Although it’s a year before the movie is scheduled to hit theaters, the first trailer for the Transformers movie is now online. The basic premise: Even though we were all told that the Beagle 2 Mars rover crashed on the Red Planet in 2003, it was actually destroyed by marauding alien robots. (Quoth the preview, “It was the only warning we would ever get.”) Most of the trailer is an extended sequence of the rover rolling down the ramp for the first time and going through instrument checks, ostensibly taken from an onboard video camera. The detail on the craft is stunning—if you look closely, you can even spot the little “USA” graphic emblazoned on its wheel hubs.
All fine and good, except the Beagle 2 wasn’t a rover at all. It wasn’t even American. It was a low-cost British probe designed to flop onto the planet and drill directly into the soil. No wheels, no airbags, not much of anything that’s shown in the trailer. That’s probably because the rover in the trailer was clearly based on the design for NASA’s twin Mars Exploration rovers, which have been happily roaming the planet for the past two and a half years. Of course, happy, healthy rovers couldn’t have been destroyed by evil robots, now could they? And so director Michael Bay uses arguably the most successful space mission in history as an implicit example of failure. Sometimes you just can’t win. —Michael Moyer