 30th Anniversary Blu-Ray.
Next, let's zoom in on Unicron's feast itself. Each image is cropped but otherwise unaltered photo taken with my iPhone of my television screen. The far left image of the 2000 "Collector's Edition" DVD. Middle image is from the 2006 "Remastered, 20th Anniversary DVD," and on the right, the new 2016 Blu-Ray.
As I said, the difference is dramatic! Don't get me wrong, if you have a lousy television, you might not see the difference. But if you look closely on a viewing system worthy of this Blu-ray, be prepared to be blown away. Let's look look a few frames further. Remember when Unicron's tractor beam starts lifting Lithonian citizens off the ground and tearing the planet apart? One thing I NEVER noticed, Arblus, Kranix and a third Lithonian scientist can be sceen looking out their laboratory window! The detail has been there all along. We've just never seen it before! This is the frame I'm talking about. Look closely, right in the middle...
30th Anniversary Blu-Ray Image, See Arblus, Kranix and a third Lithonian Scientist looking through the window?
Below, image is from the 20th Anniversary Remastered DVD
Don't feel bad if you didn't see this before! Until now, it's been nearly impossible to see. Below we offer a cropped, zoomed in view.
The bottom line: if you are going to bear witness to the total annhilation of your world, you want to see it in Ultra High Blu-ray definition. Side by side, these images are pretty remarkable. I've recently rewatched the entire film in both formats and have to say, the differences are pretty awesome. It was like sitting in a movie theater seeing paint brush details in background, crisp lines and details that I had never seen before.
Still frame from 2000 Collector Edition DVD
The same scene on 2016 Blu-Ray
The new edition Blu-ray will finally be released to all Tuesday September 13, 2016. Click here to order standard version on Blu-ray or the Steelbook Blu-ray on Amazon.com. Click here for the complete press release. More info and images will be provided as time allows and when they become available to us.
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2016 - TFTM Blu-ray Stills