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Transformers 4, A Chinese Menu Of Product Placement

Nutrilite is one of several Chinese brands to appear in the movie.
Nutrilite is one of several Chinese brands to appear in the movie.
Tong Mu

BEIJING — Three years after the epic battle in Transformers: Dark of Moon, it's time for the Autobots and Decepticons to face off again for viewers around the world.

There is particular attention in China, where the fourth installment, Transformers: Age of Extinction, has been chosen to be the closing feature at the Shanghai International Film Festival. But more importantly, as they soak up the Hollywood blockbuster, Chinese film viewers can count the famous tourist attractions and cities in China that pop up — as well as an unprecedented number of product placements in the movie.

The Great Wall, Beijing's National Aquatic Center, Beijing's National Stadium, also known as the Bird's Nest, and Chongqing's Wulong Tiankeng, a huge, deep natural pit all make appearances in this new science fiction/action feature film. There is also the impressive showdown of the various factions of transformers shot in Hong Kong's bustling business and financial center.

This is naturally very understandable — implanting "Chinese elements" is the trend these days to cater to a booming audience for foreign films in China. More than ten Chinese brands are highlighted in this movie including liquor, milk, bottled water, cars, television sets, and bank cards.

Michael Bay, the film director, regards these ad placements as totally natural and denies that he kowtows to commerce, whether it be American or Chinese-made.

Among all the Chinese elements of the new Transformers, the most impressive seems to be actress Li Bingbing for whom Bay has carved out a tailor-made role. Playing a tough senior executive, the Chinese star races through Hong Kong's narrow streets and uses a broom to fight a CIA agent in an elevator. Several other Chinese celebrities, including the Olympic boxing champion Zou Shimin, also get cameo roles on screen.

Chinese elements have already been a key part of the blockbuster series. Multiple scenes have been shot in Shanghai since Transformers 2, while the Chinese brands of Lenovo computer and Yili Shu milk showed up in Transformers 3.

As the world's second largest film market just after that of North America, China can help the Transformers series toward its goal of breaking sequel records in global sales. Simultaneously released in China, as well as in North America this past weekend, Transformers 4 topped $300 million at the box office globally.

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