Robots, celebrities wreak havoc downtown!

Transformers 3 takes up, and rips up, Michigan Ave. Luckily, two interns have photos!

looming.jpgOne thing many don't know about the University is that it has a set of offices on Michigan Avenue and the Chicago River, right next to Tribune Tower and across from the Wrigley building, on the very spot Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable built the log cabin marking the first, humble settlement that would one day become the city of Chicago. It's a nice place to work.

And it was even nicer on Friday, when we had some new neighbors—the cast, crew, and fiery hulks of wrecked cars of Transformers 3, which filmed right off the Michigan Avenue Bridge through the weekend.

If you've seen either of the previous Transformers movies, or, for that matter, any of the director Michael Bay's other work (Armageddon, Pearl Harbor), you'll know what kind of bananas destruction it entails, and this film will clearly be no different. That little bit of Chicago looked like it was body-slammed by an industrial-waste dump: mashed-up cars stacked at the bridge entrance, steel girders sticking out of cratered cement, and even a weirdly out-of-place and dirtied fruit stand abandoned in the middle of the street.

This was as off-the-wall as a film shoot gets, but it was incredibly efficient as well. (Actually, we should say of-the-wall, since some of the wreckage, with faux-terra cotta and green molding, imitated the Wrigley Building façade and hinted at great feats of CGI, or computer-generated imagery, to come.) Certain shots took only minutes to set up, and they were pulled off with a number of different cameras, including one mounted on a crane perched atop an SUV. Production assistants lit newspapers and cars on fire for most takes, then extinguished everything when the director yelled cut, over and over again.

The film's stars were just as efficient, running around in sweaters and heavy make-up despite the 90-degree heat. Shia LaBeouf (whose surname we can't help but pronounce LaBeoaeoeuaoeaeuf) looked like he stayed in character all day, spending time between takes stalking through the heat like his life depended on it. Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, who plays his love interest in Megan Fox's place, attested to her modeling past when she fixed a fierce gaze on us as she passed us in the lobby.

We couldn't tell what was going on in the scene besides some kind of scary Transformer fight that meant LaBeoaeoeuaoeaeuf and New Megan Fox had to hide in an overturned car, but it was clear that the film spent at least a few million dollars to capture what had to be no more than a minute of film. Amazingly, it was all cleaned up by Monday morning, when the shoot headed off to Upper Wacker Drive, where it will roll tape until Thursday.

Sadly, we missed most of the explosions (the crew saved those for the weekend, presumably to increase nearby office workers' productivity, a courtesy that seemed to have minimal effect) but we did take some shots of Friday's filming, which we thought were cool enough to share with you.

Still, we couldn't help but feel that these images were missing something, something sort of integral to the Transformers experience. Which is why you'll find University-cron, the U of C's very own Transformer, hanging out on set! He may not be the real deal, but we couldn't bear to look at pictures of Transformers without at least a little bit of animation. Call it nostalgia for the cartoons of our childhoods.


Asher Klein, '11
Photography by Asher Klein, '11, and Burke Frank, '11
Illustrations by Asher Klein, '11

July 21, 2010