Transformers open credibility gap

After just five days, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is halfway to US$400 million domestically, a box-office milestone only eight other movies have reached. If it climbs that high, the Transformers sequel will be by far the worst-reviewed movie ever to make the $400 million club.

Twin robots

After just five days, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is halfway to US$400 million domestically, a box-office milestone only eight other movies have reached. If it climbs that high, the Transformers sequel will be by far the worst-reviewed movie ever to make the $400 million club.

Critics and mainstream crowds often disagree, but Revenge of the Fallen sets a new standard for the gulf between what reviewers and mass audiences like.

The movie pulled in $200.1 million since opening Wednesday, the second-best result for a movie in its first five days, just behind The Dark Knight with $203.8 million.

Even after its whopping $60.6 million opening day, Revenge of the Fallen was packing theatres, a sign that unlike critics, who mostly hated the movie, audiences felt they were getting their money’s worth and were giving the flick good word of mouth.

Critics “forget what the goal of the movie was. The goal of the movie is to entertain and have fun,” said Rob Moore, vice chairman of Paramount, which is distributing Transformers for DreamWorks.

“What the audience tells us is, ’We couldn’t be more entertained and having more fun.’ They kind of roll their eyes at the critics and say, ‘You have no idea what you’re talking about.”’

According to Paramount’s exit polls, 91 per cent of the audience thought the sequel was as good as or better than the first Transformers, which received far better reviews.

Most of Hollywood’s all-time biggest hits are accompanied by either good or at least passable reviews, and some can be among the year’s most-acclaimed, such as this year’s Up and Star Trek and last year’s The Dark Knight, WALL-E and Iron Man.”

Not so for the new Transformers. On Rottentomatoes.com, a Web site that compiles critics’ opinions, the sequel had only 38 positive reviews out of 187, a lowly 20 per cent rating usually reserved for box-office duds.

Many critics who liked the movie had reservations, praising the movie’s visual effects and relentless action but generally advising audiences to check their brains at the door.

The critical drubbing was a new low for Transformers director Michael Bay, never a favourite among professional movie reviewers. But he has long been a favourite among fans, scoring hits with the first Transformers and such flicks as Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, Bad Boys II and The Rock. Like blockbuster maestro Jerry Bruckheimer, who produced many of Bay’s movies, the director aims to please audiences, not critics.

“He really had blinders on when it comes to what he believed the picture needs to be, and then he executed it,” said Brad Grey, Paramount chairman and chief executive officer.

“He’s a director who is the definition of blockbuster at this point. His grosses speak for themselves.”

Bay’s previous worst score on Rottentomatoes was 23 per cent for Bad Boys II, followed by 25 per cent for Pearl Harbor. Even his commercial flop The Island rated well above the Transformers sequel, with 40 per cent positive reviews.

Of the eight movies that have grossed more than $400 million domestically, four scored 90 per cent or higher on Rottentomatoes: The Dark Knight, Spider-Man, E.T. the Extra-terrestrial and Star Wars. Two others, Shrek 2 and Titanic, topped 80 per cent.

The other two had mixed reviews but still came in far higher than Revenge of the Fallen, with Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace scoring 63 per cent and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest rating 53 per cent.

This year’s biggest hits so far had terrific scores, Up with 97 per cent and Star Trek with 95 per cent. Both movies have grossed about $250 million, a number the Transformers sequel will soar past by next weekend.

On Metacritic.com, a site that assigns ratings of zero to 100 based on movie reviews, Revenge of the Fallen received a 36, a lowly score barely above those given to recent box-office duds Year One and Land of the Lost.

On the Net:

www.rottentomatoes.com

www.metacritic.com

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