Movie stars and directors have been conspicuously staying away from Japan since the March 11 disaster, preferring to publicize their films via video messages. However, in a sign that things may be changing, director Michael Bay joined stars Shia LaBeouf and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley for the recent Japan premiere of “Transformers - Dark of the Moon” -- albeit in Osaka, rather than Tokyo.
Some 40 TV cameras and over 200 media attended the gala event. LeBeouf, 25, wowed audiences when he greeted them with “Maido,” a word of Osaka dialect that he said he remembered from a previous visit. “I am very happy I was able to come to Osaka,” he gushed. “For guys like me who grew up in the ’80s, ‘Transformers’ is right there with ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Jurassic Park’ as a piece of childhood we don’t often get to revisit.”
Bay, 46, said: “I’m also happy to come to Osaka for the last stop on the world premiere tour. I was very saddened by the disaster that struck Japan and extremely impressed with the courage of the Japanese people, especially those still living in the disaster area. We worked very hard on this film to wrap up this 6-year series. Japan introduced ‘Transformers’ to the world.”
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon” opens with the historic American moon landing (actually a mission to investigate a Cybertronian spaceship that crash-landed there). The story spans the globe, with lots of explosions, battles and product placements (especially for Chinese items). LaBeouf’s character and his giant noble Autobot allies have to fight to save humankind from the evil Decepticons led by Sentinel Prime (voiced by Leonard Nimoy).
Bay took a roasting after the second film in the series, “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” bombed at the box office in 2009. It won Razzies for worst director, worst script and worst film. Bay admitted he made mistakes on Part 2, but promised that “this one is a lot better.” He said it has more mystery, more heart and more epic.
New cast members include Frances McDormand, John Malkovich and British Victoria’s Secret model Rosie Hungtington-Whiteley, who replaces Megan Fox as the obligatory love interest. In a well-publicized incident, executive producer Steven Spielberg had Fox fired after she compared Bay to Hitler.
Huntington-Whiteley, 24, who was making her first visit to Japan in nine years, said she was thrilled to get the part which signals her feature film debut. “I got to see a totally different me in the film. It was a wonderful experience, a dream come true,” she said.
Continuing the trend for summer blockbusters, “Transformers - Dark of the Moon” is filmed in 3-D. Bay said: "You’ll really see the difference between the robots and humans and feel you are in among them.”
Once again, critics have been negative toward the film. But as Bay told AP in an interview shortly before coming to Japan, “Critics have a field day making fun of me, but people go to my movies in droves. I don’t make movies for critics. You’ve got to do movies that you like and you feel in your gut and hopefully the audience likes.”
“Transformers - Dark of the Moon” opens in Japan on Friday.© Japan Today