So we’ve heard about how Michael Bay cast Mark Wahlberg in “Transformers 4,” and now we’re hearing that Wahlberg might get a trip to China out of it. According to Vulture, Paramount wants to have the fourth installment of the car-robot franchise set in China.
It’s pretty easy to figure out why–in case you haven’t noticed, there are a lot of people in China, and when given the opportunity to see big, blockbuster Hollywood movies, they take it. Overseas box office has always been important to the American studios, but in the past few years, Hollywood has been catering even more to emerging markets, like China, Russia, and India. The most obvious example of this has been the emphasis on 3D for just about any movie. While 3D has been okay with US audiences, it’s been box office gold in places like China.
It’s become clear that the best way to get a Hollywood movie a wide release in China, is to film at least part of it there. There is a quota of the number of foreign releases per year allowed in China, but filming even part of the movie there would get it to count as a Chinese film, and thus not subject to the quota (“Iron Man3″ took this tack earlier this year) . This kind of hedge may become even more important if the Chinese film industry starts to fight back against the Hollywood releases that have begun to overwhelm their films. Already the government has begun to take steps to try to tamp down the effect of Hollywood releases in China, for example, holding “The Dark Knight Rises” and “The Amazing Spider-Man” for release until the same weekend in order to split the box office.
So do I think this will happen? Paramount told Vulture that nothing was definite, the script was still being written, etc. But I don’t think Bay is going to say, “No, I just don’t feel these characters and story would make sense in China and I am committed to the integrity of my vision.” I think they’ll do it. I also don’t think we have to worry that a China partnership will mean that “Transformers 4″ will become a piece of propaganda for the Chinese government. In the end, it will still be robot cars fighting and blowing things up, just in a different country. No big deal.