Written by: Michael Dance, Special to CC2K
CC2K unearths some of the original writing that led to Michael Bay's upcoming sequel.
If you want spoilers for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, look elsewhere. This is a look at a treatment — a scene-by-scene synopsis that serves as a precursor to an actual screenplay — dated October 2nd, 2007, and it outlines a plot that sounds drastically different in almost every respect than what we'll see in July. So why bother at all? Because we're all movie geeks here, and this is a fascinating look into the development process. Read it now, then come back and read it after the movie comes out to see if any of the ideas made it into the shooting script — or if they all died an anonymous death sometime between 2007 and today.
I should start with what the treatment doesn't contain. There's no Captain Lennox or Sergeant Epps (Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson). No mention of them whatsoever. There's no college professor (played in the upcoming movie by Rainn Wilson) and no character named Alice (played in the upcoming movie by Isabel Lucas). Even more importantly, there's no trip to Egypt and no pyramids — although oddly, a significant plot point does revolve around Las Vegas's Luxor hotel, which is shaped like a pyramid.
And finally, the two biggies: there's no Fallen — the title on the treatment is simply "Transformers 2" — and there's no happy ending. The ending is really crappy and depressing. It leads me to believe that this was written to be the middle part of a trilogy, with the intention of shooting a second and third film back-to-back, a la the Pirates or Matrix movies.
The treatment opens with a lengthy and extremely expensive-sounding prologue set on Cybertron, the Transformers' home planet. At first it sounds like way too much for people who didn't see the first movie to understand: "The fate of the Allspark will not be that of our own. This is Starscream's vow, his rallying cry, as his protoform screams past us."
But it turns out to be pretty simple: Megatron's dead, so Starscream is the de facto Decepticon leader. He claims he's discovered a new energy source on Earth and rallies his followers to return there, but a faction of Megatron loyalists, led by Soundwave, take off for Earth first with the intention of grabbing the energy source first and resurrecting Megatron. All the meanwhile, an Autobot, Hot Rod, is spying on the Decepticons, and takes off to warn Optimus Prime after learning that they're returning to Earth.
We switch to Earth to get some grounding. Sam (Shia LaBeouf) is already attending NYU; he's brought Bumblebee with him, but they're both unhappy because Bumblebee's not getting the action he needs in the cramped city. (The clip that premiered at ShoWest showed Sam back in California telling Bumblebee he couldn't go to college with him, so this all sounds like it's moot.)
Sam has an annoying Asian roommate named Shige, who's hindering Sam from going out and making real friends and getting popular. Before the Revenge of the Fallen filmed, the producers offered Jonah Hill, who's definitely not Asian, the role of Sam's annoying college roommate. Hill turned it down. After that, I heard they had gotten rid of the part entirely, so presumably this is the early version of it. (No wonder they got rid of it; Shige doesn't do anything and seems to disappear well before the climax.)
Mikaela (Megan Fox) is still back in L.A., in a temporary long-distance relationship with Sam: her dad's getting out of prison in a few weeks, so she's fixing up a classic car for him as a present; after he's settled back into civilian life, she's heading up to New York to be with Sam.
Soundwave and his gang land in the Atlantic Ocean and dig up Megatron's body to resurrect it. They manage this with a lot of exposition-y nonsense: since Soundwave can produce sound, and sound is a form of energy, and energy is what the Transformers need to survive, then he can resurrect Megatron…just by using a lot of sound. I guess. The Achilles Heel is that Megatron's now awakened body will be stuck being dependent on Soundwave's energy forever. (Bay has insisted Megatron doesn't appear in Revenge of the Fallen, but recent screenshots prove otherwise, so this part may actually make it in.)
Hot Rod also returns to Earth, crashing into the water just off the California coast, and scans the Ferrari of a "high profile action movie director" who's driving by. (A random Michael Bay cameo, I guess.) Hot Rod then rushes to tell Optimus Prime — who's hanging out watching over Mikaela — that the Decepticons have returned. Optimus orders Hot Rod to take Mikaela to Las Vegas to "confront an old friend."
Mikaela speeds off in Hot Rod ("You've never seen anyone wear a car with the kind of sexiness Mikaela does this one") and calls Sam to fill him in. Sam has briefly wandered into a rip-off of The Fast and the Furious — he and Bumblebee have just won an illegal street race that Shige roped them into, which seems like a tacked-on action scene even by summer action movie standards — but upon hearing that the Decepticons are returning, he immediately decides to rush to Las Vegas to meet up with Mikaela. Shige happens to be in the car (er, in Bumblebee) at the time, so he goes along, too.
That's basically the first act. And it's a solid one, although as I hinted before, I'm not sure how the opening on Cybertron would look — the treatment is very vague in that regard. But once we get on Earth, all the pieces fall into place economically: Sam's in New York, Mikaela's in California, she goes to Vegas, he embarks on a cross-country road trip to meet up with her.
There's not much of a second act, really, because the "climax" sounds like it takes up a good half of the movie. Mikaela meets up with Agent Simmons (Jon Turturro), who introduces her to a retired government agent named Linus Ellison (not listed among Revenge of the Fallen's cast) who unloads a LOT of boring exposition about an underground power source running from Vegas to the Hoover Dam. Meanwhile, Sam has a hiccup on his road trip when he's stopped by six construction trucks which all join together to form the Devastator — which does appear in the film, although I hope in a stronger capacity, because this one feels very tacked-on. It basically gives Sam something to do during his road trip. Other Autobots come to his aide, and they all continue rushing off to Vegas.
Then comes the climax, a big battle in Las Vegas between the Autobots, the Soundwave-led Decepticons that are loyal to Megatron, and the Starscream-led Decepticons. Oh yeah, and the humans, who basically hide underground. Sam and Mikaela finally reunite, but their reunion lasts all of one scene before they're split up again.
That's one of the major downfalls of the script: the movie sets up some kind of big Sam and Mikaela reunion as its main "human drama" and then yanks it away from us.
As the movie ends, the Autobots are in retreat, Megatron is in control of Las Vegas, and Sam thinks Mikaela is dead, even though she's not. The end.
Yeah, so, I'm glad this isn't the actual movie — especially with Michael Bay insisting he's going to wait three years before tackling a third Transformers, which implies that things get wrapped up slightly better than they do here. While there are a lot of things wrong with the treatment, one I haven't covered is that it's way too Vegas-centric. Sure, we start out in California and New York, but once the story hits Vegas, it dies there. What are the implications on the Vegas battle for the outside world? What is the U.S. doing about evil Transformers taking over a large city in Nevada? Are the Decepticons planning on expanding, taking over the world? Why do they let the Autobots run away?
And where the heck are Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, and pretty much every Transformer except Megatron, Starscream, Soundwave, Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, and Hot Rod?
Reading this has actually made me excited to see Revenge of the Fallen; if it takes a handful of this treatment's better ideas and rejects the rest in favor of a cooler story, we should be in for a treat.
I don't know one way or the other, of course — I just don't want you to mistake my complaints about this treatment as complaints toward the actual movie, because that would make me an idiot: I know exactly as much about it as I did before I read the treatment.
But like I said, it's a fascinating look at the process…