'Transformers 3' blows up the Mall -- but only briefly
By Aaron Leitko
Tuesday night, director Michael Bay blew up downtown Washington, D.C. But if you wanted to see it, you had to be patient.
Shortly after 6 pm, a film crew started prepping the short stretch of Pennsylvania Ave. that runs next to the National Gallery for it's role in, "Transformers: The Dark of the Moon," the third installment of Bay's film-franchise about cars that turn into robots and battle other robots. It took a while, though. More than four-hours of noodling with lamps, swiveling cranes, closing off the streets, and rolling a pack of black SUV's into position.
A crowd lined up on the sidewalk -- a mix of tourists, fans, and hill staffers hoping to steal a glimpse. But there wasn't a lot to see. No Autobots (the good guys) or Decepticons (the bad guys). The film's star, Shia LaBeouf, was nowhere to be found. Bay -- he of chiseled brow, iron abs, and jittery camera-cuts -- was rumored to be on-set, but if he was, the filmmaker was working out of public eyesight.
And then, around 10:45 pm., things went kablooey. Explosions. Fireballs. Gunfire. As District-based pyrotechnics displays go, it was pretty outstanding. Certainly superior to the firecrackers that last year's TV pilot, "Washington Field" (it didn't get picked up),
dropped near Key Bridge. More majestic than the Capitol Hill car-bombing Ron Howard filmed for "Body of Lies." Plot, dialogue, meaningful character development -- not really Michael Bay's thing. But shock-and-awe, he's got it covered. The whole thing lasted about a minute-and-a-half.
Before that, you had to entertain yourself. Onlookers milled about and did their best to chew up the hours. At least there was something to talk about. Who was the coolest Transformer? Optimus Prime, obviously. The Transformers toy you wanted, but never got? Grimlock, the dino-bot. Most importantly, the original '80s cartoon series or the movies, which was better? The crowd was mostly split on generation lines --younger parents prefer the TV show. Kids are, for the most part, unaware the TV show ever existed. There are converts, though. "Eh...I liked the cartoon, it's what I grew up with," explained Kevin Toston, who drove in from Upper Marlboro with his toddler, Bryce to watch the shoot. "But he's watched the movies so many time, he's made me love them."
A portion of the audience didn't care for either. A lot of people stuck around for sheer novelty of seeing something go boom. "It's like a once in a lifetime thing," said Tanya Hardy, a Maryland-based makeup artist. "It's almost like Black Friday, when you're standing outside the store, waiting for the door to open."
By ten o'clock, the crowd had whittled down to the true believers. Production assistants patrolled the security tape barrier, explaining that the moment was nigh. "Weapons will be fired. There will be explosions," they explained. "Do not clap."
The Reliable Source
| October 13, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
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