Sunday, June 12, 2011


Hey guys, Javi, here briefly back from my hiatus to just talk about my recent Botcon/Michael Bay/TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON experience where we were treated to the full opening scene and about 10 minutes worth of spoiler free clips showing off the use of 3D in the movie.  I was really hoping that we would have been the first people in the world to take a look at this footage, but turns out this was the same 3D demo reel that was shown off at the "3D A Transforming Visual Art- A Conversation with Michael Bay and James Cameron" even that /film covered a while ago.  Either way it was a great experience
For those "not in the know", Botcon is the rapidly growing annual Transformers convention set up by the Transformers Collector's Club every year.  There are panels, script readings, behind the scenes looks at upcoming toys, and an overpriced dealer room! The big draw is always the exclusive toys as well as the fun of the convention experience.  This was a particularly fun year as I got to meet and hang and drink with a lot of my Twitter buds. (shout out to all of you guys!)

During each of the years that a movie has come out, Botcon goers have been privy to exclusive first looks at the movie.  In 2007, they were the first audience to see the completed movie, and in 2009, there was a clip, and this year during the second annual Hall of Fame Event, which took place on June 4, we knew that Steven Spielberg and Michael Bay would be inducted, and that we would be receiving the new Cinemasks for the occasion (for those wondering, I got the Optimus). So it felt very obvious that we would be at least getting a clip of the movie. There were suits, a VIP section, and even Tyrese "Left Cheek" Gibson showed up, so the buzz in the room was pretty high with anticipation. 

Michael Bay accepted his statue for the Hall of Fame and talked about the production of the movie and how it was going before introducing the 3D reel which was mostly a clip show. Please be advised of potential spoilers ahead:

My overall impression of the clips is that I get the feeling that this movie will look AMAZING.  The opening scene involved, once again, the Cybertronian civil war as narrated by Optimus.  In it we see the Ark, the ship you see in the trailers crashing into the moon, trying to avoid enemy fire and zipping through a wrecked structure and out into space. The first scene ends with The Ark crashing on the moon and a lot of scientists back on Earth detecting the crash.  I want to point out the the 3D here looked amazing, and I'd compare this style more to HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON than to AVATAR in its effectiveness. The sense of depth felt very smooth and organic, and I was rather impressed....That is until we got to the humans. 

You see, the set up of the movie is that President Kennedy, when he's not busy enough dealing with mutants, creates the space program to figure out what the crash means, and so we get a pretty cool montage of the space race up until the lunar landing. This montage was very awkward especially since they used old footage of Kennedy spliced with a really bad look-a-like. It immediately felt "rushed" for a set of scenes condensing 8 years of history into 4 minutes. 

After the initial scene, we get a few clips showing off the action scenes.  The first big one we see is Bumblebee with Sam and the unnamed red Ferrari chasing a Decepticon on a highway.  The Decepticon knocks over an 18-wheeler carrying building supplies and huge metal pipes to lose the Autobots, and as they are about to crash, in slow motion, you see Bumblebee transform into a robot, eject Sam from his body, knock over debris to protect Sam, and transform back into a vehicle, and all of this with really great 3D.  The portion of the sequence where Bumblebee is knocking the debris over is particularly hilarious given Shia LaBeouf's expression.

There are a few quick clips showing the new "Stealth Force" modes allegedly created by newcomer Wheeljack.  Stealth mode has been show in trailers before, where Bumblebee transforms to deploy a ridiculous amount of weapons while staying as a Camaro.  There was also a very quick clip showing the Wreckers in action.  For those that don't know, the Wreckers are typically an elite unit of Autobot soldiers who have a very rotating cast of members given their high-risk missions.  In the movie, they are depicted as NASCAR cars (is that how you say it?), and just like Bumblebee, they come with a crazy amount of weapons even as vehicles. 

The next scene seems to pander once again to the 3D effect, but it's pretty effective so it doesn't really matter.  We basically got an extended look at the "worm" destroying the building, and Jet-Optimus Prime flying to try to destroy it.  If you have seen any of the more recent trailers, you have seen part of it.  In this extended version, you see Optimus making a pass at the worm, turning back around, blowing up a huge part of the building itself (aren't there humans there still?), and then flying through the hole he created to attack the worm once again.  As I write this, I start to realize just how many flying/air shots there seems to be.  I'm sure those scenes aren't JUST there to show off the 3D, but it sure seems that way without context.

The famous flying squirrel soldiers were shown in the longest of the clips.  We see them flying towards what appears to be a war-torn Chicago.  The attacks come from all over the place from flying drones attacking the carriers and knocking quite a few out of the sky.  We see the main ship carrying Epps and Lennox (Tyrese Gibson and Josh Duhamel), and see how nervous everyone is.  The dialogue is typical of what you would expect from a Michael Bay movie, so there's nothing new there.  As the fleet of ships approaches the city, more aerial drones follow the ships until we finally see Starscream coming down and slicing ships apart with a chainsaw in his arm.  When the soldiers finally jump out, we have yet another awesome HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON moment with the soldiers flying through the obliterated cityscape.  Once again, I am very impressed with how seamless everything feels.  When you see a soldier fly in front of one, it feels right, it doesn't feel like layers on top of each other like say, CLASH OF THE TITANS. 

The last new clip that we get is what appears to be Soundwave aiming a gun at Bumblebee, which left the audience gasping.  We were then treated to seeing the 3D trailer that was recently attached to PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STARNGER TIDES

So overall, I have a very mixed reaction to the movie clips.  I'm going to see this movie with many reservations even if I am a fan of the franchise as a whole.  The visuals are what's going to drive this movie to success, and the 3D has forced Michael Bay to have more long shots in his actions scenes, which alleviates a common complain from the second movie where no one knew what was going on half of the time.  In every single one of these clips, you could follow the action properly, and it was a more fun experience than the exhausting REVENGE OF THE FALLEN.

Unfortunately, as we have seen in previous clips, the actual dialogue, acting and potentially story, all seem to be lacking.  I'm thinking of the clip that shows Rosie Huntington-Whiteley's "acting" chops, which gives me chills to look at.  Recently, accidentally leaked the plot of the movie through a graphic novel listing. I know of at least one person who read it, and who's opinion I trust that assured me the plot isn't much better than the second movie, even if it is darker. 

So am I still pumped? Hell yes, I'm pumped. Most of my favorite mainstream Decepticons are in this movie, plus it's a completely different tone from the first two, and I am also aware that those minute things such as acting and plot aren't the strong suits of these movies.  Will this be better than the second one? Let's hope so, but I'm not holding my breath. What I am excited for is once again seeing a movie that HAS to be seen in a 3D theater to get the full experience, which given this reel is exactly what we will get. 

TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON comes out June 29th 2011. Directed by Michael Bay, stars Shia LaBeouf, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.

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