James Cameron and Michael Bay have many things in common. They are both dynamic, powerful and (in some respects) controversial filmmakers. They both have reputations as exacting taskmasters who will accept nothing less than as perfect a product (meaning as close to their desired vision) as is possible to achieve. They are also the men behind two of the top grossing films in Paramount Pictures history, Titanic and Transformers 2. Of course, Cameron’s other film, Avatar, hails as the top grossing film of all time…ever…anywhere in the known Universe.
Last night, we had the opportunity to attend a special event in Hollywood at which nearly fifteen minutes of footage from Transformers 3 was screened. Both Cameron and Bay were present at the event, and the two men engaged in a moderated conversation about 3D, and the use of 3D in Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Bay (who was under some amount of pressure to do so) was initially resistant to shooting the third instillation in his Transformers franchise in 3D. A conversation (or a few conversations) with James Cameron, however, helped to persuade him that his film was uniquely suited to 3D.
Bay is a self-proclaimed lover of “old-school” movie-making. The director extols the virtues of 35 mm film, prime lenses, and the tactile nature of classical filmmaking. “3D isn’t like that” Bay told audiences, “It’s all 1’s and o’s.” Meaning that the bulk of the decisions that are made that will effect the final look of the film exist in a digital reality.
When Bay visited the set of Avatar, he recalls Cameron telling him enthusiastically “Weta has some great algorithms!” To which Bay responded, “What the f*** is he talking about?”
According to Bay, Cameron eventually convinced him to give 3D a go when he said, “Michael we’ve done everything. You’ve got to look at this as a new toy, another fun tool to use to create the experience.” Bay quipped that Cameron had “sunk the Titanic” and as such could rightfully say he had done everything, whereas Bay himself still had a few things left to do.
Despite his initial resistance, Bay was convinced that the technology made (and makes) sense for Transformers 3. The two men did seem to have some differences of opinion, but both agree that a high-octane, visceral blockbuster summer thrill-ride like Dark of the Moon absolutely lends itself to the medium. This reporter has to agree with that assessment. Bay warned the audience before the footage was screened that some of the shots were not finalized, and some of the 3D elements were not fully in place (as there is a mix of native 3D and post-converted 3D in the film). The 3D that we were able to see, however, did in fact work to support the footage as an immersive, crystal-meth-level-intensity action film.
We will have more on the conversation, including footage from the event, this coming Friday. In the interim, we offer some insight on the nearly fifteen minutes of 3D footage we were able to view from Transformers 3, which included (roughly) five minutes of the film’s opening and a ten-minute montage of additional scenes.
Yesterday we were able to bring you the first clip from the film, which introduces Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley), Sam Witwicky’s (Shia LaBeouf’s) new love-interest. We hadn’t seen much from Carly in the previous trailers, and the clip really only offers a flavor of what she will bring to the film, but does give a sense of a more high-brow lover than Megan Fox’s Mikaela Banes.
Carly made a minimal appearance in the footage screened last night (essentially the same shots we had seen in the trailers). What we did see, however, was the entire moon-landing sequence – including a bit of background on the cargo that crashed on the moon in the midst of the war between the Autobots and Decepticons. We also got a look at a mix of archival and (what must have been) performance capture footage depicting JFK.