Military Unites With Hollywood on ‘Transformers’
By Joe Davidson
Special to American Forces Press Service
LOS ANGELES, June 23, 2009 “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” hits theaters nationwide tomorrow as the culmination of more than a year of Defense Department support, ranging from script and uniform notes to C-17 aerial maneuvers and jumps from the Army's Golden Knights parachute demonstration team.
The first Transformers film released in July 2007 used a variety of Air Force assets. In the latest film, DreamWorks and Paramount studios partnered with all four services to highlight America's military members and combat power on the big screen. Deciding how and why to work with the services was essential in making the film work, producers said.
"There are really a lot of similarities between a military operation and a movie production,” said Army Lt. Col. Greg Bishop, the department’s project officer for the movie. “The mobility of the operation, the logistics and planning required, and the problem-solving skills required to pull the whole thing off are very much alike."
Transformers executive producer and director Michael Bay has worked with military leaders on other films and frequently consults with them to make action sequences in his movies appear more authentic.
"You know the first thing we're going to look at is that if you're going to fight these 32- to 125-foot robots, who else would you fight them with?" Transformers producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura said.
Like its predecessors, the latest Transformers movie uses hundreds of military members from all the services and from throughout the country to make the film feel more realistic.
"I enjoyed being able to walk on the set and there are a hundred real soldiers as opposed to walking on and it’s a hundred actors from Orange County or L.A. in fatigues," said Megan Fox, the film’s female lead actor. "It was just an overall pleasant experience, and I have an immense amount of respect for the soldiers and for our troops."
That realism extends to military equipment as jet fighters roar from the deck of an aircraft carrier to the recoiling sounds of M1-A1 Abrams tanks firing 120-mm rounds at their deceptive and at times overpowering foes.
"What [the military] bring to it is obviously a sense of reality. But for us what is most interesting about it is our interaction with them," di Bonaventura said. "Because you actually get to see these people who have made a life choice and the honesty of that choice comes through each and every time you meet these guys. So, for us, that's the really exciting thing. We get to hang out at the base and see the joy they get out of being a part of us, and you also see us get affected by their level of commitment."
This latest Transformers film shows an extreme example of what the military does in everyday life.
"Though the 'enemy' in this film are alien robots, we strove to make the depiction of operations as realistic and accurate as possible,” said Capt. Bryon McGarry, the Air Force project officer for the movie. “As in real-world operations, we go to 'war' against the Decepticons in the film jointly to achieve coordinated, balanced and devastating results. If they ever came to Earth, we'd be ready for them."
DreamWorks and Paramount pictures have given permission to provide special screenings of “Transformers, Revenge of the Fallen” at bases that provided support for the film and also aboard the USS John C. Stennis.
(Joe Davidson is assigned to The Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base).