The Hollywood Reporter
has posted an account of a Chinese screening they attended for Transformers: The Last Knight
- and the report doesn't sound too encouraging. We'd already heard that box office results were looking disappointing as compared to Transformers: Age of Extinction
, but it seems the token efforts made to localize the movie to China and engage in local product placement were the most amusing parts of the film for Shanghai audiences. Keep reading for more details.
The opening minutes of the movie, set in Arthurian England and featuring a number of sight gags involving a drunken Merlin, leave both me and most of the audience unmoved. Indeed, throughout the film, the intentionally comedic moments don't seem to elicit much reaction from the crowd. Instead, their biggest laughs are almost universally reserved for the moments of blatant product placement by Chinese companies.
And boy, is there a lot of product placement.
With the audience quickly learning to play spot-the-brand, giggles start rising in the cinema as the Chinese dairy drink Mengniu makes an appearance at Mark Wahlberg's very-much-in-America scrap yard. Smartphones from LeEco, the financially strapped Chinese tech company, appear to be the brand of choice in the film. And the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China is for some reason everywhere. The biggest laugh, however, arrives at the most unsubtle piece of pandering: the moment when the Autobots and their American friends are looking up 'car porn' on a Chinese used-car website.
An hour in, and glancing around the theater, I can see the low glow of cellphone screens dotted around in the darkness. My neighbor to my left is diligently checking his WeChat, the Chinese social messaging app that's a cross between Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp. He's clearly much more absorbed by what's going down in his social grid than Anthony Hopkins' admirable (though ultimately futile) attempt at explaining the convoluted history of the Witwiccans, an ancient secret society tasked with protecting the Transformers from the wider world.