'Transformers': Worst-reviewed $400 million hit?
LOS ANGELES - After just five days, "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" is halfway to $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 $201.2 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 theaters, 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 percent 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 percent 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 favorite among professional movie reviewers. But he has long been a favorite 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 percent for "Bad Boys II," followed by 25 percent for "Pearl Harbor." Even his commercial flop "The Island" rated well above the "Transformers" sequel, with 40 percent positive reviews.
Of the eight movies that have grossed more than $400 million domestically, four scored 90 percent 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 percent.
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 percent and "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" rating 53 percent.
This year's biggest hits so far had terrific scores, "Up" with 97 percent and "Star Trek" with 95 percent. 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."
Bay has said that if there is a third "Transformers" movie, he would like to come back for it. But his next project could be far quieter than the explosions and action for which he is known.
"I've got to take a little time off from the robot world," Bay said before the movie opened. "I've got to do something totally different. It's enough of this for right now. I keep saying I'm going to do my small movie. I've got one I want to do."