Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Transformers - way more than meets the eye.

Finally getting back to the business of the movies. And that business hasn't by any measure been sitting still.
Here are some things we'll no longer be making fun of... Hasbro, Michael Bay films, Shia LaBoeuf, and movies based on old toys. And at the top of the list - Decepticions, Autobots, Optimus Prime, Bumble Bee and that new Chevy Camero. No idea what I'm talking about? You may be part of the smallest segment of moviegoers since "fans who rallied for Chevy Chase to make a sequel to Cops and Robbersons".

This is sooo about the numbers, because to our eye, there's just not much else there. But the numbers are staggering.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen opened last Wednesday, June 24th. On its opening day it grossed $62,016,476.00. For most of the year's cinematic output that's pretty much, "thanks for the 24 hours, we'll be taking the rest of our calls in Tahiti". For Transformers, it was just the warm up. Before Friday kicked off weekend grosses, $91,110,948.00 was in the till, Shia LaBeouf was feeling cockier than Tony Manero wearing a disco white three-piece in 1977 and Michael Bay could have been picking the leather options in a fleet of Lamborghinis. In the most reserved of assessments for the weekend box-office, things were looking promising.

And then there was Friday, Saturday and Sunday. In that traditional box-office reporting window, Transformers earned another $108,966,307.00. For a little perspective, the number 2 movie at the box-office those three days was Sandra Bullock in The Proposal with just under $18.6 million. The only other new movie on the slate that opened in wide release was Cameron Diaz with My Sister's Keeper. That film earned under $12.5 million and placed 5th in box-office receipts.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen simply blew away even the most ambitious expectations for a summer opening. Expanding our perspective worldwide, its first five days of release grabbed $362 million. That puts it squarely in the company of last year's mega-hit The Dark Knight, that by the end of its first run had pulled in more than a billion dollars. And this is where we're going to jump away from the stratospheric numbers and make a bold prediction - Transformers will not hit The Dark Knight's mark. We'll go on record as saying that the new Transformers will never have the "legs" of the last landmark Batman film. Simply because there is absolutely nothing about Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen that suggests the substance or repeat viewing that Heath Ledger's portrayal of the Joker and Chris Nolan's biting script and direction commanded.

Transformers is as empty a popcorn flick as we have seen. Blurs of CGI made nearly indiscernible by the overly complicated character design of a dizzying array of Autobots and Decepticons, that were immediately lost in countless explosions of fuller's earth and gasoline bags. Though most of the "blowing up s*%t" was real, CGI barrages of robot fighting defied any sense of keeping track, keeping score, or likely, keeping your hearing.

In a word, this Transformers is spectacle. (Even more so than the first edition a couple of year's back.) Megan Fox as a gratuitous sex prop and an inexplicably foul-mouthed mother for Shia LeBoeuf's character won't pull out repeat business. It'll sell DVDs and video games and that product planning is surely already in high gear. But it takes repeat ticket sales to crack the billion dollar mark and we just don't see it coming.

Then again, we're still blinking at only 5 days of numbers and there are only two more big franchise flicks on the horizon. Young audiences jonesing for an action adrenalin rush in July or August may not be able to resist a second or even third dose.

Paramount and the folks behind G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra have to be pissing their pants with anticipation for their August 7th release. A film based on a toy from... wait for it, Hasbro. Who knew Hasbro would be 2009's Marvel? That gives the entire month of July to Transformers. That is, unless a certain boy wizard can conjure the biggest magic act of his movie career on July 15th (just 3 days short of the 1 year anniversary of The Dark Knight's release). I can almost hear the market research guys trying to convince J.K. Rowling to make Voldermort a morphing robot and let Harry drive the new 'Vette.

The tagline on the very first Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince poster may indeed say it all... "Once again I must ask too much of you, Harry". We'll see.

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