If the YouTube link goes bad, try this spot. First of all, kudos to Paramount (a division of Viacom) for not revealing even a frame of this commercial online prior to its television debut. On the surface, this 30-second teaser for Paramount Pictures’ fourth Transformers film appears about the same as the last two Super Bowl sequel teasers. It’s low, brass-heavy music, flashes of explosions and carnage, along with just a handful of Auotbots and/or Deceptions doing things that are impressive enough to make you forget that you didn’t like the last movie. And you get that this time around too. But this time around Michael Bay and company have an extra element, an “added value” element if you will. This time, they have Mark Wahlberg; an honest-to-goodness movie star.
As such, you see more of Wahlberg running, jumping, and screaming then you do of any one specific machine. That makes sense, since the probable viewer fatigue can be alleviated by the fact that this would-be action film starring a bunch of transforming robots features an actual action star. And Wahlberg is genuinely a movie star at this point in his career, especially when it comes to hard action or vulgar comedy. Lone Survivor just past $100 million domestic on Friday, and 2012′s Ted was the rare R-rated film, a non-sequel no less, to pass $500 million worldwide at the box office. He still has the occasional Broken City on his resume, but anyone who can get something like Contraband to $66m domestic is a “gets butts in the seats” kind of actor.
As you know, I write quite a bit about “star+concept” being important when the budgets are in the $150-$250 million range. I don’t know what the cost for Transformers: Age of Extinction is, although Dark of the Moon actually cost $5m less than Revenge of the Fallen. Point being, while Wahlberg’s casting for this arguably had as much to do with a solid working relationship with Michael Bay on Bay’s Pain & Gain ($86m worldwide on a $26m budget) , it is a canny choice, a safeguard if you will, to lessen any domestic depreciation of interest in the franchise. Wahlberg is a real draw in hard action and/or bawdy comedy, which are ironically both specialties of one Mr. Michael Bay.
We’d had three films that made oodles of money without being particularly loved by most moviegoers. Still, with three entries with an average domestic gross of $350m and an average worldwide gross of $890m, even a substantial depreciation will mean massive grosses and crown Transformers: Age of Extinction as the likely top-grosser of summer 2014. So yes, this feels a little déjà vu, yet another “Deceptions invade and destroy a major US city” epic on the horizon. But this time it will be interesting to see how the formula changes with the presence of a genuine human-sized movie star, specifically one quite a bit older than Shia LaBeouf who was a few years removed from Even Stevens when the first Transformers debuted in 2007. Transformers: Age of Extinction opens June 27th, 2014. As always, we’ll see.