Transformers woo China as Michael Bay defies critics with box office hit

Transformers on track to become China’s highest-grossing film ever

Michael Bay's films are not exactly known for their poignant dialogue. In fact, there's very little dialogue and performances are usually flat, to say the least.

There are, however, lots of explosions, car crashes and giant robots. But you'd be a fool to underestimate Mr Bay, because if there's one thing he knows, it's how to make money by blowing things up.

Transformers: Age of Extinction, which our own film critic described as “meaningless mayhem on screen”, has made $575 million worldwide in less than two weeks, according to box office tracking firm Rentrak.

That's partly because Mr Bay, described by critics as a 13-year old trapped in the body of a man, has succeeded where others have failed: China's box office.

With much fanfare, the Transformers hosted three premieres in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong with a strong Chinese angle aimed at wooing local audiences. The film also features actress Li Bingbing, footage of Chinese landmarks and local brands. It also plays it safe.

There isn't a single line in the film that could upset Chinese authorities, in fact, Beijing will be pleased to see there is a scene where a Hong Kong official shouts: "We need to call the central government for help now!" as giant robots threaten to destroy mankind.

And the plan has worked as Age of Extinction is on track to become the highest-grossing film in China’s box office history, taking in $212 million since it premiered on 27 June, coinciding with its American release, which also conquered the number one spot at the US box office.

Despite the title, there is no sign the Transformers are anywhere near extinction and Mr Bay is laughing all the way to the bank.

The 30 Second Briefing: Transformers

Transformers have returned to the big screen. I thought they became extinct?

No, in fact, they’re bigger and stronger than ever. The fourth instalment of the robot franchise directed by Michael Bay, the man who brought us Transformers 1,2,3 and is known for his action blockbusters, has made $575 million worldwide in less than two weeks and is on track to become China’s highest-grossing film ever

Wow, that’s a lot of money. What are critics saying?

Well, they’re not exactly loving it. In fact, it is the worst rated film of the Transformers saga with some critics describing it as  “meaningless mayhem on screen” with little dialogue and too many explosions. But film goers around the world seem to be loving it, particularly in China.

China? Tell me more.

With much fanfare, Paramount, the studio behind the film, put in place a marketing strategy with a strong focus on China. The film hosted three premieres in the country, including Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, and it features Chinese actors, locations and products. Don’t be surprised if you see an advert for Lenovo followed by a huge explosion while Mark Wahlberg, the star of the film, tries to save mankind from extermination.

But why is China so important for Hollywood?

The country  boasts 11,000 film screens and the number is expected to double by 2050. And while piracy remains a problem, China is already the second-largest film market in the world after the US and it expected to overtake the American box office in terms of ticket sales by 2020, according to a recent study by EY. Hollywood is taking note and looking for new opportunities across emerging markets, in particular China, Russia and India, sometimes writing small parts for native actors and editing a different version for local audiences.

Who else has done this?

Just to name a few,  Marvel Studios edited a “Chinese” version of Iron Man 3 featuring actress Fan Bingbing, who played a young doctor that helps save Robert Downey Jr in a scene that was cut from the original version seen elsewhere. In Mission Impossible 4- Ghost Protocol, Indian superstar Anil Kapoor played a rich businessman who comes face to face with Tom Cruise and his team of super spies.

Does it always pay off?

Well, that depends. Critics argue Hollywood is playing it too safe and editing a “suitable” version for local audiences amounts to censorship, while others claim that the parts for local actors are too small and often play up to stereotypes.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Selby Jennings: Oil Operations

Highly Competitive: Selby Jennings: Our client, a leading European Oil trading...

The Jenrick Group: Night Shift Operations Manager

£43500 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Night Shift Operatio...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - LONDON

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000 + Car + Pension: SThree: SThree are a ...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35K: SThree: We consistently strive to be the...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all