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.

Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
musicBand's first new record for 20 years has some tough acts to follow
Life and Style
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Quantitative Risk Manager

Up to £80000: Saxton Leigh: My client, a large commodities broker, is looking ...

COO / Chief Operating Officer

£80 - 100k + Bonus: Guru Careers: A COO / Chief Operating Officer is needed to...

Senior BA - Motor and Home Insurance

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...

Market Risk & Control Manager

Up to £100k or £450p/d: Saxton Leigh: My client is a leading commodities tradi...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments