For those of you who lost all faith in Michael Bay’s hidden-robot franchise after the last mess that was Transformers 2, take heart: Transformers: Dark of the Moon may just restore your hopes.
Bay and James Cameron, whose groundbreaking Avatar camera rigs Bay used to create the 3D effects in his third installment, got together for a moderated conversation set up on the Paramount lot by The Hollywood Reporter on May 18. As fascinating as the tech talk was (ummm….what did anyone in this audience know about beam splitters and shutter speeds and interocular convergence? Although one--ahem--astute attendee from a local college actually asked Cameron how film students could get hold of cameras like the ones used on Avatar…riiight) what everyone was really there to see was 15 minutes of the movie.
If you want to know what we saw, read on. If not, stop now because there are SPOILERS.
If you’ve seen the trailer, you know astronauts on the moon find a giant hulk of a ship, or something, has crashed on the dark side of the moon. The first five minutes of the movie show the setup to this: Optimus Prime briefly narrates the warring history of the Decepticons and the Autobots, and how the Autobot ended up on the moon. Then in the early ‘60s NASA discovered something had landed up there, and in a really cool blend of new and historic footage, it’s explained that this mystery is the real catalyst for the first lunar expedition – although the public is never told. Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong returned from the moon with something—who knows? locked away in a top secret box.
After this we were treated to a montage of scenes from the movie: Bumblebee interacting with Shia LeBeouf, Decepticons racing up and down buildings, the ubiquitous Ken Jeong, new to the franchise, pulling out a pair of guns while yelling “Who wants some dinner now?!” new girl Rosie Huntington-Whiteley in all her full-lipped glory. One cool scene showed Shia and an Autobot roaring down the highway, almost getting hit by an exploding car, at which precise moment the Autobot turned from car to robot to save Shia from certain death and back to car again with Shia inside. Cue applause...
An extended sequence really showcased the 3D – the air battle in Chicago. Decepticons have mounted an assault on the troops in helicopters, so Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson and other soldiers leap base-jumping style (Bay revealed that after seeing the best base jumpers in the world on 60 Minutes he hired them for the stunts, complete with cameras strapped to their heads) out of the choppers and thanks to their winged uniforms, whiz in and out and around the tall city buildings. Just the shot following the men as they leap from the helicopter was enough to take your breath away. END SPOILERS While Avatar showed us what 3D could do in an imaginary world, this movie brings 3D to all new levels in the real world, and it looks insane – at least this footage did. As long as there’s a decent story to be told to go along with the effects, Transformers 3 could be the year’s biggest movie.
Bay said he was not initially sold on 3D until Cameron convinced him to use it, and both men agreed that movies shot in 2D with 3D slapped on in post-production hurt the medium more than they sell it (“Bullshit 3-D is turning off audiences,” as Bay succinctly put it). Bay would still rather shoot on film, while Cameron’s a fan of digital. “Using the 3D cameras forced me to slow down,” Bay admitted, “where you usually can pan pretty fast, you have to really slow down to get the shot.” “Slow” isn’t usually a word associated with Michael Bay, but this apparently worked to his advantage—these action scenes were way more discernible than in Transformers 2. The director revealed that the movie was shot using 60% native 3-D, 15% digital, and the rest conversion shots.
When asked how much the 3D added to production costs, Bay estimated $30 million. “The question is, how many millions more will it make in 3D?” Cameron retorted. “I guarantee more than $30 million.”