By BARRY KOLTNOW / THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

Director Michael Bay would like to apologize for “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.”

Although the second film in the movie franchise made more than $830 million at the box office, it was critically lambasted, and the outspoken director is not defensive about the negative reviews. He agrees that it wasn’t up to his standards (he’ll explain why in the following interview), and that’s one of the reasons he wanted to do a third “Transformers” movie. It was about pride, and a chance to make it up to the fans. A hefty paycheck probably didn’t hurt.

When Megan Fox was fired after the second “Transformers” movie, Victoria Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley was hired for “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.” Megan who?

The 3-D “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” opens on IMAX screens and certain 3-D screens Tuesday, and then wide on Wednesday. The highly anticipated movie is expected to make a few bucks.

The 45-year-old Bay likes making big summer popcorn movies, and he has a few successes under his belt – “Armageddon” and “Bad Boys,” to name two – and a few films that were not as well received – “Pearl Harbor” and “The Island” come to mind.
But he’s never been afraid of a challenge, and “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” provided its fair share. First, it’s following a sequel that many in the fan base felt was disappointing. Then he lost his leading lady, Megan Fox, who apparently was fired by Bay under orders from producer Steven Spielberg, who did not care for some remarks she made about Bay. The Oscar-winning director of “Schindler’s List” took offense when Fox likened Bay to Hitler, according to a story in GQ magazine.
Bay discusses the loss of his leading lady in this interview. Fox was replaced by Victoria Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. The male star of the movie, Shia LaBeouf, is back for a third round with the shape-shifting robots. The movie series is based on a Hasbro toy line, which was later made into an animated TV series and featured in comic books.

In the third “Transformers,” there is a historical element to the story, with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s landing on the moon at center stage. Apparently, an alien aircraft crash-landed on the moon prior to the human landing, and there is a subsequent race to the moon between the Autobots and Decepticons to salvage the wreckage.

Bay explains how he got NASA to cooperate with the altering of history, how difficult it was to replace Megan with Rosie and why he thinks that his movie will revitalize 3-D movies for a bored movie-going public.

ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: I understand you just finished the movie?

MICHAEL BAY: Finished it Sunday at 3 a.m.. I have to go buy toothpaste now because I’m leaving for Rio in the morning. Very busy.

Q. You actually finished the movie? I thought you like to tinker with your movies until the very last minute?

A. I did. They took it away from me.

Q. Do you ever wish you could tinker with one of your movies even after it opens in theaters?

A. Oh yeah.

Q. When do you let it go mentally?

A. When they take it from me. In this case, I finally showed it in 3-D to 150 people, including Steven Spielberg and the suits. That was the end. A lot of the suits had seen it in 2-D, but they were acting like little kids after the 3-D showing. I felt like that was a good way to let it go.

Q. What are you doing that last day before turning in the film?

A. It is the final color tweaking, the sound and the final effects.

Q. Can you remember what you thought the first time you were approached about the idea of directing the movie “Transformers?” Did you think it was a good idea or a bad idea?

A. It was Steven’s idea for me to do this, and I didn’t think it was my cup of tea. I thought it was a silly idea. I wasn’t a Transformers fan when I was growing up, but I went to Hasbro and thought about the images. I figured if I could make it accessible to me, that might be interesting to do.

Q. Although the movies have made a lot of money, and obviously attracted a lot of people, there are many people who assume that the movies are just a bunch of robots bashing each other, and there is no story and no human emotions. That isn’t true, is it?

A. Not at all. And this one has a lot more emotions. It feels a lot more like the first movie than the second movie. The second one took kind of a left turn because we got caught in the writer’s strike.

Q. Is that what happened to the second movie?

A. Yeah. We had a writer’s strike for four months, and we got caught up in that wave. We took it in a wrong direction. Even though it made a fortune at the box office, I knew we could do it better, and I wanted to make up for that and leave the franchise in better shape. That’s why I worked so hard on this one.

Q. So, pride had a lot to do with your effort on the third one?

A. Absolutely. An agent said to me that I could have just taken a check for this one, but that’s not me. I worked my butt off every day so that I would be proud of it, and that every person who loved the first one would be proud of it, too.

Q. How troublesome was it to lose your leading lady?

A. It was a small speed bump. This movie is way bigger than the leading lady.

Q. How did you get permission from NASA to toy with history?

A. I have been a fan of the space program all my life, and I couldn’t believe NASA gave us permission.

Q. But how did you do it?

A. I don’t know. They are sticklers. They are tough cookies. But we had such a good experience with them on “Armageddon,” and I heard a rumor that the head of NASA is a huge “Transformers” fan.

Q. Did their OK give you access to part of the space program?

A. Well, we had Buzz Aldrin in our movie playing himself. And we were able to shoot at the original mission control. They also had three astronauts on the space station talk to us. They said they kept them up a little longer so we could talk to them. It was amazing. They were floating around, and talking about “Transformers.” It blew me away that they were familiar with this stuff.

Q. But I still can’t believe that they were OK with you altering their history?

A. They always want to appeal to kids with the space program, and I think they saw this as a way to appeal to kids.

Q. How has the movie technology changed between the time you shot the first “Transformers” and this one?

A. We have finally reached the stage where you can do anything you can think of. You can make anything believable. And the 3-D really elevates this movie.

Q. There are studio types who insist that this film could single-handedly revitalize the entire 3-D field.

A. Listen, there are a lot of movies that have done it very poorly. They abused the technology, and it’s a shame. We have devoted a ton of money and a ton of time to make a very good 3-D movie. The entire movie was designed as a 3-D movie. It wasn’t an after-thought. People who believe that action is bad in 3-D are 100 percent wrong when the 3-D is done correctly.

Q. How can we tell when it’s done correctly?

A. We actually can guide your eye to the action. You can see and feel more in 3-D. I like when the robots are in your space. Not every movie should be 3-D, but the size difference between the humans and robots makes it more effective.

Q. How is this movie different than the first two “Transformers?”

A. It has a slower build, and a kick-ass last 45 minutes. It feels like an old-fashioned movie in a way. It’s got a lot of heart.

Q. Do you believe that someone can walk into this movie without having seen the first two?

A. Absolutely. We’ve tested it in front of hundreds of people who didn’t see the other ones, and they loved it. One 40-year-old woman said she had to be dragged to the test screening, and she enjoyed it.

Q. For those people, could you give me a quick beginner’s course on “Transformers?”

A. Transformers are intelligent beings from another planet. They’re like an alien race that has been around longer than us. Some good ones have taken refuge on Earth, but there are bad ones out there as well. Stephen Hawkings, one of the smartest people in the world, says there is life on other planets, and if they come to Earth, they’re probably not coming for good reasons. They’ve probably run out of something they need.

Q. Do you like the term summer popcorn movie?

A. I do. During the summer, everybody wants to kick back and have fun. These movies take you back to your youth when you couldn’t wait to see these big event movies. You can feel the energy in the theater. It’s a different energy than seeing a movie in the fall or winter.

Source: OC Register