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Attention, "Transformers" fans: We have been to the "Moon" and back -- with Hollywood titans Michael Bay and James Cameron there to guide us, no less.
With less than two months until the premiere of "Transformers: Dark of the Moon," Paramount Studios invited press to view 15 minutes of new footage from the action flick last night alongside director Bay and his 3-D mentor Cameron.
As the screening room went dark, the hundred or so reporters put on their geeky glasses and were transported to, well, the dark of the moon, just as Neil Armstrong took his first step onto the lunar surface. Only in Michael Bay's version of the 1969 event, the U.S. did not send Apollo 11 to the moon to out-triumph the Russians but to explore a Cybertronian spacecraft that had crashed there. Duh duh duh.
Fast forward to present day as Shia LaBeouf's Sam Witwicky and his Autobot friends battle the Decepticons for world safety -- a dangerous endeavor that, like all "Transformers" movies, entails high-paced action sequences, high-intensity car chases, all kinds of wreckage (vehicular, skyscraper, entire Chicago city blocks) and slow-motion shots of Megan Fox's pouty replacement Rosie Huntington-Whiteley -- all captured exceptionally in 3-D.
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According to Bay, though, "Dark of the Moon" would have never been filmed in 3-D had it not been for James Cameron's dogged insistence.
"I visited the set of 'Avatar'," Bay explained before the screening. "And it was like grand mission control. [James Cameron] was talking about camera algorithms and I'm smiling and thinking, 'What the f**k is he talking about? This is so not me.'"
Cameron then jumped in to reiterate what he said to finally convince Bay to shoot in 3-D: "Michael, we've done everything. You've got to look at this as a new toy, another fun tool to use to create emotion and the experience."
Bay conceded and hired the "Avatar" crew to bring the third "Transformers" film fittingly into the third dimension.
"I actually think all films benefit from 3-D in some way," Cameron explained before praising Bay for "embracing [the medium] so aggressively."
An example of Bay's aggressive filmmaking? For one of the most thrilling scenes, Bay personally recruited a team of professional base jumpers to leap off Willis Tower and Trump Tower. The director had to clear a mile-and-a-half of downtown Chicago airspace, attach the heavy equipment to some of the jumpers and capture the sequence via helicopter -- a risky visual that startled the film's star on his day off.
"Shia was actually eating breakfast in the Trump and saw four guys fall from the sky," remembered Bay.
The finished scene was electrifying to watch and stirred the media audience to applause. Afterward, Cameron remarked that a reaction like that is the real reason why he is so passionate about 3-D.
"When [the audience] sees something that blows their minds, that's the most exciting part. You know you've won them. You know you've taken them someplace, like what we've just experienced here."
"Transformers: Dark of the Moon" hits theaters July 1.