Entertainment » Movies

New Kids on the ’Transformers’ Block

by Sean Au
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Thursday Jun 26, 2014

What can you say about the "Transformers" franchise that has not been said before? The fight between the good (Autobots) and evil (Decepticons), explosions on top of explosions and a soundtrack that incessantly pushes the resilience of one's aural sense. Director Michael Bay's outlandish but detailed vision; how the franchise catapulted the careers of Shia LaBoeuf and Megan Fox and how Fox's criticism of Bay buried her. Beyond Hollywood, "Transformers" has become the poster child of what Hollywood's new business model: gigantic tentpoles that are cinematic events, with the foreign market eyed as its top prize because that is where a lot of new money is now. For better or worse, this development takes the setting of many mass market appeal movies out of the U.S. A good portion of this latest Transformer installment was set in Hong Kong and China.

After three movies in five years and a combined box office of 2.6 billion dollars, "Transformers: Age of Extinction" is touted as a reboot with a new cast and a new class of Transformers known as Dinobots. Mark Wahlberg now leads the franchise, playing Cade Yeager who discovers Optimus Prime, the leader of the Autobots disguised as a rusty old truck. Optimus must now fight against extinction by the man-made Transformers. Adding to the leading cast are Nicola Peltz who plays Yeager's daughter Tessa and Jack Reynor as her race-car driver boyfriend Shane. Lending their talents to voice various Transformers are Peter Cullen, Frank Welker, Robert Foxworth, John Goodman, Ken Watanabe, John DiMaggio and Reno Wilson. Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer and Li Bingbing round up the human cast.

Early reviews reinforce the strength of the "Transformers" franchise. "Industrial Light & Magic again provides an orgy of visual effects and animation," notes Maggie Lee of Variety. "delivering lightning-fast, acrobatic movements from the colossal Dinobots, and conjuring the man-made Transformers from graceful cubic formations." Drew McWeeny of Hitfix sharply pens that a review on a "Transformers" movie is basically an exercise for critics to entertain other critics, citing that the film "more than delivers on whatever promises Bay makes to an audience at this point. Giant robots. Giant mayhem. Destruction on a global scale. You know what you're in for if you buy a ticket, and Bay seems determined to wear you down with the biggest, craziest 'Transformers' movie yet."

With a reboot on the franchise, two fresh human faces are roped in. Nichola Peltz who plays Mark Wahlberg's daughter is best known for her role in "Bates Motel" in which she plays the troubled high school teen Bradley Martin and had appeared in M. Night Shyamalan's unfortunate "The Last Airbender." Peltz is set to star in Kevin Asch's "Affluenza" opening in July, a film about constituents of the upper class of Long Island, New York caught up in the events leading to 2008's financial meltdown. Appearing as Peltz's tough young partner is Jack Reynor who has appeared in the Vince Vaughn comedy "Delivery Man" and the acclaimed Irish film "What Richard Did." He will soon be seen with Toni Collette in a human trafficking story "Glassland" and will appear with Marion Cotillard and Michael Fassbender in Justin Kurzel's adaptation of "Macbeth." Just as their predecessors in the previous "Transformers" trilogy, it should be exciting to see how these two rising stars will do with their fame.

EDGE gets more from Nichola Peltz and Jack Reynor ahead of the new "Transformers" trilogy's opening.

What to expect?

EDGE: What can the audience expect from this ’Transformers’ reboot?

Nichola Peltz: A lot of explosions. TJ Miller is in the film and he is so funny. A lot of comedy. There is a beautiful human element to it, a great dynamic between Jack, Mark Wahlberg and myself. The father-daughter story and a lot of amazing Autobots and Decepticons.

Jack Reynor: This film is going to have a different feel than the previous ’Transformers’ films. We picked this one up a couple of years after the war in Chicago. There, humanity at large is aware of Autobots and Decepticons Transformers although they are not really fully comprehensive and understanding of that. It is a case of people having a lot of fears for Transformers as a whole whether it is Autobot or Decepticon. The Autobots themselves have reached a place where they are quite weary and jaded with humanity and its flaws. At the heart of the film, like Nichola says, it is the human dynamic between my character, her character and Mark’s which tries to restore their faith in humanity.

