$1,087,404,423. That’s the horrible truth about Transformers Age of Extinction– the tenth most successful film at the all-time box office (notwithstanding adjustments for inflation). A film so poorly written and directed, so cynically produced, and yet so hugely popular with the global audience- if we consider the movie business to be just that, a business rather than an art form, then it has to be said that Transformers Age of Extinction is a huge quantifiable success (and yes, further proof we truly get the films we deserve). That huge figure -yes, I’ll type that sum again, $1,087,404,423- doesn’t include satellite/cable sales or DVD/Blu-ray sales or indeed the merchandising, so the true tally that it earns Paramount and its partners is higher still.
I can understand the ‘wow’ factor of the ILM special effects for the first film or two, but getting into the fourth film, I’d have thought that the pull of those effects would have lessened somewhat, so what else could be getting all those bums on seats? A fresh and invigorating take on the series, bold writing, realistic characters and drama? Well, that’s hardly AOE. Is it rather the pull of the familiar, the masses killing their spare time with more of the same big and loud tedious nonsense? The relative ease marketing sequels rather than something new? The fourth film may have dropped the cast (the human ones at least) of the third film but that was, it turned out, a hollow, even cynical promise of a fresh approach to the franchise- indeed it was really just more of the same tedious nonsense of the first three. Its all about the money, and if the first three films taught the studio anything, making a decent movie has nothing to do with making money at the box office. Make it simple. Make it loud.
In truth, there is something reassuring in the figures. AOE grossed slightly less than the third entry in the franchise worldwide (which totalled $1,123,794,079) but domestically in the US the drop was much more pronounced (Dark of the Moon‘s $352,390,543 versus AOE‘s $245,439,076) so there may be some Autobot fatigue settling in Stateside. What saved the fourth film was the foreign sales ($841,965,423, nearly 80% of the total gross) which indicates how important the global market is these days. It also indicates the foresight (or cynicism) of setting the last section of AOE in China- its more about selling the film than any artistic merit/reason in locating the film abroad. We may be soon getting more Hollywood epics featuring Aliens invading Asia or Europe rather than landing on the White House lawn.
The final horrible truth about AOE? That $1,087,404,423 makes a fifth film in the series inevitable.