As Transformers: Age of Extinction roles into theaters this weekend it stands as a trial film for many other film franchises. When the third Transformers film wrapped up, the city of Chicago was in total destruction, Shia Lebeouf left the franchise, and Michael Bay promised the start of a whole new trilogy of films with Mark Wahlberg in the forefront.
Mind you, this is not a reboot of the films akin to the most recent Spiderman films; Wahlberg is playing a characters unique from Lebeouf’s bumbling college student. Also, unlike the Star Wars prequel trilogy this film keeps many of the same supporting actors in the same roles (not to mention the fact that there is not a 20 year gap between trilogies). This film picks up where the last film left off and will stand as a reference point for Hollywood of whether or not films can continue after their initial movie stars have moved on to other things.
Chris Evans in Captain America has already announced that he will be hanging up the Spandex after Captain America 3, Robert Downey jr is growing tired of his Iron Man suit, and Hugh Jackman is starting to be a little too old for Wolverine (though he’ll probably be the last to admit it). There is no doubt that the X-Men and Marvel franchises will continue on after their primary leads have left, but is it the actors that make the role or are we okay with bold new faces stepping into replace them? On stage we have been doing this for centuries, just go to see any Shakespeare play. In film the closest example is James Bond but up until Daniel Craig took on the role, all the films seemed to have existed in a universe of their own with a few loose threads of continuity.
The last three Transformers film have all brought in a staggeringly large sums of money. Whether or not this is because of Shia Lebeouf’s charisma is something we will find out shortly. In fact, if you look at the last few blockbusters he has been in, Lawless, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, and Eagle Eye, you will see that these films have brought in diminishing returns, perhaps his star power is waning. Looking at the numbers, this shift may actually help the franchise more than hurt it. But is this a sustainable model: cast your lead and then make films until the audience grows tired of them; then recast hoping to inject a few more dollars of revenue into the stream? Perhaps, but only time will tell.
Will you be seeing Transformers this weekend? How do you feel about the casting changes?
– A. Lawrence Dreyfuss
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