With the humility of the true artist we all know him to be, visionary auteur Michael Bay has acknowledged some of the missteps taken with his last flawed masterpiece “Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen.” The film was an arthouse smash, (actually the No. 2 movie of 2009 behind only the similarly-modest kitchen sink drama “Avatar”), and earned $836 million worldwide — though many filmgoers voiced their disappointment with the sequel — doubtless finding some of its loftier literary allusions and more obscure highbrow references to be lost on them.
Bay in response has vowed to address a trifecta of issues in his next low budget indie effort, “Transformers 3,” namely: a more coherent story, characters who, once dead, stay dead, and less “goofball” humor (which means the confirmation of no minstrel-y African-American bots, but John Turturro will return for his
handsome paycheck role).
Famed for his intimate, heartbreaking portrayals of everyday working class life Bay, standing in front of a run-down nuclear reactor (a typically low-key set that is in no way destined to explode), said "I'll take some of the criticism. It was very hard to put [“Transformers 2”] together that quickly after the writers' strike." And, it indeed would seem that the film may have suffered as a result of not having Bay’s usual rigorous rehearsal process, with actors being given less time to "find" their characters and fully develop their interpersonal relationships with the large metal Christ metaphors that haunt the oeuvre’s fringes.
Producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura agrees — adding his own harshly self-critical assessment: “"We tried to do too many things in the second movie, which didn't give enough time in any one of them. We were constantly jumping to the next piece of information, the next place." Such, we may hazard, is the major pitfall of working with Bay: simply too many ideas, themes and resonances; too much depth.
Fans of the hilarious slang-spewing Chaplin- and Tati-esque twin robots will be disappointed to note that Bay has ruthlessly excised them from the series: "They're basically gone,” he said. “One thing we're getting rid of is what I call the dorky comedy." And another major change is the cast line-up, with thespian Megan Fox being replaced by Rose Huntington-Whitely, whose decades of study at the Royal Shakespeare Society seem finally to be bearing fruit. And how does the film’s star Shia La Boeuf respond to the change? Like so many involved with a Bay project, he maintains that it is all about the characters, and his and Fox’s had simply become so spiritually intertwined that it no longer served the story:
"I love Megan and I miss the girl,but Sam and Mikaela became one character, and here... you have discovery again from a new perspective." Plus he gets to grope a different hottie in a push up bra.
Plot details are being tightly guarded, as we have come to expect from the enigmatic recluse at the helm. However, some tantalising hints have slipped through: the main adversary - villain is simply the wrong word to use for the complex, rounded creations we have come to expect of Bay — is going to be Shockwave, for whom, as ever, character is destiny (his character being that of the robotic-cyclops-turned-laser-cannon dictator of the Transformers’ home world, Cybertron, don't get him confused with Soundwave the boombox/tape deck character that briefly appeared in 'T2: ROTFL'). Mouthwatering.
And, excited as ever by the sheer quality of the writing, Di Bonaventura let slip a particularly classic line of Sam’s (Shia Le Boeuf). “I’ve saved the world twice," he reportedly says ” but I can’t get a job” — a perfectly crafted one-liner that still somehow encapsulates a unique truth to which we can all relate.
The film will also reportedly be set against the backdrop of the Space Race between the USSR and the US, but those expecting a dry history lesson from Bay should think again: "The movie is more of a mystery," Bay says. "It ties in what we know as history growing up as kids with what really happened." In less deft hands we might worry at the rewriting of history, but, no, we reckon this’ll be fine.
And those looking for closure after the roller coaster emotional ride we’ve been on with Sam and his robot cohorts will not be disappointed. Bay emphasises that this film “really builds to a final crescendo... As a trilogy, it really ends” But for the millions of us who will undoubtedly be left clamoring for more he also drops a crumb of hope that, like so many great artists he may return to his recurrent thematic concern of big shiny metal things hitting other big shiny metal things till one or both of them explodes: he says "I think it has a really killer ending...but it could be rebooted again.”
As we revealed back in February, "Transformers 3" will be shot in 3D, not to suggest that the previous films in the series were lacking dimensionality.