I think it’s safe to say that there are many people who openly dislike “Transformers 2: Revenge Of The Fallen.” And, after sitting with him for a half-hour yesterday to talk about the third chapter in the giant robots franchise, I’d say Michael Bay is one of those people.
And just wait till you see his apology.
There will be a new trailer for “Transformers: Dark Of The Moon” that appears in front of “Fast Five” next weekend, and Thursday morning, a small group of us met at Paramount to see the trailer, a chunk of scenes from the movie, and a 3D sizzle reel. And the trailer is, in a word, outrageous. The scale of this film is so different than what I thought it was that I’m almost at a loss to describe it. It’s not even the same genre as the first two “Transformers” films. This time out, Bay is making a full-blown alien invasion movie that just happens to use Autobots and Decepticons, and the result looks like the craziest action movie ride this summer.
And, yes, I’m prepared to say that after just one presentation. I’ve certainly had my problem with some of Bay’s films over the years, but he is as in love with pure action for the sake of action as any filmmaker working right now, and it looks to me like he’s gone out of his way here to build scenes that no one’s ever done before. It also looks like he’s embraced the idea of 3D as a tool to enhance those action scenes, and like he’s having fun with the pure little-boy-game of imagining giant robot mayhem this time.
There was certainly an emphasis on introducing Rosie Huntington-Whiteley to us through a number of clips that played up the relationship between Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) and Carly (Huntington-Whiteley). When she ends up trapped in Chicago after it’s been taken over by Decepticons, Sam has to go into the city to find her, setting off what looks like one of the wildest series of scenes that Bay’s ever orchestrated, and he was given unprecedented access to the city’s resources to help stage his invasion. The result is a sense of urban chaos that I’ve never seen staged on this scale.
And “scale” seems to be a big word for this film. We saw battle sequences set on the home planet of the Transformers. We saw a crazy accident on the moon, and we saw what happens when all the robots scattered there by that accident finally wake up. We saw a jaw-dropping sequence involving soldiers jumping out of a transport over the city and using cutting-edge flight suits to glide down to the ground, racing between buildings as they do. We saw a piece of a scene involving an attack on a skyscraper where the Decepticons appear to saw an entire building in half using a giant sandworm-looking robot that burrows deep into the building while the human heroes struggle to find a way to ride it out in the upper half of the building.
We’ve been asked not to go through all the footage beat-for-beat, but honestly, I don’t think I could even if I tried. The footage was that overstuffed with imagery. What I can tell you is that if you hate the sense of humor from the first two films, you’ll probably hate the sense of humor in this one as well. One of the major themes of this film is the stress of finding your first real job, something that Bay sees as a major rite of passage akin to getting your first car, which was the sort of emotional heart of the first film for Bay. In the footage we saw, Sam interviews for a position at a high-tech company, and John Malkovich is positively chewing scenery as the guy interviewing him. We saw another scene involving Ken Jeong and a men’s room that was positively manic, ending with a “Three’s Company” style joke about what Jeon and Sam were up to in a stall.
But the emphasis was on action in the majority of the footage, and it looks like things get very personal for Sam in this one, and like he’s learned some new tricks that help even the odds when he has to face the Decepticons. We saw a chunk of an alley fight between Starscream and Sam in which Sam reveals that he’s been given some new weaponry, including a grapping gun glove of sorts that seems fairly effective.
For me, the imagery I can’t get over is the stuff involving the jump suits. To give you an idea what I’m talking about, check this out:
Now imagine you launched eight of those guys off the top of the Trump Tower and then dropped a cameraman after them who was wearing a 3D camera as a helmet.
Yeah, that’s happening. This summer. At a theater near you.
The tone of the film seems to be fairly brutal, and the first encounter we saw between Autobots and Decepticons ended “Day Of The Dead” style for the bad guy, with the Autobots literally pulling him apart. Optimus Prime in particular seems ready to kick ass and take names, and this new banner image, provided for us today by Paramount, shows off that new attitude of his, as well as the state of Chicago in the film:
I’m not telling you right now that “Transformers: Dark Of The Moon” will be a great action movie, but I will tell you that Bay seems to have set some big goals for himself, and that he seems as hungry as I’ve ever seen him. It feels like he has something to prove, if only to himself, and I’m excited to see what his finished film looks like.
“Transformers: Dark Of The Moon” arrives in theaters, ready to take over the world, on July 1, 2011.