‘Major motion picture’ Transformers 3 gets to ‘crush’ Coast Guard rules

By Ron Brynaert
Tuesday, August 3, 2010 12:14 EDT
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“With its fascist sensibility, assortment of smutty asides, illiterate gold-tooth-wearing homie robots and the hero’s brainless mother, much of ‘Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen’ is simply despicable,” Washington Post film critic John Anderson wrote last summer.

And that wasn’t even the worst review. Rolling Stone critic Peter Travers wrote that it had “a shot at the title Worst Movie of the Decade” and awarded it zero stars. At Metacritic, the sequel to the surprisingly well-received original Transformers movie sports a 35.

However, at McClatchy’s Suits & Sentences blog, Mike Doyle writes, “Transformers 3 is such a ‘major motion picture’ that the normal Coast Guard rules don’t apply.” (Doyle has the phrase “blaring piece of dreck” crossed out before “major motion picture”).

So we learn Tuesday, as the Coast Guard declared that it is establishing two temporary safety zones on the Chicago River. The Coast Guard explains that the safety zones are necessary to protect the public “from the hazards associated with the different types of stunts that will be performed during the filming of this movie.”

Normally, these kinds of safety zones get established only following a public comment period. In this case, though, the Coast Guard explained in the Federal Register that there was no time for the standard public comment rules to apply because “final details for these events were not submitted to the Coast Guard until July 20, 2010.”

Twice, the Coast Guard takes care to refer to Transformers 3 as a “major motion picture.” So, all you art-house, indie movie producers need not bother trying to secure the same exemption from the rules.

The Coast Guard document explains,

The Coast Guard is issuing this temporary final rule without prior notice and opportunity to comment pursuant to authority under section 4(a) of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) (5 U.S.C. 553(b)). This provision authorizes an agency to issue a rule without prior notice and opportunity to comment when an agency for good cause finds that those procedures are “impracticable, unnecessary, or contrary to the public interest.” Under U.S.C. 553 (b)(B), the Coast Guard finds that good cause exists for not publishing a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) with respect to this rule because the final details for these events were not submitted to the Coast Guard until July 20, 2010. Based on the hazards associated with the filming of this major motion picture, delaying the enactment of this rule to provide for a comment would be against the public interest. Therefore, there was not enough time to solicit the public for comments concerning this temporary final rule.


These temporary safety zones are necessary to protect vessels from the hazards associated with the stunts that will be occurring during this filming of the major motion picture, Transformers 3. The Captain of the Port, Sector Lake Michigan, has determined that the stunts associated with the filming of this motion picture do pose significant risks to public safety and property. The likely combination of congested waterways and the stunts that will be performed during the filming of a major motion picture could easily result in serious injuries or fatalities.

At the Gawker-affiliated sci-fi blog io9, Graeme McMillan wrote in June of 2009, “We’re not saying that the Earth may actually come under attack from giant robots, but if that were to happen, apparently Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen would be a surprisingly realistic portrayal of how the US military would fight back.”

“In a first for a major movie, four of the five branches of America’s military participated in the production of Michael Bay’s mechanical melodrama sequel – The Coast Guard being the missing military,” McMillan noted.

A June of 2009 Variety article noted,

Hollywood and the military don’t typically march as closely together, and it’s sometimes surprising which films have enjoyed military cooperation: the patriotic ‘Independence Day’ went without assistance while the Army-mocking ‘Stripes’ agreed to heavy rewrites in exchange for full cooperation, but these days showbiz and the military are finding ways to marshal their forces for mutual benefit.

The relationship between the two is often a reflection of the times: Years after Vietnam ended and soon after Iraq’s major battle action concluded, Hollywood pics cast combat and its effects in a harsh light, resulting in less aid and cooperation from the armed forces. Films such as ‘The Deer Hunter’ and ‘Apocalypse Now’ painted a grim view of Vietnam, and in recent years, pics like ‘In the Valley of Elah’ and ‘Home of the Brave’ presented the military as brutal and emotionally scarring.

Now, as a new president moves to extricate forces from Iraq and the ‘support our troops’ refrain remains part of the zeitgeist, ‘Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen’ has drawn heavily on the U.S. military’s machinery, personnel and logistics.

Last July, the Washington Post’s Dan Zak reported, “The critics spoke last Friday. ‘Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen’ is a Hindenberg of a movie.”

The audience responded: So freakin’ what? They forked over $215 million (and counting) to see the widely panned sequel about shape-shifting robots. It became only the second movie after last year’s “The Dark Knight” to make that much in its first five days. “Transformers 2″ was director Michael Bay’s worst-reviewed movie — worse than 2001′s “Pearl Harbor.”

“A horrible experience of unbearable length,” wrote Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times.

“Striking, shrieking incoherence,” wrote Peter Travers in Rolling Stone.

“I think they reviewed the wrong movie,” Bay told the Los Angeles Times. Critics “just don’t understand the movie and its audience. It’s silly fun. I am convinced that they are born with the anti-fun gene.”

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