Transformers is a box-office clunker

NEW YORK •Even star vehicles run out of gas eventually. Transformers: The Last Knight, the fifth instalment of Michael Bay's maximalist action series, landed with a thud at the North American box office last weekend, taking in just US$45.3 million (S$62.9 million).

However, its disappointing showing - easily the lowest of the franchise - was somewhat salvaged by robust business overseas.

While Paramount's The Last Knight did hit No. 1 in North America, it made just 57 per cent of what the previous film, Transformers: Age Of Extinction, made in its first five days in 2014, showing yet again that consumers are getting tired of franchises overstaying their welcome. Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales and Alien: Covenant fared poorly this year too.

Reviews of The Last Knight were generally awful, although The New York Times' critic Neil Genzlinger praised Anthony Hopkins' performance, and audience members gave the film an exit score of B+ in CinemaScore polls. The franchise's creators will have to hope for a new spark, as the sixth and seventh instalments have been scheduled for release in the next two years.

The Last Knight performed strongly overseas, opening at No. 1 in 40 markets. Paramount said it earned an estimated US$265.3 million worldwide. In particular, it was huge in China, where it grossed US$123.4 million - the biggest opening for any Transformers film there.

Transformers cost at least US$350 million to make and market worldwide.

Paramount badly needed The Last Knight to be an unqualified hit. So far this year, all of Paramount's films have been domestic flops: Baywatch, Ghost In The Shell, Monster Trucks and Rings.

In contrast, Wonder Woman, directed by Patty Jenkins, continued its strong run, pulling in US$25.1 million in its fourth weekend to bring its total to US$318.4 million. It also became the top-grossing live-action movie to be directed by a woman, passing Mamma Mia! (2008). The animated Pixar movie Cars 3 tied with Wonder Woman for second place, earning $99.9 million after just 10 days in cinemas.

Meanwhile, two indie releases performed impressively in limited releases: the Kumail Nanjiani romantic comedy The Big Sick took in US$435,000 in five theatres, while Sofia Coppola's historical drama The Beguiled earned US$240,545 in just four.

Those numbers bode well as the critically acclaimed movies open across the country in the coming weeks.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 27, 2017, with the headline 'Transformers is a box-office clunker'. Print Edition | Subscribe