‘Transformers’ is primed for a mega-weekend

June 24, 2009 | 5:17 p.m.

Shia LeBeouf and Megan Fox at Revenge of the Fallen premiere

 

I remember a few years back when I first heard that Michael Bay was going to launch a “Transformers” franchise. My first reaction? That has to be the worst movie idea I’ve ever heard. I thought that the premise was flimsy at best and that, in a live-action film on a big screen, any giant, shape-shifting alien robot would simply look silly. And the notion of handing the project to the director of “Pearl Harbor“? Hah! A disaster in the making, clearly!

Ahem.

Once again, I’m clearly baffled by Hollywood, the American moviegoer and, well, life in general.

The first film, released in 2007, merely pulled in $708 million worldwide. And now its sequel looks even more robust: “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” premiered Monday night in Hollywood (that’s Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox at the red-carpet event in the photo above) and as it opens wide today it appears poised for massive box-office success. Some studio executives are predicting $175 million in its first five days. Here’s what my colleague Ben Fritz is reporting on our sister blog, Company Town:

“Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” is generating huge interest among males, particularly young men, just like 2007’s first film based on Hasbro’s shape-changing robot toy line from the 1980s. That movie sold $319.2 million worth of tickets in the U.S. and Canada, and $389 million overseas.

But “Revenge of the Fallen,” which cost just under $200 million to produce, is also showing strength with a new demographic: young women. According to a person who has seen pre-release audience polling, females younger than 25 are just as interested in the movie as males older than 25. That’s likely because of the growing appeal of 20-something stars Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox.

With that extra audience group in mind, Paramount is primed for a huge opening. The current five-day-box-office record for a movie debuting on a Wednesday is “Spider-Man 2,” which grossed $152.4 million in 2004. Executives who closely follow tracking say “Transformers” probably will earn roughly $175 million in its first five days. That’s a huge start, albeit short of the five-day record of $203.8 million set by “The Dark Knight” last year. It’s possible, albeit unlikely, that “Revenge of the Fallen” could topple that mark.

It has a better shot at beating the all-time record for a Wednesday of $44.2 million set by “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” in 2007. “Transformers” has already sold out more than 1,000 midnight shows through the websites Fandango and MovieTickets.

Big money, but the reviews have not been kind. Los Angeles Times critic Betsy Sharkey called the film a numbing experience for anyone except the most forgiving fanboy. “‘Revenge’ is in-your-face, ear-splitting and unrelenting,” Sharkey wrote in her review. “It’s easy to walk away feeling like you’ve spent 2 1/2 hours in the mad, wild hydraulic embrace of a car compactor — exhilarating or excruciating, depending on your point of view.” The Village Voice called it “blockbuster porn” and the Wall Street Journal dismissed it as “glittering junk.”

Even some of the true believers walked out dazed and unsatisfied. Empire magazine gave the movie a halfhearted endorsement in a review by Nick de Semlyen that riffed on the fact that Bay put something akin to metallic testicles on one of his towering metal warriors: “It’s just a shame there aren’t more ideas behind the spectacle, since we’re not given much in the way of compelling reasons to root for one pixelly pugilist over another. Long before the final minute it’s become a numbing, wearying viewing experience. Next time could we have less balls and more brains?”

I’m eager to hear what you readers think of the film — and I’m already curious how many more “Transformers” films will be rolling off the assembly line in the seasons to come.

– Geoff Boucher

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Top photo: LaBeouf and Fox at the premiere. Credit: Associated Press. Bottom photo: Fox in “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.” Credit: Paramount Pictures. 

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