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The Transformers Preview Review: a (p)review?

Written by: Rob Van Winkle, CC2K Staff Writer


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Isn’t Star Wars Cool? I think so too. SEE AUSTIN POWERS!

To the best of my knowledge, the trend started with Austin Powers 2: movie previews released before the film it was promoting was finished, or even shot. THAT preview pretended from the beginning that it was about one of the new Star Wars movies. It talked about an evil man who was coming back after a long absence, while we saw shots of space and spaceships. The reveal was Dr. Evil, who might or might not have said something lame like “You were expecting someone else?” (In fact, while I’m only going on memory here, I would bet good money that the tag line at the end of that preview was “If you see only one movie next summer…see Star Wars. If you see TWO movies…see Austin Powers.”).

As far as I was concerned, this was a pretty stupid idea. Star Wars and Austin Powers are two vastly different movies, and while there are certainly some crossover fans, it’s not a foregone conclusion that the people who go to one will attend the other. (Also, the fact that the Star Wars movie that AP was tying itself to sucked was also a bad decision, in hindsight.) More importantly, the word “preview” indicates that you are going to get a look at the final product, before you see the whole thing. This was more of a tease, I guess, but things like this only excite the movie geeks and fanboys out there, the very same people who were already going to see it anyway, no matter what.

The next such preview that I remember seeing was for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It too contained no material from the film itself, and excited the people in the theater who had grown up with and loved the books (i.e. me), and had the expected response from everyone else .  Without having thought about it, I think I concluded that this particular brand of movie tease was a dud.

All that changed this past weekend, thanks to The Transformers.

I was sitting through the fifteen minutes of movie previews that preceded Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest when it came up.

{jgibox title:=[My review of Pirates of the Caribbean in three letters and a punctuation mark (click to read)] style:=[width:500px;]}WTF?{/jgibox}

It began with a stock footage shot of a rocket launching from Earth, and heading off into space. At this point, no one has any idea what it could possibly be promoting.

The screen goes to black, and words coming up reminding us that, in 2002, a probe was launched into space to observe Mars. At this point, still confused, I am wondering if it’s promoting a non-fiction documentary, or another Independence Day-like alien flick. It could almost literally be anything.

We see more stock footage of the rocket, now in space, jettison it’s thrusters, and send the payload hurtling toward Mars. When it goes to black again, these words appeared: “We were told it was lost.” It returns to show us grainy, incomplete footage of the Mars probe landing, and taking its first shots of the Red Planet.

Okay, from this point on, I was COMPLETELY hooked. What a great setup! Again, without knowing in any way what was coming next, I already had the same Blair Witch Project “This isn’t real…but it COULD be!” vibe, with a setup that was at least as intriguing.

At the climax of the piece, we are all at the edge of our seats, trying to peer past the probe’s camera’s POV and see what’s coming next. However, as any good filmmaker knows, actually seeing what’s coming next would be a letdown. Instead, as that Mars probe turns its camera to a new angle, we see a huge looming shadow, a whoosh of activity, and then nothing.

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The teaser talks to guys like this. Do you really think he’s on the fence about the movie?

Friends, I was ALREADY prepared to see this movie, no matter what it was. Therefore, when I THEN discovered that I was being teased to see The Transformers, I was stunned. As I stated before, teases with no movie footage are really only meant for supreme movie and comic book nerds, and I qualify for both of those things. I LOVED Transformers as a kid. I had all the toys I could get my hands on, and viciously coveted the ones my friends owned. I watched the cartoon religiously, going so far as to make strict arrangements with a friend to have him tell me everything that happened on part one of the Optimus Prime re-birth storyline when I had to miss it for Hebrew school (and you questioned my use of the word “religiously!”) Hell, I even read a few issues of their dreadful comic book! (Let’s face it: the thrill of Transformers was the tactile joy of manipulating them from one shape to the other, or at least watching it happen on TV. Still drawings of such things just made the whole thing feel a bit weird, no?)

My point is that I am among the population of people who were going to see Transformers no matter what; an appropriate tease for me could have been nothing more than the logo, and an opening date. Yet they went the extra mile and created a tease that was pitch-perfect from start to finish, at least until the last four words*. If there’s any justice, this effort will be rewarded with huge box office numbers. This trailer truly was more than meets the eye.

My Grade: E (I think we all agree that Entertainment Weekly has cornered the market on the traditional high school grading system as a way to rate movies, and Roger Ebert has a stranglehold on thumbs (and his name). So, I am officially beginning an elementary school grading system for movies, as follows:

N – Needs Improvement

S – Satisfactory

G – Good

E – Excellent)

*Directed by Michael Bay

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Author: Rob Van Winkle, CC2K Staff Writer

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