Well, you don't see this every day. A few nights ago, we were lucky enough to not only preview some footage from 'Transformers: Dark of the Moon,' but we got to hear a conversation about 3D with directors Michael Bay and James Cameron. A large group, including film students from USC gathered on the Paramount lot in Los Angeles to watch 15 minutes of footage and hear two titans talk about what it takes to shoot in 3D.
First, the footage. We got to check out the first five minutes of the film, which sets up the story. Back in the sixties, during the race to land on the moon, the government learned that something had landed there first. In fact, the moon shot was a secret mission to see what it was. We see a glimpse of the epic war between the Autobots and the Decepticons, narrated by Optimus Prime, and how the one thing that might have given the good guys hope disappeared. Yup, that's what's up there.
We got to watch the moon landing and what actually happened during the loss of communication. Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong are checking out the massive ship. They think nothing is alive...they're wrong. The footage is cut with real life shots of Kennedy and Nixon, though the actors playing them weren't perfect copies.
Then we got to check out a sizzle reel full of action, expanding on some of the scenes from the trailer. My personal favorite? The snake-like Decepticon wrapping it's way around a building and strangling it like a giant metal python. There were plenty of shots of Josh Duhamel and his cronies floating down over Chicago wearing flight suits. Bay explained that many of the shots were from 'birdmen' wearing 3D helmets. This...this is the Transformers movie I've been waiting to see! There was a great long shot of Shia LaBeouf tumbling through the air, only to be caught by Bumblebee and some great moments from Ken Jeong. I would watch that man sleep, he's so funny. (Yes, I know that sounds creepy!) There were a number of shots of Rosie Huntington-Whitely pouting and looking scared, but no dialogue yet. I'm going to reserve judgement until I see her act.
Finally we saw the new trailer that will premiere before 'Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides' this weekend. I'm going to go ahead and admit that I haven't always been a huge fan of 3D, but it looks pretty darn great here. Of course, this is the sort of film that sort of screams for it. During the discussion that followed, Bay and Cameron debated the ease of filming in 3D, with Bay complaining about it a bit and advocating for shooting native. Cameron extolled the virtues of 3D and digital alike. The two certainly didn't make nice for the audience, frequently disagreeing, but they seemed to have a great deal of respect for each other.
Bay had called 3D a ''gimmick' at ShoWest two years ago and we were actually shown the clip at the opening of the event. Cameron praised Bay for embracing it whole-heartedly. They disagreed about whether or not all films should be in 3D (and I'm sure you can guess who was pro and who was con). Cameron did agree that it would really take off once the glasses changed and we had home systems that didn't require them. Bay said he actually enjoyed shooting in 3D (though he sounded annoyed here and there and certainly described his crew that way) and ''playing with space.'' He also said that, though it didn't add a day to his budget, it added $30 million to the cost of the picture. Cameron made a point of addressing one of the biggest complaints; 3D darkening the picture. He said it was partially the equipment of smaller theaters, but said that many theaters were turning down the bulbs to save money. Naughty theaters! Still, it's a good point and film buffs should ask about it when they go to see a 3D film.
'Transformers' was shot about 30 percent on film that was then converted to 3D, and 70 percent with digital 3D equipment, and Cameron claimed he couldn't tell the difference. Well, neither could I. 'Transformers: Dark of the Moon' will hit theaters on July 1st, 2011.