Between the brawling robots, blatant product placement, and manic Michael Bay-o-vision camera work, subtlety is at a premium in Transformers: Age of Extinction. But there is, as the old jingle promised, more than meets the eye for the observant moviegoer, who will be rewarded with some nifty Easter eggs. Here are seven we spotted.
1. Good way to kill those rollover minutes
The “Remember Chicago” billboard is one of the few passing acknowledgments of the previous movie, Dark of the Moon. That hotline number, ostensibly to allow citizens to report suspicious alien cybernetic activity, really works. Go ahead, give it a ring, we’ll wait.
2. When you wish…
Early on, while we’re down on the farm with Mark Wahlberg, there’s a picturesque wide shot of the darkening sky. Suddenly, in the upper right quadrant there’s a shooting star straight out of the Steven Spielberg playbook. Why the hat-tip to the master? Spielberg is an executive producer of the Transformers franchise.
3. Robot in (deep) disguise
When we first see Optimus Prime he’s taken the form of a rusted-out wreck. The flat-fronted “cab-over” truck is a nod to the original Freightliner design of Optimus from the 1980s toys and cartoons. Bay took a lot of fanboy heat when he revamped Prime for the movie series and this looks like his way of poking the critics. Optimus eventually reverts to a streamlined Daimler tractor. (Also of note, Optimus’s rival semi in the film, Galvatron, transforms into a spiffy new Freightliner truck.)
4. Flexing some muscle
Meanwhile, fan-favorite Bumblebee is hiding out in the guise of a modified 1967 Camaro SS before upgrading to a 2014 model. The ‘67 Camaro is one of cinema’s go-to muscle cars — perhaps most memorably as John Cusack’s sweet ride in Better Off Dead.
5. Michael Bay, the Brony
While showing off the elastic property of the “transformium” element that gives the robots their shape-shifting ability (yes, it’s really called transformium), a goofy lab tech (James Bachman) turns the blob into a series of different objects, including various weapons and, briefly, the My Little Pony character Rainbow Dash. My Little Pony is, like Transformers, another lucrative Hasbro toy-turned-entertainment juggernaut, albeit much cuddlier.
6. That guy with the guitar?
During the climactic battle, the camera lingers on a dude with a guitar in a convertible full of women. The camera lingers in a way that makes you feel like Guitar Guy is important, but chances are most U.S. moviegoers will be perplexed about his identity. Say hello to pop star Han Geng, a former boy bander and actor — think the Hong Kong Justin Timberlake.
7. …And the one in the elevator?
As our heroes attempt to flee evil CIA operatives in an alley, they receive the unlikely assistance of some random butt-kicking dude hanging out in a lift. You might not recognize him, but his hero moment is bound to go over big in Beijing. Meet Zou Shiming, China’s first-ever Olympic gold medalist boxer.
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- Before They Were Transformers — Early Toy Versions of Optimus, Grimlock
Photo credits: Paramount; Paramount; Paramount/Hasbro; Paramount/BetterOffDeadCamaro.com; Andrew Cooper/Paramount; Andrew Cooper/Paramount)