Michael Bay and James Cameron talk 3D and show off Transformers 3 footage!
Wednesday evening, Paramount Pictures and The Hollywood Reporter played host to “3D: A Transforming Visual Art – A Conversation with James Cameron and Michael Bay.” Throughout the night the two filmmakers chatted about 3D and its future, past and present. The audience in attendance was also given a glimpse at Michael Bay’s latest, TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON. The fifteen minutes of footage shown included a ton of destruction, plus a really groovy scene involving “Bumblebee” that left a few members of the press shrieking with delight. Score one for movie magic!
When the conversation began, the evening’s moderator Jay Fernandez offered up a quick flashback of Michael Bay at Showest back in May of 2009. Michael was clearly ready for the joke as he asked Jay if he should be embarrassed by what we were about to see. Embarrassed? Well maybe a little. In the short video clip Bay commented that 3D, “Might be a gimmick, not sure.” Clearly he was not sold on wearing funny glasses in a movie theatre for two hours. Yet in 2011, after witnessing what 3D can do - thanks to Cameron’s AVATAR - he was willing to jump in the sandbox and play with the big kids.
"I took the AVATAR crew on for TRANSFORMERS as they're the best for 3D that there is," Bay claimed, adding that it was an exciting way to create a new film experience. This was echoed later on during the conversation by Cameron, clearly a pioneer in the advancement of 3D as it moves from theatres into our very own homes. "Within the next two to five being we will have have tablets and laptops which can be viewed 3D without glasses. We will have televisions with multiple viewer angles so we don’t need glasses there. And we will have 3D cameras for entry-level filmmaking." Cameron even went as far as to say that "all films benefit from 3D." All films…? Well we all know how much the man loves his technology.
“I haven’t shot on film since ’97 and I have no intention of going back now,” Cameron continued as he lent his knowledge to Bay who was taking his first journey into the technology with Transformers. And thing’s started out pretty rough considering all the wonderful footage they shot on the very first day of shooting was lost. "We lost all the work we did on the first day, the hard drive gave up, so that was a disappointment..." Bay bounced back, even though he had to slow things down a bit when it came to 3D. The faster that camera moved around, the more problems he had with focus and 3D. "We sent a guy with a camera spinning around the top of Chicago skyscrapers at 150 miles per hour. So you can do 3D quick, but it’s hard, very hard."
And these are not the only problems facing 3D. Cameron admitted what many say is 3D's biggest issue in the theater: brightness. "We need to place pressure on theatres to show 3D movies in optimal conditions. To show them at the brightness they're supposed to be seen, and not try to save money by dimming projector bulbs. We need to have excellent standards." During the discussion, the audience was told early on, no cell phones and no audio or video recording devices were permitted. This was mainly for fear of those in attendance taping the footage and putting it out there for the world to see sooner than expected. So that brings us to the footage and what we were shown.
First off, I was not a fan of TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN. To tell you the truth, I could barely get through the damn thing. Now here we have DARK OF THE MOON, which it is clear from the 3D trailer – one you’ll be able to see if you go see PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER’S TIDE in 3D – that this particular side of the moon presents some pretty dangerous Transform-a-beasties.
For fear of spoilers, I’ll give you a basic rundown of the footage shown. And keep in mind that this event was created to build hype for TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON. So did it work? For the most part yes, the footage was certainly exciting and the 3D worked quite well. The first five minutes offer up a surprising amount of exposition as to how we ever got involved with the Autobots. Some of it worked and some of it didn’t. Adding John F. Kennedy into the mix is a pretty ballsy move, not to mention changing history a bit. However, Transformers is far from any history lesson that I’ve witnessed.
We find that the entire reason that getting a man on the moon back in the Sixties had a lot to do with the discovery of a wrecked ship on the dark side of the moon… queue Pink Floyd. Ironically, much of the footage shown in the beginning didn’t really feel like a Michael Bay TRANSFORMERS flick, there are hints of ALIEN and even TERMINATOR 2. The opening sequence that takes place as one spaceship seemingly escapes from a much larger “mother ship” is really incredible.
When it came down to the rest of the footage, aside from the 3D trailer, there are a ton of explosions and one incredibly creepy looking snake like metal beast that is destroying buildings and anything else in its way. The effects certainly looked bigger and better than before. At one point a helicopter is attacked while the men are quickly jumping to safety thanks to these flying suits they have. It all seems very convenient if you have any intention of jumping from high places.
The most fun is had when “Bumblebee” – clearly in chase mode - is twisting himself while carrying a terrified Shia LaBeouf. He flips and spins and turns into his car self, with LaBeouf seated safely inside. It is a incredibly effective visual effect that manages to bring a little bit of wonder and makes it easy to believe in the impossible. It’s always nice to have a “how the hell did they do that” moment in a popcorn flick such as this. This fantastic bit is seamlessly pulled off by Bay and his crew.
The other scene which I found to be very effective is a shot of a large, glass building that breaks in half and comes crashing down on its side. Where this is in the finished project is hard to say, most likely near the end, yet it definitely ups the ante for Shia and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. The special effects are absolutely impressive, as is the 3D.
Of course at an event like this, when you see a limited number of scenes for an upcoming release, you are going to be shown the cream of the crop. We didn’t see much when it came to dialogue, so hopefully the third time out we won’t have as much of the misguided humor that appeared in REVENGE OF THE FALLEN. However, Ken Jeong pulling out a couple of pistols looked like it could be a worthy laugh or two, as long as it isn’t overused. We also really didn’t see the relationship between Shia and Rosie, so whether the two actors will generate any heat is yet to be decided.
After a night of 3D, my excitement level for Transformers: Dark of the Moon is raised. Ken Jeong looks hilarious and “Bumblebee” is kicking serious ass. Although until its release on July 1, we all have to wait and see if the third time is a charm for Transformers.