This article was written last year when i first heard “Chinese elements” would be added into Transformer 4.
BY Zhang Zihan
Hollywood studio Paramount Pictures recently announced that sci-fi epic Transformers 4 (2014) will be a joint China-US production starring Chinese actress Li Bingbing. I suspect she will help Autobots’ leader Optimus Prime overcome mechanical mishaps and upgrade his weapons for a highly anticipated fight against rival robots Decepticons.
I caught a sneak peek of the screenplay, so brace yourself for the following spoiler: “Li (to Bumblebee): China can help the Autobots in many ways, just tell me should you need any assistance. Don’t forget he has not been properly fixed. (Close-up on Li as she sips Yili Shuhua, the same brand of milk featured in Transformers 3).”
OK, so maybe I’m just speculating. But it’s easy to make such an assumption based on the Chinese version of Iron Man 3, which included cameos by Chinese stars Wang Xueqi and Fan Bingbing.
Wang had a five-second scene with Iron Man’s alter ego Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) at the start of the film followed by a one-minute dialogue with JARVIS (Paul Bettany) along the lines of, “China can help Tony in many ways, just tell me should you need any assistance. Don’t forget he hasn’t recovered yet.”
Fan, China’s answer to Kim Kardashian, played a nurse who uttered something unmemorable. Both were so irrelevant to the storyline their cameos appeared painfully forced.
In light of the Iron Man 3 “Chinese experiment,” I’d rather see Hollywood films that don’t kowtow to Middle Kingdom audiences. Historically, our men have been depicted on the big screen as villains with Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) queues and Fu Manchu mustaches, while our women have been exotic, oriental seductresses.
In a bid to tap the Chinese market, Hollywood tycoons are infusing “Chinese characteristics” into their productions: one or two Chinese sirens who speak broken English, several die-quickly yellow faces, token shots of Chinese landmarks and shameless domestic product placements.
But if studios believe adding Chinese walk-ons or advertisements into their films will yield box office hits in China, they are sorely mistaken. Instead, they appear stupid and transparent to educated domestic audiences.
No longer will we be entertained by fickle cameos or Hollywood stars butchering Chinese in awkward lines. But we might be willing to make an exception for Optimus Prime, provided his robotic diction perfects Putonghua’s tones.
As an avid sci-fi fan, I have some suggestions for Paramount ahead of Transformers 4’s release in China.
Firstly, make Bumblebee fall in love with Li. I know such a romance might seem unlikely, but we don’t really care for heartthrobs Mark Wahlberg or Brenton Thwaites.
Secondly, let their love nest be a quaint hutong in Beijing; it’s far more romantic than any American condo or log cabin.
Thirdly, allow Bumblebee to learn bad habits from Beijing’s taxi drivers, including refusing to take customers and stinking of garlic and sweat in summer.
Finally, depict the Decepticons’ downfall at the hands of Beijing’s notorious traffic, and make Megatron’s engine come to a sputtering end due to “beyond index” levels of PM2.5.
Brace yourself, Transformers. Beijing welcomes you.