A lot of people in Hollywood seem to get a lot of unjust hate throw their way. From Zach Synder, Kim Kardashian, Lindsay Lohan and endless others. They never really did anything wrong necessarily (except Zach Synder directing Sucker Punch), they’re more of an easy target. They’re people who we can unite against and dislike together…for no particular reason. Then you have somebody like Michael Bay. He’s also quite the easy target and for increasingly good reason.
Looking at his cinematography record, it’s apparent that Bay isn’t really loved by critics. The filmmaker has often been labeled as cynical, brainless, mean-spirited, pandering and misogynistic. He once responded to criticisms against him by somewhat sarcastically proclaiming that he makes films for “teenage boys.” On one hand that could been seen as a humble comment, perhaps the director realizes just how dense his films truly are. On the other hand, perhaps this isn’t the case at all. Recently, while speaking to journalists at a Berlin press conference for his latest film, Transformers: Age of Extinction, the director once again had something to say to his critical detractors.
“They applaud, they laugh, they cheer. I don’t know what movie [the critics are] reviewing. People walked out happy, that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re just entertainers.”
This begs the question, take box-office out of the equation, is Michael Bay truly unaware that the majority of his films are ridiculously, painstakingly bad? Or is he the equivalent of a pop star who sells millions of records making terrible music who surrounds herself with yes-men who always tells her what she wants to hear? Sure, numbers don’t lie and it’s hard to argue that a movie is all that terrible when it literally makes billions of dollars at the box office. Although, just because Taco Bell makes billions of dollars doesn’t mean that their burritos taste good or that they’re good for you.
Though, it wasn’t all unpleasant. The filmmaker started out promising enough, in 1995 directing the action comedy Bad Boys, starring Martin Lawrence and Will Smith. The film was funny, action-packed and still holds up pretty well almost twenty years later. The next year, he directed The Rock starring Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage, another film you couldn’t be blamed for enjoying.
Then things starting to go downhill, and by downhill we mean in terms of artistic pandering, certainly not box-office success or technical skill. 1998’s Armageddon certainly has its fans but the film itself is quite terrible. In 2001 Bay rewrote the history books with his insulting belly rub to America in Pearl Harbor. 2003’s Bad Boys II didn’t live up to its predecessor, delivering half the laughs and more loud noise. 2005’s The Island, starring starring Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson, was actually a move in the right direction. The film took place in a futuristic compound where clones are created exclusively for organ harvesting and surrogate motherhood for wealthy people in the outside world. Interesting premise and not too bad execution. Ironically the film is considered, Michael Bay’s only flop.
Then in 2007 came the behemoth known as Transformers. At the time everybody was understandably excited, Michael Bay actually does have a talent for making things explode and utilizing visual effects. When the film finally came out…it wasn’t really that bad. Sure it was kind of cheesy and lame but so was the ’80s cartoon it was based on. Then we got a bunch of films that took the formula and tweaked it closer to perfection. At the height of this Michael Bay released Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen which was basically the same thing as the first film. Then the director made Transformers: Dark of the Moon, which was the same tired formula, again rehashed.
After releasing the actually underrated film Pain & Gain in 2013, Bay has returned with Transformers: Age of Extinction and guess what? It’s no different than the previous films, boobs, robots fighting each other and explosions. Remember the first time you saw an explosion on-screen? During the ’80s and ’90s action stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone provided us with all the explosions we could have ever needed. Then we got Michael Bay who took this loud noise philosophy and relentlessly shoved it down our throats. There has to be over a hundred explosions in Age of Extinction and our adolescent minds are now simply conditioned to watch, we can’t help it. Sure adolescent boys have never seen Rambo or The Terminator so this is all new to them, but Bay’s movies don’t make billions of dollars simply catering to that one demographic.
Also, let’s not forget Platinum Dunes, Bay’s production house which systematically remade (and some would argue destroyed) horror franchise after horror franchise. First up they tackled Leatherface in 2003 with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. In 2009 they tackled another one of our horror icons Jason Voorhees with a Friday the 13th reboot. In 2010 Michael Bay and company made the ultimate sin when they remade A Nightmare on Elm St. Not only did the film not live up to expectations it is quite possibly one of the worst horror movie remakes ever produced.
2013’s The Purge was a clever idea, that ultimately underwhelmed. And while the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot hasn’t been released you can bet your Turtles In Time Super Nintendo cartridge that the film will more than likely disappoint (of course, we hope it doesn’t).
Also, lets not forget the oversexulized and underdeveloped female characters that go hand to hand with a Michael Bay production. Countless actresses have succumbed to this; from Megan Fox, Kate Beckinsale, Nicola Peltz, Julianna Guill, Adelaide Kane and endless others.
“They love to hate, and I don’t care; let them hate,” Bay recently told MTV, once again responding to critics. “They’re still going to see the movie!”
This is either the reply of a man who is confident that his films are that good or a man who is confident that he can sucker enough people into seeing anything he makes. We may never truly know the answer.
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