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July 15, 2011

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Products in film fun, Bay says

HOLLYWOOD film director Michael Bay yesterday addressed a controversy over product placements in his newest hit film, "Transformers: Dark of the Moon," by calling them an amusing element to entertain audiences.

Bay, on his first trip to Shanghai, showed up before local movie buffs with actor Shia LaBeouf and British model-turned-actress Rosie Huntington-Whiteley to promote the sci-fi work yesterday. The film will be released in the Chinese mainland on July 21, three weeks later than its debut in North America.

A lot of brands are featured in the movie, including several from China, bringing some controversy after its media screening yesterday morning. The 46-year-old director noted that everything could be a product, and the Chinese milk added some comic elements to the movie.

"Of course I'm not doing an ad for milk; I'm doing a movie," Bay said. "This movie is not favored among the critics, but millions of people love it. I love entertaining the audience. I hope they'll all have a great time at the cinema."

Media reports have noted that 68 brands, including four Chinese brands of computers, clothes, milk and televisions, were placed in the film, which has brought revenue totaling US$400 million so far.

Lenovo's computers serve as a backdrop in an office scene while the TV sets made by Guangzhou-based manufacturer TCL Corp are actually a transformed alien robot in the film.

The film's protagonist wears Shanghai-based casual wear Metersbonwe's clothes during several scenes.

But the placement of diary giant Yili Group's Shuhua milk turned out to be the most eye-catching and controversial among the soft ads. When the Asian-American actor Ken Jeong is seen holding a carton of milk in an elevator, he delivers the line, "I'm not talking to you until I finish my Shuhua milk." There is also a close-up shot of the milk box showing the logo of the Yili brand.

Some say that this line and scene is amusing and has shortened the psychological distance with Chinese audience, while others consider it slightly ridiculous.

"It's really annoying," said Zhang Yiliang, one of the movie buffs who had viewed the trailer. "I love the Transformers so much, but the ads, especially Chinese brands mixed in the Hollywood blockbuster, spoiled the movie and make it like a joke."

Talking about his first Shanghai trip, Bay said he really loved the architecture in the city and that he admires the culture.

"One of my best memories is when I was a kid, I spent four months studying Chinese history," he said. "China has such a rich and amazing culture, as well as a great history," he added.

Bay compared himself to the Iron Hide of the movie, who keeps moving forward and never gives up. With more than 2,000 people involved in its shooting and production, it's a very complicated movie in his eyes.

Both Bay and LaBeouf said the movie would end their participation in the "Transformers" series.


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