Robot Wars
Drew Turney
Issue: Volume 40 Issue 4: (Jul/Aug 2017)

Robot Wars

Optimus Prime has gone rogue and all-out war has broken out between humans and Transformers, which have been declared illegal. To save Earth, the heroes of Transformers: The Last Knight have to learn more about the Transformers’ secret past – Transformers have been a part of history since the Dark Ages. The Autobots and Decepticons scramble to locate a magical staff that can control Earth’s fate, and in the process, they awaken knights of the Old World for continuation of an ancient battle.

It’s the latest in the long-running film franchise about the Hasbro toy line that’s 10 years old this year, has earned over $3.7 billion at the global box office (with no signs of slowing down), and with two more films already earning the green light to move forward.

Along with the action, the VFX requirements have only grown bigger for the franchise. Industry titan Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) served as the central VFX hub, completing about 1,100 shots, with its fingerprints in almost every scene.

London’s The Moving Picture Company (MPC) contributed close to 350 shots (250 of which made the final cut), working primarily on the submarine and under-water scenes, as well as a drone battle in an abandoned town.

The film features many familiar faces, both human and robotic, as well as some new ones. One of those is Cogman, Sir Edmund Burton’s (Anthony Hopkins’) acerbic bot butler. “It was the first time in a Transformers movie we had a character that functioned at a human level,” says David Fogler, ILM’s VFX supervisor.

“He is every single thing we’ve ever developed for making robots at ILM, and we’ve been doing it now for 12 years or so.”

According to Fogler, Cogman’s design is remarkably complex, though many of the details are barely noticeable on screen. All his internal parts function (moving gears and clockwork). Even his brass body — based on medieval armor — is covered with acid etching.

Drew Turney ( is an LA-based writer with experience spanning the film industry, from story to VFX.