-by Frank Todaro
for The Allspark
This past week, a few sites from around the world were invited to attend a mysterious Transformers related event.  None of us knew who was going or what to expect, only that it was in Hollywood and was connected to Paramount, as that was who initially reached out.
So we got there the day before the festivities, and one by one met the familiar friendly faces of our fandom, as well as some new ones from around the world, raised a drink at the hotel bar in preparation for the still mysterious next days activities (later meeting our hosts at a local Dave and Busters).
The following morning, we all boarded a bus in an unusually misty California as we were taken to Universal Studios to check out Transformers: The Ride.  It was this roving reporters first time on the thing, so I was naturally blown away.  Literally, given some of the physical effects.
After that it was back on the bus to Paramount Studios where we had lunch with the most adorable remote control Squeaks just before being split into groups and taken on tours of the lot.   I for one was elated to see certain outdoor features featured on the program “Community” and several Star Trek related locations throughout, as well as Hitchcock’s office and Lucile Ball’s office now the home of Allspark Pictures.  Great name.
We were then treated to some behind the scenes looks at the folks actually making Transformers 5: The Last Knight!  All together now, we were given a tour of Technicolor where  we were walked through two enormous sound studios and had brief Q and A sessions at each.  This was also our first glimpse at actual footage from the movie. Everyone involved was kind enough to field questions from our merry band, even giving up their seats so that we could sit at their very consoles as they guided us through just how the magic was made.  Absolutely brilliant.
After that, we got to meet the “cast” of this new film, in vehicle form at least.  A quick photo session with ol’ Prime himself, as driven by the REAL life Optimus Prime, stunt-driver/transport coordinator Randy Peters, was followed by our introduction to several of his other vehicular compatriots, namely Bumblebee, Crosshairs, Barricade, Drift, and what I was told by one of our guides was ‘Mohawk’ the motorcycle, a name that has been bouncing around already, so take that as you will.
Back on the bus for a brief break then it was onward towards the mystery main event.
We drove.  In the rain.  It seemed to be about 45 minutes. Then we arrived at BAY FILMS!
We were met by Mr. Bay himself who after introducing himself personally to each of us, took us on a tour of the facilities, his office, and later his private editing suite where he showed us some variations of several scenes from the movie itself at various levels of completion.
First of all, what an absolute honor  to be included in such an amazing event and welcomed into the “inner sanctum” so to speak. It was wonderful witnessing firsthand from Mr. Bay just how much he lives and breathes his work, and it was tremendously kind of him to take the time to walk us through the process, and generally “hang” with us to talk movie making, giant robots and everything in between.
We had the privilege of seeing approximately 23 minutes of footage in IMAX format later that evening, after which Mr. Bay jovially exclaimed that he wanted to “vomit in the corner”, a reaction which was the perfect indication of how much he invests himself in making every second of his work align with his vision. In spite of this, the actual footage was engaging and fun and showed that this installment is obviously planting the seeds for further story elements, unfinished as it was. The film seems to be starting a new plot line and status quo for the cinematic universe, taking bits of what came before but, even more so than the previous offerings, doing it’s own thing. The new characters we were introduced to were fun and endearing, one previously unseen one sure to be a fan favorite. COGMAN, a bipedal humanoid sized robot that appears to be inspired by old pocket-watches, who seems to be a butler of sorts to Anthony Hopkins’s character, and referred to by him as a “Head Master” (emphasis on the “Master” in the way it was said, as though speaking about the head of a school).  He is voiced by none other than butler-extraordinaire Jim Carter, who some of you will recognize as Mr. Carson in Downton Abbey.  I am a huge fan of these last two sentences.
Without giving too many details, the action sequences we were shown in the footage are definitely next-level, being bigger and more intricate than what we have seen before in the franchise.  The locations were greatly varied in land, sea, air and time itself.  The footage we saw included what appears to be the movie’s opening, a medieval battle field with weapons all bearing an intricate motif similar to the sword we have seen in promotional images already.   Now I don’t want to spoil the actual narrative for you guys, so I’ll leave out what the dialog reveals for now, however I will say that a comedically drunken Merlin does seek out what ends up being that three headed dragon Transformer we saw in earlier previews within that section of the movie, and it all looks pretty darn epic!   Earlier that evening, Mr. Bay showed us just how much of what we saw in this particular battle scene was practical effects, and let me tell you, there is quite a bit!  He showed us versions of these same scenes that still included the rigs that made certain elements enter and leave the scenes (again, not wanting to give too much away here) as well as some of the rather dangerous stunt work involved and the folks that had to put out the fires afterwards.  Literally.
On that note, what really blew me away personally was getting to sit with Mr. Bay in his production office as he walked us through the process step by step, showing us clips in various stages of completion, casually getting excited about the new innovations he and his team made to create what we would see on the big screen later that night. That excitement in sharing what has taken over his life as of late was inspirational and I believe fostered a new appreciation for the process in all of us.
I for one can’t wait to see this film in IMAX 3D as, according to Bay, it is the best (“only”) way experience this one (90% being filmed in true native 3D IMAX format!). But more so, I am excited to see the final result of a team that was kind enough to let us peek behind the curtain, and watch this film “Transform” into what is sure to be a fun ride.