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Transformers a 'mindless, incoherent' . . . hit

Last updated 05:00 01/07/2014

The official Transformers: Age of Extinction trailer starring Mark Wahlberg.

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Critics might be savaging Transformers: Age of Extinction, but it's not stopping its box office assault,  with Michael Bay's latest even tagged called a ''game-changer'' after  a record-breaking pull in China.

The fourth instalment of the Transformers franchise has been  called ''migraine-inducing'', ''brain-freezing'', ''incoherent'' and  ''punishingly long''.

But despite these bad raps, the film still topped 37 markets and earned US$300 million worldwide in its opening weekend.

Around US$100 million of that came from the US, while the action flick also took US$90 million in China, the country's biggest weekend debut for an international movie.

In Australia it became the highest opening weekend of 2014 with a final tally of over AUD$10 million.

It's well-established the Chinese market is increasingly important, but as IMAX Chief Executive Greg Foster told TheWrap,  this result is a ''game changer''.

''We live in a global world and this shows beyond a doubt that China is knocking on that door.''

In the past few years, films have been picking up on the role China could play.

Australian-Singaporean shark horror flick Bait was critically panned here, but chomped up more than $20 million in less than two weeks in China.

Chinese sources also reportedly contributed $5 million to its $25 million budget.

Meanwhile, Skyfall was set partly in Shanghai, the filmmakers behind Looper did a deal and rewrote part of its script so it could be set in China, Cloud Atlas was an US-Chinese co-production, and Chinese actress Fan Bingbing was cast in X-Men: Days of Future Past.

But Transformers: Age of Extinction aimed from the start to resonate across the world, and in China in particular.

Aside from casting Chinese actress Li Bingbing, it staged a reality TV show to cast four people in roles and also features Asian superstar Han Geng.

It also brought on CCTV's China Movie Channel and Jiaflix Enterprises as co-producers and amid the movie's rampant product placement are Chinese products, including a carton of milk Stanley Tucci's character sips during the chaos.

Paramount's head of distribution Don Harris told TheWrap: ''I think it's become clear that studios can't afford to make movies of  this scope without planning for them to be successful worldwide, and especially in China''.

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