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The picture you see above was not taken in China or Japan or any other country that has historically built buildings in this style of architecture. It was taken in the middle of downtown Detroit, snapped by Instagram user Chad Rochkind, and gives us yet another look at how much China is influencing the upcoming Transformers 4. The Michael Bay-directed sequel had been filming in China last month, but even though it's come home to the States it's apparently trying to emulate the country-- or possibly setting up the bizarre idea that there are small, traditional Chinese-style buildings in the middle of American cities, which would be even stranger.
Paramount Pictures has been courting Chinese audiences on this film for a while now, holding an entire reality competition to cast four Chinese actors in the film and setting the film up as a co-production between Paramount, CHina Movie Channel and Jiaflix Enterprises. They've also cast Chinese superstar Li Bingbing in a major role, and by reportedly making China such a major part of the story, they won't pull an Iron Man 3-style move and release a separate version in China. If they're going to the trouble of recreating China in downtown Detroit, you've got to assume they're taking this whole partnership pretty seriously. My bet is that there's a large action sequence set in a Chinese city like Beijing or Shanghai, and for whatever reason-- union regulations, safety concerns or cost-- it was more effective to recreate that city in Detroit than to shoot the entire sequence on location. Is this kind of traditional building likely to be nestled in among modern skyscrapers in a Chinese city? I have no idea. But I don't put it past Michael Bay to use it as visual shorthand anyway.
Poor Detroit, am I right? The city that was hammered by riots and economic despair decades ago is still struggling to make its way back up, and though the state of Michigan has managed to lure plenty of film productions, it's usually standing in for somewhere else, whether Oz or a generic American city. Using somewhere in the States to stand in for a foreign country is nothing new-- Los Angeles has probably played every other city on Earth-- but Transformers 4 seems to be taking the foreign influence to a dramatic new level. Fellow Midwestern metropolis Chicago got to be at the centerpiece of Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Detroit gets to create a whole new definition of "Chinese knockoff."
Transformers 4, currently set for release June 27 next year (in both the United States and China), stars Mark Wahlberg, up and comer Jack Reynor, Stanley Tucci and Kelsey Grammer as the main human villain. No word on whether the relative quality of Pain & Gain will mean Transformers 4 is less grindingly terrible than the two previous movies in the series, but I wouldn't count on it.