Hoping for a recruiting and sales boost, the Pentagon and the defense industry pulled out all the stops to supply Transformers director Michael Bay (pictured below) with the fighter jets, warships, tanks, trucks and helicopters he needed to bring his giant-robots epic to life. The cost to Bay and studio Paramount? $25,000 an hour for F-22s, for starters, the Armed Forces Press Service reports:
Defense Department officials allowed Paramount Pictures to film at Air Force bases in New Mexico and California, and to rent military equipment such as the CV-22 Osprey and F-22 Raptor, which made their big-screen debuts in Transformers. F-22s run about $25,000 per hour, according to the rental scale established by the department.“You can’t go to Tanks R’ Us and rent a tank or a destroyer,” [Army public affairs Lt. Col Paul] Sinor said. “If you need that in the movie, you have to come to the military.”
The military decided to support the film after reading the Transformers script and noting the crucial role U.S. forces play in defeating the marauding Decepticons, according to AFPS:
When reviewing a script, [Air Force film liaison Phil] Strub said, he tries to put himself in the place of a servicemember who would see the movie. “I try to imagine myself sitting in a theater or the big screen, and how it makes me feel seeing how I’m being portrayed,” he said.Air Force Capt. Christian Hodge, who has served as the Defense Department’s project officer on both Transformers and [upcoming superhero flick] Iron Man, said military people typically enjoy seeing their services on screen. “It’s good for morale,” he said.
Hodge said there’s no way to measure the true impact Hollywood productions have on recruiting. But he said it’s hard to dismiss the message a big-screen production like Iron Man sends.
But what kind of message does it send when U.S. weapons are mostly bad guys, as in Transformers? In that film’s opening scene, a Sikorsky MH-53J Pave Low chopper-turned-robot kills thousands of Americans in a nighttime rampage. Bloomberg News posed the question a couple weeks back:
“It’s risky,” said Brad Brown, president of Los Angeles-based Brown Entertainment Group, which helps companies plan advertising campaigns and promotional tie-ins with movies. “I don’t want to be the bad guy. I want to be the good guy, or don’t use me.”
One weapons maker lobbied for a hero’s role in Transformers for one of its products but got offered a villain instead. Force Protection Inc., based in South Carolina, lent one of its Buffalo ordnance-clearing trucks (aka, MRAP) to Bay & co. to portray the murderous Decepticon Bonecrusher (pictured top and at left). At one point in Transformers, Bonecrusher slices and explodes a passenger bus and tosses minivans (full of families?) off of an elevated highway. “We’ve always believed promoting products through toys, and exposure to American youth would be a good strategy,” [Force Protection vice president Mike] Aldrich told Bloomberg. “We’re used to saving lives, not ripping people up.”
Even so, Force Protection gleefully promoted its product’s appearance, even featuring a toy Bonecrusher on its website (pictured left).