What's driving Michael Bay to change the setting for Transformers 4

Contributed by
Jul 4, 2015, 2:09 PM EDT

We've been hearing a lot about the human characters Michael Bay wants to join Optimus Prime and company in the upcoming Transformers 4, and now we know where Bay wants to set the story—but the reason why is most interesting.

Vulture reports that some or all of Transformers 4 will likely be set in China, because Bay and film studio Paramount want to make sure the big-budget sequel gets into the extremely lucrative Chinese box office, which has grown to be the second-largest international market for film releases.

But the Chinese government only lets in about 34 foreign films per year, so to ensure Transformers makes the cut, Bay wants to set some of the film there and potentially partner with a Chinese production company so it's more likely to open big in that market.

As an anonymous insider told Vulture:

"By getting Chinese culture into it, there's a better chance of getting it into China, and less chance of getting frozen out."
We're not sure how this will affect the story, and it doesn't seem to fit in much with previous comments that the sequel would deal with the aftermath of the big robo-battle in Chicago from the last film. But hey, things can always be tweaked.

This isn't the first time we've seen a studio make wholesale changes to a film to make it more attractive to the Chinese market, and it likely won't be the last. The upcoming Red Dawn reboot originally featured China as the invading enemy in retaliation to U.S. debt. But when the film was delayed the studio cut that subplot and changed the baddies to North Koreans to give the film better odds of getting into China.

The recent time-traveling noir flick Looper went through a similar situation, with some China-set scenes included in the international cut of the film to entice Chinese moviegoers—despite the fact that the director had originally left them on the cutting room floor because they slowed the flow of the film.

This is starting to look like a potentially troubling trend, and if Bay is willing to consider a full-scale move for the typically U.S.-set franchise (and if it makes a ton of money from the decision) a lot more big-budget films could be making the jump overseas, as well.

What do you think? Is it harmless to change the setting of a film for financial reasons, or a major compromise in creativity?

(Via Vulture)