'Transformers: Dark of the Moon' new details: Moon crashes, crushed skyscrapers, and flying-squirrel soldiers

Transformers3

The new Transformers: Dark of the Moon footage shows a giant, burrowing robot with city-block-length metallic tentacles wrapping itself around the middle of a skyscraper and crushing it like a beer can.

The bad news for Shia LaBeouf is he’s on one of the top floors of the now hourglass-shaped structure, which is beginning to tip. Optimus Prime and the other Autobots have given them cover fire, helping clear a path through the decimated city of Chicago, but Decepticons are prowling everywhere, far outnumbering them. The bad ‘bots deal with puny humans easily enough: they’re armed with weapons that neatly reduce the city’s fleeing population to piles of smoking bones.

That’s what a small group of reporters got to see at Paramount Studios as Michael Bay previewed some of the upcoming movie.

“This one is a more mature storyline. It’s definitely darker,” Bay says. “When people see the movie, they feel it’s more emotional at the end. The stakes are higher because it takes place in an American city. You’re not as disconnected with Egypt and the pyramids, which are kind of otherworldly.”

As the footage plays on a massive screen at Paramount, Bay sits in the row behind a small group of journalists. He seems nervous, and wants to hear the verdict.

Read more below …

Transformers-3-Lebouf

Image Credit: Jamie Trueblood

There’s no way to judge Transformers 3 yet based only on these scenes (which Bay admitted choosing because they revealed little about the plot). But what we saw: Craaaazy!

Spaceship crashes on the moon. Squads of American fighter jets casually shot down in the sky over Chicago like flies sprayed with bug spray. LaBeouf’s Sam Witwicky brawling, man against machine, in a back alley with the Decepticon jet Starscream. (Hint: When fist-fighting a giant robot, it helps to have a grappling hook. And aim for the eyeball.) Wounded V-22 Ospreys slamming into each other as soldiers skydive between the colliding tiltrotor planes, then swooping through the city’s canyons on wingsuits, like flying squirrels, dodging Decepticon fire …

Like I said: Craaaazy.

The anything-goes canvas is why Bay says he likes this franchise. “Anything you imagine with Transformers makes it fun,” the director says. “When you do a movie like Bad Boys 2, there’s only so many things cops can do.”

Bay also has something to prove after 2009′s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. “You’ve heard what I’ve said about [the second film] and whatnot,” Bay says. He called that movie’s villain, The Fallen, “kind of a bulls— character” and acknowledged he needed to shed the goofball humor and craft more coherent battles. “Yes, people may have been turned off by it,” he said. “We may have gone a little south in the direction, but we were under the gun with a terrible writers strike.”

That led the production to commit to giant set pieces before they were fully thought out, since moving such a large crew around the world requires a lot of planning that can’t be easily or cheaply reversed. But even in the midst of acknowledging mistakes, he still notes: “You don’t make that much money on a movie ($836 million worldwide), and it doesn’t become No. 1 at the American box office that year if people hated the movie.” Well, it was No. 2 behind Avatar. But who’s counting?

Shooting in 3-D, which requires a steadier shot to be effective, led him to tame his more frenetic tendencies. Meanwhile, the humor in the film is still on the strange side, though Bay says it’s not as over-the-top as it was in the previous movie. John Malkovich plays a psychotic boss who torments LaBeouf’s Sam in the early parts of Transformers 3, and the film has two small robots who are aimed at making kids laugh. “They start out a bit goofy, but they have a huge comeback,” Bay says.

michael-bay

Image Credit: Jamie Trueblood

Will he gratuitously kill the jive-talking robot twins, two of the most hated cinematic characters since Jar Jar Bi– ?

Bay answers before the question is finished. “They’re not even in it. Not. Even. In. It,” he says.

The director spent approximately eight months working with screenwriter Ehren Kruger on the new script. (Bay’s inspiration for the crushed center of the skyscraper came while doing crunches at a gym, coincidentally.) They modeled the climax in Chicago on the true-life saga of Black Hawk Down, in which stranded American soldiers in Somalia had to fight their way out of Mogadishu alone after their chopper crashed.

The director known for always trying to top himself decided to make this one more of a lean machine after the narrative sprawl of Transformers 2. “I don’t want to say it’s bigger,” Bay says. “What I like about it is, we use the term ‘Black Hawk Down’ in that it’s a small group that you follow and there’s no cavalry coming. We tried to make the cavalry unable to come. It makes the movie more intimate.”

