Optimus Prime wielding a sword and riding a fire-breathing Dinobot is the epitome of the last instalment of the Transformers franchise, a film series that is heavily based on excess, sensory saturation and, here and there, a total lack of self-consciousness.
Over the past years I have come to realise that enduring a movie directed by Michael Bay has the same effect on my body as a session at the gym: I feel the tension in my muscles during the screening and my nervous system recalls it the day after. Judging by the way people around me in the cinema were hanging on to their seats during the 164 minutes of Transformers: Age of Extinction, I guess they were feeling the same way. The only difference is that you don’t get better abs when it’s over.
The result is that either you find a way to get through the “Bayhem”, or your body simply rejects it. The latter happened to me years ago while watching Pearl Harbor and I fell asleep after one hour of continuous explosions. Paraphrasing Dr. Strangelove’s title, from then on I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb(ing). Because, more than any other director on this planet, a Michael Bay film is a physical challenge, even more so if it is screened in a theatre like the IMAX, specifically designed to enhance the experience.
Although the last chapter of Transformers seems to reproduce the general principle ruling the previous ones, “the bigger and noisier, the better”, I am not going to address the overall promotional campaign for the film that started more than a year ago. I’ll focus on a more specific part of it here, based on the premise of Transformers 4: the fact that now, four years after the battle of Chicago which takes place in Transformers: Dark of the Moon, all the robots that are hiding are being tracked down.
Arranged in the form of fake special news reports, several viral videos were released in the last few months. The following is focused on Optimus Prime’s decision to protect the people of Earth despite having being betrayed and hunted by the army.
More videos followed and were later listed on a specific website called Transformers Are Dangerous, created to promote the film through a non-conventional marketing campaign.
There are several entry points to this digital space of the storytelling. The official social media accounts for the film clearly mention the Transformers Are Dangerous website, so the clue is pretty easy to spot. Then, if you log to the main website for the franchise and scroll the Menu in the home page, you can jump to the subordinate platform by simply clicking on the last option of the drop-down list.
Of course the videos themselves make a clear reference to check in to the website, to which you are invited to subscribe in order to receive news and updates on the sightings. Moreover, I saw the film at the BFI Imax in London and right before the screening, among the standard promotional images depicting the characters, the following two specifically designed for the viral campaign were shown:
On the Transformers Are Dangerous website you can browse a map of aftermaths and sightings from Rio De Janeiro to Tokyo. Each city listed features additional content, such as more fake news reports, articles from newspapers and audio files of phone calls from around the world reporting on sightings.
But if you prefer to get engaged through social networks, you can take part in the #FindOptimus initiative by tweeting a photo for the chance to win prizes (see the Transformers Truck UK Tour here). Enjoy the search!