Give Michael Bay and Shia LaBeouf credit for stepping up and admitting their cinematic gaffes. Both guys have owned up to the fact that 2009's "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen," despite nabbing more than $830 million at the worldwide box office, did not measure up to their popcorn aspirations.
"The second one, we had a tough go," Bay told us in February about shooting the film in the wake of the writers' strike. "It was a very, very tough thing to make a movie under those circumstances. It affected a lot of Hollywood at that time."
The key issue was the film was rushed into production without all the creative pieces fully in place; filmmakers had a huge budget but not exactly the clearest idea of the story they were trying to tell. In this sense, LaBeouf told MTV News recently in Moscow, the movie became Bay's "Apocalypse Now," the notoriously troubled, Francis Ford Coppola-directed Vietnam War film.
"[On] the second movie where we had our hiccups, there were good things, but there were more bad things," LaBeouf explained, going on to reference the documentary about the "Apocalypse" production. "Before I came out here, I watched 'Hearts of Darkness.' And in it, you have Francis Ford Coppola saying to camera, 'I have too much money, I have no script, and I'm going to shoot myself in the head.' "
LaBeouf went on to make clear he wasn't comparing his summer tentpole to that classic war film, only "the conundrum," as he put it, of undertaking a sprawling project under less-than-organized circumstances. "[It was] very similar in terms of Coppola and Mike on set," he continued. "And the insanity of the second movie."
Production on "Transformers: Dark of the Moon," the third film in the franchise, which hits theaters Wednesday, couldn't have been more different than the second. "This was the first time we've had a fully sussed-out script, with a strong through line and the best plot and arc [LaBeouf's character] Sam has ever had," the actor said. "And it's also simple in the places you want it to be and not complicated. I think the second movie you got convoluted, complicated action where you can't enjoy it. You don't know whose elbow is what, or whose face is getting impaled. You don't know who the enemy is, you don't know who the hero is. You get lost. [Bay] simplified all his action, so that you can thoroughly enjoy it and his simplification of the movie, we benefited greatly from it."
The result, as LaBeouf told us at the MTV Movie Awards, is what he views as the finest installment in the franchise. But that doesn't mean he'll be returning for a fourth go-round. Reiterating a sentiment he conveyed to us at the MTV Movie Awards earlier this month, "Dark of the Moon" will be his final "Transformers" movie.
"I've learned a great deal from Michael, as a person, as an actor. As a person on his sets, you learn a lot," he said. "And it's not that I don't enjoy working with Michael. I love working with Michael. I would do any movie Michael wants to do. I just don't think there's anywhere to take it Sam."