The Transformers film franchise, kicked off in 2007 and went on to become a genuine worldwide box office behemoth. The franchise became a frequent target of critics, but the films often found an eager audience, with two of the highest-grossing movies of all time coming from the series.
When Transformers: The Last Knight failed to meet studio expectations, the franchise was sent in for an overhaul. Starting from the ground up with the prequel Bumblebee, the approach is now to reduce the scale and scope of the movies, focusing instead on the characters. The result was a smaller, but drastically stronger film. And while other movies like Aquaman have been making waves at the global box office and soaking up all the news attention, Bumblebee has managed to become a modest hit in its own right.
Float Like A Butterfly, Sting Like A Bee
Bumblebee arrived in theaters during a surprisingly competitive Christmas season. In the United States, the film went up against the super hero film Aquaman and the Disney family musical Mary Poppins Returns. Since being released in late December, Bumblebee has made almost $109 million at the US box office. Currently the seventh most popular film in theaters at the time of this writing, the movie earned far less than any other entry in the franchise. However, the film has also been performing much better overseas, with a global box office that currently sits at $367 million.
A large part of that comes from China, where the Transformers films have always played well. This has even influenced some entries in the franchise, which have incorporated more Chinese characters and locations to appeal to that audience. Even going up against the stiff competition of Aquaman (which has become one of the more popular Warner Bros. films ever released), Bumblebee has actually earned just as much in China as it has in the United States. And considering the reduced scope resulting in a smaller cost to produce the film (Bumblebee is actually the most inexpensive film in the series by at least $10 million), its overall success looks all the more impressive.
What That Means
The media's been pretty quiet about it, but Bumblebee actually outperformed Aquaman in international markets this past weekend. The film has steadily become a genuine, undebatable success for Paramount. It'll be the least fiscally successful Transformers film overall, yes, but its also the least expensive entry in the series to produce. It's been such a successful movie, Bob Bakish, the CEO of Paramount parent company Viacom, called the film "solidly profitable" and used it as an example to illustrate that the Transformers franchise is still a viable franchise.
Coupled with the positive critical reception to the film (it's managed to settle in at a whopping 92% on Rotten Tomatoes at the time of this writing), Bumblebee shouldn't be seen as a failure in any way, shape, or form. If anything, the prequel proves that the Transformers universe may actually work better as a smaller endeavor, that attention to characters over just spectacle can result in not just a critical success, but a financial one as well.
Directed by Travis Knight from a script by Christina Hodson, Bumblebee stars Hailee Steinfeld, John Cena, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Pamela Adlon, Jason Drucker, Abby Quinn, Rachel Crow, Ricardo Hoyos and Gracie Dzienny. The film is currently playing in theaters world wide.