The world is about to be invaded by giant shape shifting robots from space, again. Are you ready? Michael Bay and company will unleash Transformers: Age of Extinction, the fourth in a multi-billion dollar earning franchise, at the end of the week. Early reviews of the film have started trickling, and have been mixed-to-positive, but the cinematic juggernaut has hit a speed bump, one that could lead to some last minute edits.
Yahoo reports that a property developer based in Beijing, China, has filed a lawsuit demanding that one of their properties be cut out of the film before it opens there. Beijing Pangu Investment Co. Ltd is suing both their business partners and Paramount Pictures. They own a hotel that is apparently shaped like a dragon, which is a great idea in itself, and claim that Age of Extinction fails to fulfill an agreed-upon sponsorship deal.
Pangu claims that they paid 10 million Yuan ($1.6 million US) to assure that the movie both held its premiere at their ridiculously-shaped hotel, and prominently feature their properties and logos in the film as well as trailers and posters. Here’s the problem, last Thursday, Paramount staged the star-studded world premiere in Hong Kong, not in Beijing. Now Pangu is claiming breach of contract, suing for contract fraud, and demanding everything that relates to the company or its properties be excised from the film. They’ve even gone so far as to ask the Chinese government to stop screenings of the movie, which is also scheduled to open in the region this Friday.
A statement they released reads, “The loss of rights and interests not only caused the Pangu company’s original business plan to fail, incurring huge losses, more seriously, it has affected Pangu Plaza’s image and reputation.”
We haven’t seen Age of Extinction yet, and have no idea how prominently Pangu Plaza figures into the action. Spanning the length of six football fields, this is a sizeable chunk of real estate, but we get the feeling that Paramount won’t be averse to throwing some money around in order to protect their own significant investment, and that the opening will go on as scheduled.
While we haven’t seen the movie yet, some people have, and over the weekend the first reviews appeared. The previous Transformers movies have been critic proof, earning massive sums of money despite the fact that getting rather miserable reviews. A soft reboot of the franchise—set in the same world, but introducing new characters and story arcs—Age of Extinction is intended as the beginning of a new trilogy. After three adventures with Shia LeBeouf, they brought in the big guns, specifically Mark Wahlberg and his sizeable biceps. But the question remains, how are critics going to respond to this much-needed change?
The answer is mixed. Looking at review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes there are currently four reviews, three of which fall into their “fresh” category. While they seem skew in the positive, this is reserved praise not gushing admiration, and all are quick to point out various flaws.
Drew McWeeny from HitFix calls Age of Extinction the “biggest craziest Transformers movie yet.” Clocking in at 165-minutes, big is certainly one way to look at it. The Hollywood Reporter’s critic Clarence Tsui, the lone “rotten” review at the moment, notes that this excessive run time is part of larger issue, that the film is bloated and desperate to reinvent the franchise. Variety’s Maggie Lee calls the characters “dispensable” and the story “scattershot,” but asks the question of, in a movie like this, who really cares about that? She embraces this movie as the massive spectacle that it is intended to be, and if that’s what you’re looking for, you’re probably going to get exactly that. James Marsh, from Screen Daily, provides similar guarded approval, calling the film “polished” but also “vacuous.” But he also notes that fans of the earlier films should find this satisfying, but that it also does just enough to breathe in a bit of new life and avoid being a rehash.
So what does all of this mean? Not really a damn thing, to be honest. From reading these early reviews, fans of the other movies and people who are excited about Transformers: Age of Extinction will most likely enjoy the latest offering, while those looking for something to pan will find that as well. Basically, it sounds like this is in the exact same boat as all of the previous installments.
We can see it and judge for ourselves when Transformers: Age of Extinction opens this Friday, June 27.