'Transformers' Real Star? Apple Notebooks

Maybe There's 'More Than Meets the "i" (Eye)' to Cupertino's Placement
in Summer Blockbuster Film... Art Imitating Life: the Mac 'iLife'

by Joe Leo, Columnist

COMMENTARY: 7.05.07-- Let's take a moment to recognize the uncredited star in what may turn out to be Summer 2007's biggest hit, "Transformers." No, it's not the GMC vehicles easily-recognized onscreen, it's not Hasbro's iconic 1980s action figures turned-live-creatures-via-CGI onscreen, and not cell-phone maker Nokia. Say hello to? Not the iPhone silly, but Apple Inc.

Actually, let me step aside here to patriotically say, the day after July 4th, that the movie in a way pays homage to our troops and the thankless jobs they do to preserve our freedom.

Okay, back to Apple. I wasn't first to recognize it, in fact, they mentioned it on the local news during their "business & tech" segment. They did a piece on who was behind the special effects and CGI--Industrial Light & Magic (ILM)--and then mentioned eBay and Apple getting plugs in the movie, all based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Case in point, in the film, mankind's savior Sam Witwicky (played by a grown up Shia LaBeouf of the Disney Channel's "Even Stevens") uses his wicked wits to make some cash off of his great grandfather by selling some family antiques/relics on eBay. After making a presentation at school and, shamelessly, announces to his class that the items he just shared are available for bidding on the electronic auction site, he heads home to check the items' status on his?

14-inch iBook. Courtesy of Apple. (Though, we're not implying that Apple inked a deal for onscreen advertising in the film, nor specifically provided that notebook for use in the movie. Maybe GMC did with all those cars used in the movie). I believe it was a 14-inch iBook because there was what I thought were spaces to the left and right of the keyboard, as opposed to the 12-inch model which did not have such. We'll have to wait for the DVD release to freeze that frame.

Later in the film, some room in the Pentagon where military officials, the Secretary of Defense (played by veteran--not military--actor Jon Voight), and a college graduate-aged "geek squad" working for the NSA, or National Security Administration, all have their sights focused on computer screens which at first, look generic enough to be any widescreen display, but when the angle shifts to a sub-main character in the film, we see her gazing into?

An Apple Cinema Display. From Steve Jobs in Cupertino. From the looks of it, they were the middle range 23-inch models. Distinct Apple logo on the backside of the screen. Which we only see after the angle changes to show the "geek squad" looking at their screens when the camera takes a step back, the actress peering into the display to analyze the info on her screen.

The film's plot twists and thickens, and in order to not give away details for those that may not have seen it yet, we'll just say that an uninvited guest (not a robot) visits the Secretary of Defense to bring him some news. Mr. Secretary doesn't have time to see or hear it, but the uninvited guest presses on and finally gets his meeting with the government head. They both sit down, and the uninvited guest pulls out of his briefcase a?

15-inch PowerBook G4 (or it could have been a MacBook Pro). Designed by Apple in California. At first, to my enjoyment/excitement, it looked like a 12-inch PowerBook G4, which then, would have been a PowerBook for sure since there are no 12-inch MacBook Pros. And it was shiny aluminum. The angle of the PowerBook and ports arranged neatly on the left side led me to believe it was the former famous ultra-compact notebook from Apple.

It could've even been a 12-incher used for the close-up shot. And then for better visuals, maybe they changed to the 15-inch one to show more power with its size. We see the telltale spaces to the side of the keyboard that illustrate the notebook's size as the camera takes a step back to show the Secretary of Defense peering into the Mac notebook's screen.

Of course, the best part is seeing the "front" side of the notebook's lid with its glowing logo!

Why Apple? Well, maybe to show the strength of the military. The FBI has been reported to have used Apple notebooks with OS X because of higher security than Windows-based PC laptops. It's a no-brainer to have a high-school kid toting the tough and rugged iBook.

Plus, I like the iBook and PowerBook correlation. Yesterday's mobile Mac powerhouses. As opposed to their Intel-based and recent iterations, the MacBook and MacBook Pro. Why use an old iBook for the kid and a newer MacBook Pro for the government. It's all about the "Power-."

Then again, Hollywood has been known to use Apple machines in films a lot to symbolize a character's personality. Heck, even to stand for good and evil. The good guys use Macs--when's the last time you saw a Mac used to cause harm--and the baddies use PCs.

(That's probably why as cool as it would've been to see a PowerBook morph into a walking robot like a Nokia cell phone did, we didn't, since all the mini robots were big baddies... Decepticons!).

Being a journalism teacher who discusses the mass media's role in society, I've mentioned to my kids about how Hollywood is a big player in the media. (In fact I just did that here last week in regard to Apple and the iPhone and the whole media factor involved). Hollywood has a way of reflecting culture and mimics everyday life.

Art imitating life, life imitating art. In this case, art imitating the Apple "iLife."

Maybe having Apple prominently displayed on the big screen shows how today's society is slowly being transformed and exposed to the iconic Mac culture. More and more people are slowly buying Macs these days, and the number one hardware seller is their notebook line.

Maybe there's "more than meets the eye" to this story? There is! Stay tuned...

note: more on this story in a future piece that has been planned for quite sometime but placed on the backburner. It came from an article awhile back in a UK-based Mac magazine, which sparked an idea--no pun intended to relate to the "Transformers" movie there, "spark"--then was only strengthened from a trip to a Fry's Electronics store, and then seeing the movie "Night In a Museum" over the holidays... that's how long it's been sitting on the backburner!