Top 12 Film Industry Stories of 2007: #3:
Michael Bay 'Transforms' '80s Toy Into Box Office G
By David Mumpower
December 31, 2007
Say what you will about Michael Bay. Sure, he is a overrated, overhyped, over-editing, overly HD-DVD hating, nonsense-spewing psychopath. He also happens to be a wildly commercial director. No matter how much of a garbage movie he spits out, audiences eat it up - unless it stars Scarlett Johansson and Ewan McGregor. This is why BOP tips its cap to Steven Spielberg for passing on the option to direct Transformers even though it would be his idea that Michael Bay would shoot. The reason why is simple. Spielberg is a methodical, patient director who slowly builds up a storyline over the arc of a film. With a toy-based property such as Transformers, nobody wants that. Instead, they want to see stuff blow up. They want thoughtless action. And when BOP thinks thoughtless (assuming such an act is possible), we think Michael Bay.
We knew Bay had gotten Transformers right from the moment we saw the teaser. It was perfect for mainstream audiences, perfectly bridging the gap between science and science fiction. A robot assigned the task of filming a section of landscape on Mars accidentally encountered a Decepticon with the end result being something along the lines of, "Stupid bug! You go squish now!" Rare is the movie teaser that electrifies the Internet in the way that this commercial did. Suddenly, all of the Hasbro lovers from the 1980s who went to sleep in Optimus Prime pajamas were made aware of the fact that the cartoon toys would be brought to life on the big screen, and the evidence was there that the movie would not suck.
By the time the full scale trailer was available for mass consumption, the Transformers watch had already reached a peak. The spots focused upon special effects that were truly special. A CGI-based Decepticon waged war in the desert against American soldiers and every moment it emerged from beneath the sand to attack again, people were stupefied by its realism. This feat speaks to the talents of the true heroes of Transformers, the computer programmers who showed particular loving care in ensuring that the toys from their youth came to life on camera. In an era when consumers are long past the point of saturation with regards to CGI, these code geeks somehow managed to create a fresh look for the menacing invaders from Cybertron.
When Transformers was released into theaters, fanboy expectations had risen to a fever pitch. Despite the extreme level of competition over the summer, this was a title that always stood out on the schedule as noteworthy to our staff. Even we underestimated its box office appeal, though. The Michael Bay production had exhibitions beginning at 8 p.m. on Monday, July 2nd. Even though it had only a couple of possible pre-midnight showings available on that day, the title still managed to earn more than any other production in release, edging Ratatouille by a total of $8.8 million to $7.6 million.
The pre-midnight screenings barely scratched the surface of what Transformers would do on its first full day of release. It earned $27.8 million over the next 24 hours, allowing its distributor, Paramount to trumpet the accomplishment of earning $36 million in its first 36 hours. At that pace, it would have surpassed Titanic at the start of day 25, but it did not quite hold up that appeal over the long haul, of course.