LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - They call a $150 million movie low-budget?
“Transformers,” based on toy aliens disguised as cars, debuts worldwide next Tuesday as a major Hollywood production that delivers big bangs for fewer bucks than comparable films, its makers say.
It is loaded with the kinds of effects, computer imagery and explosive stunts that in recent years have pushed the price of some movies beyond $200 million and, in the case of “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End,” to $300 million.
But the producers of “Transformers,” Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Ian Bryce, say they have spent only $150 million on “Transformers,” and they reckon they got a bargain.
Good early reviews and positive advance buzz could mean strong ticket sales for “Transformers” and show the rest of Hollywood that crowd-pleasing action movies can be made at a lower cost which, in turn, might spur more of them.
“We wanted to prove you could make a big movie and not cost what many of those other big movies cost,” di Bonaventura said in an interview.
In 1984, Hasbro Inc. launched a set of 21 toys that, when twisted and turned, transformed into alien robots. The toys’ mythology told of good aliens called Autobots, led by Optimus Prime, battling evil Decepticons, whose chief was Megatron.
Autobots want to live peacefully, but Decepticons want to destroy Autobots. If humans get in the way, tough luck.
The toys became wildly popular and gained a cult-like following among young men and women who, generally speaking, make up the core audience for major Hollywood action movies.
For years, the challenge of making a Transformers film was how to realistically and cost-effectively create 32-foot (9.7-metre) robots that could interact with humans on movie screens.
The increasing use of digital technology and the expertise of the film’s makers — including executive producer Steven Spielberg and director Michael Bay (“Armageddon” and “Pearl Harbor”) — took care of that.
Add low cost, rising young stars Shia LaBeouf and newcomer Megan Fox to the mix and, faster than a studio executive can ask, “How about Johnny Depp or Cameron Diaz?” Paramount Pictures and Dreamworks signed on to make “Transformers.”
“We made a decision not to go after the $10 to $20 million people,” said di Bonaventura.
The special effects wizards at Industrial Light & Magic wrote new computer software to transform 50-piece plastic models into digital robots with 10,108 moving parts.
Finally, Bay said he shot the live-action sequences quickly and on a tight schedule to bring the movie in on budget.
“Transformers” takes audiences on a wild ride around the world with Decepticons chasing Autobots, who befriend a teen-age boy (LaBeouf) and his love interest (Fox). The U.S. military blows up just about everything in sight to get them all.
“It’s ‘Transformers’ — you can’t take it too seriously,” said Bay.
Audiences seem to be responding. Paramount moved up the global release by one day and is holding early screenings in the United States on Monday.
Critics like the film, too. “Michael Bay’s actioner hits a new peak for CGI (computer generated images) work, showcasing spectacular chases and animated transformation sequences seamlessly blended into live-action surroundings,” wrote Todd McCarthy in show business newspaper “Daily Variety.”