So Sam and the team of soldiers who have been paired with the Autobots since the first movie (led by Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson) make their way into Chicago after the Decepticons have seized control of it and reduced a lot of it to rubble – just what they have against the Windy City remains a mystery. The reason the guys are risking their lives is simple enough: Love. Sam’s girlfriend (played by Victoria’s Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) is trapped in that one ill-fated skyscraper. Wouldn’t you go after her too?

Transformers-3-Shia

Image Credit: Robert Zuckerman

“In testing this movie, audiences are like, ‘I don’t believe it at first, their relationship,’” Bay acknowledges. “But then they say at the end of the movie, ‘I understand it.’ You buy it more.”

Why don’t audiences buy it at first? Bay hints that he got the same reaction regarding Megan Fox in the other movies, and jokes that it’s Shia’s fault. “I mean, come on. How’s Shia going to get two of these beautiful women?” he scoffs. It’s true. He’s a good-looking dude, but the opening shot of her climbing the steps to his bedroom while wearing little more than a button-down shirt is enough to make any guy feel like a turnip.

Bay has been feeling self-doubt for another reason. The aftershocks of negative reaction to Revenge of the Fallen still sting for the bombastic moviemaker. Taking it to heart is uncharacteristic of Bay, who has always been a critical whipping boy. Even the screenwriters, however, have acknowledged the four-month Writers Guild strike during that movie’s pre-production phase led to half-baked ideas. Bay says he was reluctant to put the movie on hold because he is loyal to his crew, and it would have significantly pushed back paychecks they were counting on. (Screenwriter Roberto Orci recently said Bay “considers himself kind of a jobs program.”) “Listen, these guys, the men and women who work for me, they have families and I’ve worked with these people, a lot of them, 16, 18 years,” Bay says. “It was a s— position to be it. You promise a thousand people jobs and then all of the sudden, uh oh, a small group is on strike – three of our crew members.”

Bay wants to do better this time. “A lot of people on the third one would just check out, get a paycheck,” he says. “I’ve been working every day for two years, every single day, because I want to make-up for the second one. And I want to leave this franchise as best I can.”

Will he succeed? “You never can say you’ve done your best. You just try your hardest,” he says. “We’ll see when it comes out.”

Look for it July 1 (in case the new image from Paramount left any doubt.)

For more on Transformers and other movie news, follow EW’s Anthony Breznican on Twitter @Breznican.

Read more:
Leonard Nimoy joins ‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon’ voice cast
‘Transformers’ 3 clues found in new Hasbro toys — EXCLUSIVE
What winged beast is in the ‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon’ spot?

Comments (68 total) Add your comment
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  • Peter

    Bay – I really was unhappy after the second one. But, so far I’ve been intrigued by this third one (not to mention you shot it in my city). As long as those two idiot transformers are out of it as you say, I’ll pay my 8 bucks.

    • Altair

      So, the reason the previous installments weren’t engaging is because “an American city was not in peril” [sic]. Right, okay…

      • Mike

        Why would you choose Altair over Master Chief?

    • Sam

      Imo you get way more for your money when you see a movie like Transformers (regardless of plotting and acting) in a theater than a drama. People seriously need to chill out and not watch movies that are so obviously fireworks when they’re looking for a book reading.

      • Mike

        yeah man, exactly. I go to theaters to rock out, in a sense. You’re paying for the surround sound big screen, and to go out with friends. I watch more complicated, intellectual movies on my 75 incher at home where I don’t have to pay $20.

      • Mondz

        To each his own I guess. Because I completely disagree. I go to theaters to enjoy and have a good time. And I will always have a better time watching quiet well-made films than watching something like Transformers with its loud, excessive, and gratuitous effects and painful dialogue. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy blockbuster films too as long as they are well-made, well-plotted, and coherent with great special effects that match its storytelling. But these kinds of films are few and far between. But as I said to each his own.

      • Chrisbee

        I understand having a good time. For me that doesn’t involve trying to sort out which character is which and trying to figure out what someone just said and why. That’s how disjointed the second movie was. I don’t go looking for Shakespeare either, but I want to be able count on the fact that between A and E there’s a B C and D in some kind of reasonable order.

  • Me

    Even if Bay starts using actors instead of models, I still wont consider sitting through his plotless explosions.

    • jk

      Great, more seating for the rest of us uncouth, idiots who like big, loud popcorn movies. Go back to your Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre.

    • Jason

      Boang ka! Patyon tka run!

  • Tonic

    After the second one, there’s no way I’m wasting my money on this.

    • Liz Lemon

      I feel the same way, but if it looks good enough…I might consider watching it. I’m in the mood for a big, popcorn movie. Last year’s summer movie season SUCKED. The only good movies were Inception (I guess) and Toy Story 3. I’m excited about this summer. There’s so much to choose from!

