Billed as an almost completely new approach to a beloved franchise, Transformers 4 has had one of the more interesting pre-productions in recent history. Bold claims, half-truths, and baseless rumors have swarmed about the project from the day that it was first announced.
Yet, the truths (Mark Wahlberg) behind all that gossip-mongering have nearly been as compelling as the fantasies. The latest news from the production reveals that Transformers 4 may see some very interesting new locations and additions to the cast.
A press release from Paramount has revealed that the company has agreed to partner with the government-backed China Movie Channel and streaming service Jiaflix to produce Transformers 4. Though the partnership is not an official co-production, China Movie Channel (under the supervision of the State Administration of Radio Film and Television) will provide, "... broad-based support of the production of the film in China." This will include helping to select sites for filming in China and the casting of local actors for the production.
The partnership apparently marks the first time China Movie Channel has actively backed a U.S. film production. It is part of a larger campaign by Paramount to expand into the Chinese film market, which is increasingly becoming one of the largest and most lucrative in the world. As part of the deal, Paramount will soon be providing the rights to several-hundred of its films to Jiaflix for streaming in China.
This quasi-government backing of Transformers 4 springs largely from the previous three films' immense popularity in China. Transformers: Dark of the Moon made $165 million of its billion-dollar worldwide gross from Chinese moviegoers. A guaranteed blockbuster like Transformers 4 is just about the perfect point for China Movie Channel to get in on the global moviemaking market.
Transformers 4 is only the latest in a string of high-profile films that have received financial and/or logistical support from Chinese sources. A different version of Iron Man 3 will be shown in Chinese theaters to emphasize the country's influence on its production. Similarly, Looper expanded scenes in a prosperous future Shanghai as a result of Chinese investment.
Given the increased focus on Chinese box offices, it's likely that these kinds of partnerships will only increase in the future. Whether this will be a benefit to international filmmaking is up in the air. It will certainly help to strengthen ties between the Chinese and American film industries, and hopefully lead to more overt creative partnerships down the road. However, the quality and tenor of productions like Transformers 4 will be the real indicators of whether these partnerships are a good and sustainable idea.
Of course, what the partnership means for the actual movie plot isn't entirely clear at this point. Fans might remember that this isn't even the first time that Transformers have visited China - since the opening set piece of Revenge of the Fallen saw Shanghai torn to shreds in an Autobot and Decepticon brawl. Could the surviving Decepticons be using China as a staging ground for their next attempt at world domination?
Surely Paramount's choice to film in China has more to do with appealing to Chinese moviegoers than it does tying together threads in the series' storyline but it'll still be interesting to see how the country is implemented in the film.
Transformers 4 will roll out on June 27th, 2014.