Now that the second full week of ticket sales has ended, critics are faithfully calling Transformers 5: The Last Knight, a Chinese box-office failure. At first glance, their claim may not seem true. After all, this latest installment of Michael Bay’s franchise earned $198 million in China after only 10 days. (The American box office earned only about half that amount after two weekends of robots and explosions, coming to $102.1 million.)
But considering the film had been projected to top 400 million dollars in China, Transformers 5 is nowhere near hitting the mark. And with declines in ticket sales nearing 75 percent last weekend, it’s likely that it never will.
Some believe these are signs that Hollywood needs to import fresher films and storylines if it’s going to survive on the Mainland. As Jonathan Papish of China Film Insider writes:
Fast and the Furious not withstanding, reliable franchises such as Marvel’s Cinematic Universe are starting to see fatigue, and the most successful films in terms of audience satisfaction and legs at the box office have been original films like Zootopia, Hacksaw Ridge, and A Dog’s Purpose.
Despite his theory, we can also admit the obvious. Transformers 5: The Last Knight is an objectively bad film. The storyline could be mistaken for a school child’s first attempt at fiction writing – the plot is full of holes, characters arise and disappear without warning, dialogue is static, choppy, and confusing (yes, we’re talking to you Anthony Hopkins), and by the end of it the only thing you can ask yourself is, What was that all supposed to mean?
As far as Hollywood is concerned, hopefully the takeaway for them will be to stop force-feeding Chinese people bland entertainment with the hopes of turning a big buck. China’s wising up — or at least getting bored.