  • Stephen

    I’ll give T3 a shot. I live in Chicago and checked out the shooting downtown last Summer. Some of the prop cars were driving around the city that day. It was awesome! I even happened to see Josh Duhamel at a local club one Friday night. He was approachable and very cool guy. The Chicago skyline will look amazing in this flick.

    • Annie

      I saw them shooting in Chicago last summer too. Too bad Shia LaBoeuf was a total douche and was too good to even wave to his fans. Just sat there smoking a cigarette.

      • Stephen

        Wow. I didn’t catch him when I was down there. The movie folks were letting kids over the fences to take pictures with the transformer cars which was pretty cool.

      • Mike

        Annie, quit perpetuating the feminization of men. Cool dudes who are more like James Dean or Kurt Russel aren’t douches – they’re just real dudes. In other words, not every man can be a sweet and loving, well-raised middle-class sweetheart like your heartthrob Robert Pattinson. I bet your guy friends love Paramore. Also, the dude is acting, and from what I know he’s an intense actor. You’re must be rather selfish to become upset over someone not waving to you when they don’t even know you, and when they’re in the middle of an extremely high profile job. Hurray contemporary American narcissism – you make an excellent example, Annie.

  • StewyFan

    Here’s hoping …

  • crispy

    I interviewed John Travolta in a round table discussion when he was doing press for Battlefield Earth. As everyone was getting seated, he smiled and asked, “So what did you all think of the movie?” I imagine sitting in a theater with Michael Bay while watching scenes from one of his junk movies would be a similarly awkward experience.

  • Rick Hunter

    Why is the girl in this movie so fat? She could stand to lose a few pounds.

    • Mark

      Translation: “Why is there a woman in this movie?…I prefer 9-year-old boys.”

    • Kevin

      I’m assuming you’re being sarcastic? Otherwise, your comment makes zero sense.

      • Andreea

        wtf i saw the movie it kick’s ass and he hole bumblebee soitatuin was hasbro’s idea and i think it’s a good one cuz the VW would look to much like herbie and the camero looks much MUCH better next time you post hate stuff like this watch the movie 1rst it has helarious lines, great action, a good story line and awsome, kickass state of the art visual effects plus, the characters ar better than ever, my personal fav is Frenzy his helarious!! and you’ll see why megatron looks like he does it’s a picture of course you’l; see all the weird details and stuf but in the movie you just see the bad ass old megatron, and starscreem disapointed me in the pictures but he looks awsome in the movie cuz transformers is a mooving film when you see everyone shooting giant robots and see a lot of stuf blow up it brigns you back to your child hood .good times, good times.

    • Hotchkiss Gould Exec

      I was an extra in Transformers 3 and spent the day with Rosie. I can assure you that she is not fat.

  • Drama

    Transformers all day every day!
    T3 7/1/11

  • Connor

    The last 2 turned me off from watching any Transformers movies tbh.

  • jon

    i like transformers 1 better than 2 and 3 should rock, but still though 2 was decent.

    what i dont like about bay’s interpretation of it is that if you knew the history of the original movie from 86/87(?) and the lineage- the transformers were much more powerful than what bay has them do. I mean megatron should have been able to level a city block with his fusion cannon but he was getting creamed by a tank in the desert? Really?

    These are advanced robots from outerspace! they need to be tougher. Megatron should be the main villain in all the movies. The fallen was a joke. not even transformewrs purists understood why the hell he was in the second one and megatron was up his ass wanting to be his protege’?

    Im glad they are live action and glad someone is doing it, but would like to see them tougher and more like their original characters.

  • EC

    as long as it’s more like the first one, it should be awesome.

  • Le HIROSHI

    @Anthony,

    - -

    Thanks for some juice. You sounded like having a good time. Can’t wait for OWEN’s review and checkin’ it out myself.

    • Le HIROSHI

      Btw, MEGAN FOX is hotter.

      • deedeedragons

        Not after what she did to her face.

    • Nikki

      You know they’re going to give it to Lisa who will lambaste it with 25 word sentences.

      • Le HIROSHI

        @NIKKI,

        LOL. Let’s hope they won’t do that. I love LISA, but she’s gonna ruin it. : )

  • joblo

    >> “They’re not even in it. Not. Even. In. It,” he says.<< Yes! That's all I needed to hear – I'm back for round 3!!

  • tiana

    this comes out just2 wks before harry potter. i luv shia so i will see this movie

  • Cris

    Thanks, but I’ll take my $10 and flush it down the toilet. At least it’ll make sense, and will likely have as much “emotion” as this surefire train wreck will.

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