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Published on July 12th, 2014 | by gareth

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What Makes The Transfomers Film Series Bulletproof

To say that the Transfomers movies have not been critically acclaimed would be an understatement as Director Michael Bay has never been a darling of many film critics.

Many in the industry who cling to the notion that every film must be art and that the summer Popcorn Film is the death of cinema have cited Bay and his pyrotechnic laden films as examples with all that is bad with modern studio films.

It is not surprise that studio films put profit over quality as I had one studio exec once tell me that they would rather make a dozen pieces of garbage that make money than one that breaks even and sweeps the award shows. The reason given was that their job was to put butts in seats and dollars in the register not win awards. If they can all be done at the same time so much the better but the break even award winner is the film that can get people fired.

While we can lament the above as the sad state of audience’s fickle tastes and the need to dumb down content for the masses, one must wonder what it is about the Transformer films that makes them so bullet proof. I have heard people tell me that I do not agree with most critics and that when they say a film is bad, I see it as it means that I will likely enjoy it. They usually follow that by saying that I am fair with genre films as I get that a film should be judged according to it’s peers in the genre and films like “Transformers” are not ones that I should go into expecting great acting, storylines, or artistic statements.

While I have enjoyed many parts of the four films in the series, I would have to say that “Transformers: Age of Extinction” had several things that I did not like and that it was basically an overlong FX reel that even by Bay’s standards went way over the top and pretty much kissed up to the Chinese audience every step of the way.

Funny enough, the film has made more money in China than in the U.S. and has set records as the highest grossing film at the Chinese box office.

The four films have a critical score of 57%, 19% 36% and 17% amongst critics at Rotten Tomatoes, yet have earned big at the box office with the latest film taken in over $650 million worldwide since being released. One can pretty much bet that a 5th and 6th film will be following and we all know that Hasbro is reaping in bucks from the toy and video game deals that go with the surge in the films as well as animated offerings.

So what is it about the series that keeps it going despite the critical drubbings? I was in a restaurant on opening day for the film having seen it a few days earlier a press screening when I heard something interesting. A group of college age men were sitting at a table talking about seeing the film. One mentioned how he heard it was “absolutely awful” to which his friends said that they had heard that to. They then stood up from their table and said that they should get over to the cinema and check it out and that they should call from friends to join them.

While children and the parents that get dragged along often make up a good portion of the audience for the films, the fact is that it has in many ways become a train wreck. People go in expecting it to be a visual effects tour de force and little else and as such it has become almost a tradition to go when a new film in the series is released. Much like a car wreck, they know that nothing good is going to happen, but they cannot take their eyes off what they are seeing.

The curiosity and love of the characters from their childhood has undoubtedly helped make the film series such a huge success and the smart marketing by Paramount has developed legions of fans for the series the world over.

While reviewing films good, bad, and in between is what I do, I find that the series is a really tricky thing to pin down. You can easily rip the films apart for being long, thin on story, character development, plot, and logic, yet you cannot take your eyes off them.

Almost like a guilty pleasure I find myself going in to each film expecting the worst yet finding plenty of entertainment despite the issues. While much of the issues with the last film makes it really hard for me to tout it as a must see, I also tell people if you know what you are getting into going in and set your expectations accordingly you may have fun.

Like a moth to a flame, I am sure we will all be drawn to the next film in the series regardless of quality as there is just something about it that you cannot turn away from.

 


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