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'Transformers' sequels: Has the movie series run its course?

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(Read caption) The 'Transformers' movies are directed by Michael Bay.

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“Transformers” fans, today may be your lucky day. Forget one sequel – there are reportedly four more films in the “Transformers” series on their way.

Steven J. Davis, chief of the toy company Hasbro that releases the toys on which the films are based, recently said there are more “Transformers” films being planned. 

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“Stay tuned,” Mr. Davis said. “’Transformers 5’ is on its way, and ‘6’ and ‘7’ and ‘8.’” 

Transformers toys got their own TV series which aired in the 1980s and depicted the struggle between Autobots and the Decepticons. Both groups are alien robots from the planet "Cybertron" that can disguise themselves as objects like cars or airplanes.

The first “Transformers” movie debuted in 2007 and stars Shia LaBoeuf and Megan Fox. Like other Hollywood franchises such as the “Fast and the Furious” movies, the “Transformers” series has seen a lot of cast turnover. Ms. Fox appeared in the first two films and Mr. LaBoeuf appeared in the first three. Neither appeared in the fourth film, the 2014 movie “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” which stars Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, and Jack Reynor. 

Along with these cast departures, the “Transformers” movies have usually not done well with critics. The 2007 movie got mixed reviews. However, the next three each got a markedly poorer reception from critics, with The Christian Science Monitor's film critic Peter Rainer writing that the most recent movie, “Age of Extinction,” is simply “vast clangor,” New York Times writer A.O. Scott calling the whole series “profoundly exhausting,” and Rolling Stone critic Peter Travers calling "Extinction" “dull… metal crushing metal with no purpose, logic, or letup.” 

So has the franchise run its course? Not according to their box office numbers. There the “Transformers” series continues to dominate. While the highest-grossing entry in the series is still the second film, 2009’s “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” and takes have decreased since, the “Transformers” movies are still a force. The latest film became the seventh-highest-grossing movie of 2014.

Are audience members just ignoring the reviews? For the opening weekend of the newest “Transformers” movie, “Extinction,” 64 percent of the audience was male and 58 percent was 25 and above. The fact that the audience skewed a little older indicates that perhaps the movies draw fans of the original ‘80s cartoons. In addition, the “Transformers” movies have always opened in the summer. That’s prime time for spectacle-based movies with lots of battle scenes. 

In addition, one should never underestimate audiences’ desire to see something big and impressive on the big screen. Anyone who sees the trailers for the “Transformers” movies knows that the films will be full of robot battles and disaster scenes, and those looking for an eyeful could be drawn by that. In the current age of often-expensive movie tickets and quality television, many audience members can't be drawn to the multiplex without spectacle.


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