Like two guys passionately conversing about hot-rod cars, directors James Cameron and Michael Bay kibitzed last night about the current state of 3-D and its use in the latter’s upcoming summer tentpole Transformers: Dark of the Moon. The night’s moderator at the Paramount lot presentation, The Hollywood Reporter's Jay Fernandez, introduced the evening with a clip of Bay accepting his 2009 ShoWest Vanguard award in which he slammed the visual format; claiming he would never be a practitioner of it.
Bay recalled that a visit to the Avatar set eventually changed his attitude toward 3-D. He was baffled by Cameron’s excitement over obtaining great 3-D algorithms during the shoot. However, Cameron egged Bay to lense Dark of the Moon in 3-D: He fervently adores Bay’s fast sweeping camera work and has longed to see such sequences in 3-D.
Unlike Cameron, who takes his time shooting 3-D and possesses a finesse with the equipment, Bay has little patience for the cumbersome cameras and prefers to shoot rapidly. Thus he refused to be slowed down during Dark of the Moon. He swelled his production ranks (he deployed many of the 3-D Avatar team) and took some chances. One notable shot in the film makes the viewer literally jump off a skyscraper with three windsurfers -- a feat Bay pulled off with a 3-D helmet cam. In the end, Bay kept Dark of the Moon on the same 19-month schedule as 2009’s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Now Bay confesses he's a 3-D convert.
It’s apparent that Bay took notes from Cameron on mastering the visual form. Similar to Avatar, the 3-D in Dark of the Moon isn’t "in your face," rather it places the audience in the center of the action-- in the middle of a collapsing skyscraper that’s attacked by a Decepticon, or getting thrown around with Shia LaBeouf as he’s thrusted out of a transforming Bumblebee and pulled back into the driver’s seat.
For a sequel to succeed at the box office, its stakes, in some form, always need to trump its predecessor. In the case of Dark of the Moon, the mindblowing 3-D should satisfy those audiences emptying their wallets for the ride.
Hence, 3-D could experience a boom again this summer at the B.O. after such visual also-rans as The Green Hornet, Drive Angry 3-D and even Cameron’s own production Sanctum.
The cost for good 3-D: $30 million. “That’s the gamble,” said Bay about a film’s potential to click with crowds. “The problem is that so many [studios] have done it badly that the audience is getting turned off by 3-D. “Maybe after they see Dark of the Moon, they will realize how hard we worked to make really good 3-D from day one -- that it wasn’t an afterthought. And that’s the problem word -- many treat 3-D as an 'Afterthought.'”
[Image: Bay on Dark of the Moon set, courtesy of Paramount]