Transformers. What Am I Missing?

Why does this franchise make so much money?

The bigger question for me is why does this franchise attract so much talent?

I am admittedly not in the Transformers target demographic.  I haven’t been a teenager in a long time, and boyhood has eluded me since I was born with 2 X chromosomes.  But let’s take a quick look at some numbers.  The latest installment, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, opened on June 29th.  That’s less than a week ago.  To date its domestic gross is $181 million.  $181 MILLION. Holy Cash Cow, Batman!  It certainly shows us why studios continue to crank out sequels – that’s what people go to see.

Now let’s look at the whole franchise.  Not including the 1986 movie which really isn’t part of this mega-run, the Transformers franchise has made about $900 million.  My guess is that in another week that number will reach $1 billion.  $1 BILLION. It’s a movie for teenage boys about robots.  What the what?

And it isn’t just the money.  Take a look at the cast for Transformers: Dark of the Moon.  In addition to Shia LaBeouf and Josh Duhamel who essentially are the target demographic, we have Rosie Huntington-Whiteley – and English newcomer.  No offense to Ms. Whiteley who for all I know could be the next Meryl Streep, but she’s a Victoria’s Secret model.  I’ve seen the first Tranformers movie – the girl is eye candy for the 18-24 year old boys.  Ms. Whiteley is White Hot.   No duh.  But what about the rest of the cast…

This I understand

Frances McDormand, who won an Oscar for Fargo.  John Malkovich, who had a whole movie made about his head in Being John Malkovich.  John Turturro, who performed the finest bit part of all time in The Big Lebowski and won an Emmy for Monk.  Patrick Dempsey, who set hearts aflutter as Dr. McDreamy on Grey’s Anatomy.  Alan Tudyk, who’s been in pretty much everything including Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse and 3:10 to Yuma.  Even small voice roles from Leonard Nimoy (Spock?  Star Trek?  Ringing bells here?)  and Hugo Weaving (The Matrix?  Agent Smith?  Lord of the Rings?  Elrond?  Yes?).  This is not a Coen Production, it’s

This I do not understand

a Michael Bay Blows Things Up Production.  What’s with the talent?  These are not actors who I associate with taking roles to pay the rent (well, except for Dempsey).  What the hell are they doing in the third installment of a robot action movie?

There must be something I’m missing here.  It isn’t like the movie is being hailed as the best thing since sliced bread.  It’s running a 6.9 on IMDb – respectable but not outstanding, and a crappy 38% on Rotten Tomatoes.  I’ve watched the trailer, read some reviews and it seems like nothing more or less than a summer popcorn movie in which Michael Bay plays with fire and people pay extra for mediocre 3D special effects.

So what am I missing?  Why is this movie making so much money?  More importantly, why are there so many good adult actors willing to be associated with it?  Color me confused.  Tell me why such talented grown-ups – Frances McDormand won an Oscar for God’s sake! – are taking roles in Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

I firmly reject the notion that there is nothing better out there – McDormand is married to a Coen, come on.  I also cannot believe that there is this much nostalgia for a 1980’s toy and cartoon or that the simple presence of the name Steven Spielberg in the production credits begets this type of response.  So there must be something here that I don’t get.  Please, help me.  Explain the Transformers phenomenon because from here it just makes no sense.


photos by gdcgraphics and Nicolas Genin

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