Insider’s view

EDGE: As young actors coming into this franchise, what kind of expectations do you have?

Jack Reynor: It is something that I have never undertaken before, a studio film of this calibre so I did not know what to expect. I was coming in as somebody who has always been in the audience watching this. Coming from that into the production of a film this size was really an amazing experience. I really had a lot of support from my other cast members of course, from Michael Bay and an awful lot of people. It was a fulfilling and worthwhile experience to have.

Nichola Peltz: This is definitely the biggest film I have been a part of. I am very new in this business. To be able to work with Mark Wahlberg, Michael Bay and Jack and everyone who is part of this film, it was very exciting for me to learn from them.

EDGE: How was your experience acting in an effects-heavy movie?

Jack Reynor: Nichola and I say it all the time that it is funny that we thought there would be more green screen and more CG than there was but Michael’s policy is that he likes to have everything as practical as he can.

Nichola Peltz: It helps us so much. When we were in Detroit, he made this set that looks exactly like Hong Kong, it is mind blowing, these big sets. Being an actor, being able to have the tools to feel like you are in the middle of these big sets, explosions and so many things that are actually real, that helps us so much. Obviously with Bumblebee and Optimus, we are talking to poles with faces, besides that it was all pretty real.

The human connection

EDGE: Michael Bay is better known as an action director, in this movie, do we get to see scenes that focus on human emotions?

Jack Reynor: Very much so, and I think that that is something that we are focusing more than previous films in a lot of ways. Again, this is a case where robots are great to have in a film, explosions are great and car chases are great, but in order for those things to legitimize, in order for you to be able to sell the thread, the intensity and the pace, you have got to convey that with your human characters. That is something that we tried to invest a lot of energy into this film. I think it is going to be interesting for people to see the dynamics between these three characters.

Nichola Peltz: This film definitely has a beautiful human element to it. I was really excited to be able to play Mark’s daughter and have that father-daughter story. There are human elements at moments in the script that is going to make the film very beautiful.

EDGE: Which of these are more challenging to you: the action scenes or the emotionally charged ones?

Nichola Peltz: I guess each scene has its own challenge but it is all a lot of fun for us. Working with people is nice but working with Optimus, with the poles, you have to use your imagination. We trust Michael so much, what he does with these robots is mind blowing. It is very exciting to act with a pole and then to see in the trailer and film what Michael does with these robots is amazing.

Jack Reynor: It is a funny thing because the first time you stand in the middle of a set up with a washer pole in front of you that is supposed to be a robot, you think you are going to screw up so badly, they are going to cut it, they are going to go ’Get off the set! You clearly shouldn’t be here’ but honestly, once they call cut at the end of the first take, your confidence level just go up so much it really just grows from there.

Bay’s vision

EDGE: So there is a lot of acting with poles.

Nichola Peltz: Yes. They look just like... (pointing to the light stands in the room)

Jack Reynor: Yes, like any of these. (laughs)

EDGE: Michael Bay is known for being very precise in his style of directing. Share with us your experience.

Jack Reynor: He has an incredible vision. He really knows exactly what he wants to get. That is a great thing. It would be a hell lot more difficult if he did not. Michael will look at a frame and see something that nobody else will see and know that something needs to go right there as a piece of set dressing and it will make the shot, things like that. He really is a genius. The excitement that he has, as we go through the filmmaking process, is something we can draw for our own energy and for our own, to make it believable and really push it. He does the job of fifty people and it is incredibly intense. I do not know how he does it but he does it incredibly well and nobody makes these movies like him.

Nichola Peltz: He honestly is a genius. On these huge sets, he has to control hundreds of people and works with them, it is amazing to watch. His energy level is through the roof. Your adrenalin is running. It is fun. He moves very fast. He gets done in a day what another film does in a week. Being able to watch him work, you hear that he works fast but you will not understand until you are on set. That is amazing to watch.

"Transformers: Age of Extinction" opens in theaters June 27, 2014.


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