DETROIT – At a hollowed-out intersection in downtown Detroit, production for “Transformers 4” (also known as “Age of Extinction”) is well underway. Cars in various states of distress litter the streets, as a breeze pierces the wide-open holes carved out of a nearby building. Architecture that resembles an unspecific location in China is arranged haphazardly, as if exploded from its foundations. And a tiny delivery truck, overstuffed with various kinds of flowers, lines up just a few feet off camera as Michael Bay prepares to call “action.”
Some four hours later, Bay is still waiting.
With a worldwide gross of $2.675 billion dollars, it might have seemed inevitable that Paramount Pictures would return to the “Transformers” well for a fourth installment. But rather than simply stretching the first three films” rubber band of a script further in order to accommodate another series of fights between the same Autobots and Decepticons, Bay himself has helped re-conceive the franchise into something, well, if not entirely new, then at least marginally different. But that of course doesn”t mean that he”s sacrificing any of his trademark “Bayhem” – which is why minutes stretch into hours as he prepares a shot that will match, if not exceed, the explosive bombast of the film”s predecessors.
Perhaps having exhausted the creative opportunities the director hoped to explore with the no-longer-famous Shia LaBeouf, Bay this time enlists his “Pain & Gain” leading man Mark Wahlberg as the star of “Age of Extinction.” Playing a father whose mechanical tinkering lands him in the middle of an intergalactic battle between the two camps of transforming robots, Wahlberg gets to tap into both his fortitude as an action hero and his appealing goofiness as a luckless dreamer, scrambling to rescue his daughter (Nicola Peltz) while dealing with her new boyfriend (Jack Reynor).
While on set – and waiting for that shot to happen – Hitfix spoke with several members of the cast and crew, including Bay himself, who throughout the day spent increasingly more time with the small group of press that Paramount gathered to witness his spectacular vision. (Look forward to in-depth interviews, coming soon.) But as the golden hues of magic hour dappled the set, Bay ensured that every car was positioned, every charge was set, and every imaginary robot was flexed and ready to go. And then, with multiple cameras running, and a double-decker bus intervening between the crew and the set in case of raining debris or fallout, Bay rolled camera.
“Action” barely covers what happened next.