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The next Transformers movie is currently filming in China, in part because they’ve run out of things to destroy in America, and in larger part because there’s a lot of money to be made there. What’s surprising is that not only are they shooting there, apparently the movie’s going to be sort of about China too. And you thought it was about watching giant robots punch each other.
The word from ChineseFilms.cn is that the movie is so Chinese-centric that it’s almost like the country is a character in the film. Some of this is likely due to the agreement Paramount had to make with the Chinese government in order to be able to shoot there. That agreement stipulates that the film must feature a certain number of Chinese actors and actresses and the studio has already cast Li Bingbing in a significant role while also running a sort of reality show competition in the country to find other Chinese actors.
All of this would be fine if it had sprung naturally out of the demands of the script, but it sounds more like China is just taking over the film to make the Chinese happy. The truth is that Hollywood wants China’s money. There’s a lot of it to be made and most of the big studios are willing to do just about anything to get it. Maybe China does have some lovely landmarks Michael Bay would like to see his robots destroy, but it’s hard not to think that’s secondary to Paramount’s desire to get the 1.3 billion people of China to open their wallets and buy tickets to their movie.
In the past you may not have even noticed any of this China-pandering going on. Movies like Iron Man 3 have done it by releasing a different versions of the movie in America and China. The Chinese version contains extra scenes meant to cater to Chinese audiences, whether or not it made any sense in context of the movie. Watch Chinese doctors awkwardly shoehorned into Iron Man 3 in the video below...
That won’t be the case with Transformers 4 though. No shoehorning this time. For that sequel they’re making the China-baiting an integral part of the film and thus everyone will get the same version, complete with Chinese reality-show contestants turned actors and the country of China “as a character in the film”, whatever that means. What it really means is that Transformers 4 will also likely be adhering to China’s restrictive censorship laws, laws which have prevented some other movies from being released in the country at all, or in the case of films like World War Z only after heavy editing to please Chinese censors.