Michael Bay's latest cinematic rage abortion, Transformers 4: Age of Extinction, contains three hours of the most nonsensical plot ever constructed, consisting of informational lectures on statutory rape, robot John Goodman shooting a giant alien vagina, and Marky Mark using a sword as a laser gun. We tried to diagram the movie and just wound up with the contents of a serial killer's pencil box.
Source: Profound Mental Illness.
But there was one clear message in Transformers 4: Hollywood loves the shit out of China, because China loves Hollywood more than anyone else in the world. Films like Looper and Iron Man 3 did a decent amount of Eastern pandering, but something like half of Transformers: Age of Mechanical Dinosaurs takes place in Hong Kong. It's no surprise that, while enjoying decent success in the U.S., Transformers is a freaking monster overseas.
Transformers 4 has been so successful, in fact, that we're starting to suspect Michael Bay's secret goal might be to avert World War III via dumb robot movies (his primary goal remains "make all of the money in the universe by blowing things up and hating women"). You laugh, but he's doing more for Chinese-American relations than Richard Nixon ever did.
Remember the Beijing Olympics of 2008? Remember all those thousands and thousands of drummers moving in perfect unison?
Except for that one dude who appears to be in the middle of getting a blow job.
No matter how much you enjoyed that opening ceremony, the back of your mind knew that the only difference between that perfectly synchronized storm from an army of overwhelming destruction was the fact that they weren't holding guns and Red Dawning your neighborhood. Good news, paranoid assholes -- you don't need to worry about China swarming our cities with armies of unspeakable unity. Michael Bay and his like-minded detonation auteurs got them hooked on blockbusters instead:
While box office numbers have been barely treading water stateside as of late, they've been steadily increasing in China over the past five years. In its first two weeks of release, Transformers 4 has made $180 million in the U.S., compared to over $400 million overseas, over half of which was earned ... where? You guessed it: China. That figure is even more astounding when you consider that the cost of a movie ticket in China is on par with ours, despite the fact that the average income is much lower.
Workers literally gave up an entire day in wages just to see Mark Wahlberg pretend a sword is a gun.
Think about it -- the countries that hate America the most (like North Korea) are the ones that don't get to watch American movies because their government filters them out. China, however, is saturated with Hollywood movies (they're the only ones who still care about Tom Cruise and Will Smith, too). The Chinese love big dumb American blockbusters more than big dumb Americans do. Why do you think we're getting a Pacific Rim 2?
Think about it: Public opinion for a war against the U.S. would be terrible, because Michael Bay has shown them how awesome everything about America is ... and America is expensive cars, tit-blasting explosions, and tits blasting out of explosively expensive shirts.
Although China's started dipping its toes into America's glorious lake of money and iPods and ghost towns, Transformers 4 is an unreasonably aggressive dose of capitalism -- it's essentially the equivalent of being punched in the face by a commercial for three hours.
"I can ride a Dinobot again! Thanks, Preparation H!"
The first half-dozen pieces of blatant product placement are all Bud Light cans, culminating in Mark Wahlberg's crash into a beer truck that is essentially a moving Budweiser billboard. But the movie leaves Anheuser-Busch products behind as soon as the characters leave America, and all of the products are swapped out for Chinese ones.
During a big chase scene in Hong Kong, Stanley Tucci pauses on a rooftop to drink from a conspicuously supine box of some sort of Chinese milk beverage. Seriously, the shot lingers for so long on the box's logo that we initially thought it was a joke. Tucci's cheeks sucked in, that foreign logo pulled up into view, and we realized, for the first time, that Hollywood shelled out a ton of money for American audiences to watch an ad for a product that is not available in America. And that juice box was just one of dozens of Chinese commercials Michael Bay heroically featured in his shitty new piece of noise cinema.
"With these Gold Panda male enhancement pills, I finally have 'more than meets the eye'!"
While this may strike some people as odd, it's really the greatest security we'll ever have. If there's one area in which America has an insurmountable lead, it's selling shit via movies. And as long as Chinese businesses need Stanley Tucci to sell their juice boxes, global peace is safe.
The bad guys in this movie are American soldiers in a secret Black Ops unit. The president is more or less held hostage by the villainous Kelsey Grammer's wide-ranging evil influence with the CIA. In fact, the president is always kind of useless in this series -- in the first movie, the most we see of President Bush is him asking for Twinkies, and in Transformers 3, Obama allies with the freaking Decepticons (and is too afraid of Kelsey Grammer in Transformers 4 to even meet him in person).
But in China, we see the strong, willful defense minister deploy the Chinese military to try to combat a robot rampage (it doesn't actually stop the rampage, because nothing can stop Michael Bay from making robots fight, but at least he did something). That's more decisive action than any non-nefarious American politician has taken in the entire Transformers film series.
Stanley Tucci also mentions, right before the Hong Kong transition, that he's building robot soldiers for the United States in China. If this movie had been made in the 1980s, there would have been some huge plot about the Chinese infecting our Transformer army with some communist virus. But nope! They're selling us an invincible super army, totally straight. Turns out the trusting, kind-hearted Chinese factory bosses just thought they were building cars the whole time, so they've been duped, too.
"They're robots in ... hiding!"
The implication is clear: The U.S. government is not to be trusted, but China is always reliable.
In the movie, Michael Bay has Stanley Tucci fall in love with famed Chinese actress Li Bingbing, which doesn't seem immediately strange until you realize that Tucci spends the entire first half of the movie with a completely different, blazingly Caucasian love interest.
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
But once the movie jumps from America to Hong Kong, the Tucc drops his pasty squeeze for a famous Chinese celebrity. It's just as sudden as it sounds -- we never even see the white girl again.
"So Optimus hooked me up with these pills ..."
America made it clear that they didn't want Stanley Tucci's army of terrifying space robots. And if Stanley Tucci's toxic robot boner isn't wanted in America, he knows exactly where to go so it will be appreciated -- China, the land of understanding opportunity. It's a metaphor for Michael Bay's journey of global unity; he got his start with easily manipulated Americans, and now he wants to go where the real action is. And we should all thank him for it: His ballad of international seduction (and robots whose every step sounds like scrapyards exploding) will keep the peace between the two biggest superpowers in the world for decades to come.
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