Isn’t it weird that despite the fact that most people hate and make fun of his movies, they can still make over $1 billion at the box office? It is a little. But then it also isn’t, because Michael Bay movies are made to be commercially successful and appeal to the widest audience possible. Which isn’t exactly a crime or anything, it just doesn’t usually make for great films. Or often even good ones…
Look, of the films I’ve seen of his, I largely don’t hate them. Well, maybe the ‘Transformers‘ films, but the others aren’t the worst. They’re usually just very flawed. Michael Bay is a very visual, action focused director. His films are usually built around big budget action sequences with lots of explosions and lots of sparks. Pretty cool huh?! Not always. Storytelling is often shoved aside for some ‘cool’ setpieces where one thing smashes into another thing and shoots something else in slow motion. And look, some of the action is pretty good. Some of it does actually look cool. But when you’re sitting through almost 3 hours worth of indistinguishable robots smashing into one another you start to lose interest a little bit.
The characters are very one dimensional in Bay films. They don’t act like real people, are annoying and are just loud and trying to be funny. Sometimes this works. ‘Bad Boys II‘ is one of his better films and actually has some kind of funny moments. But again, the ‘Transformers‘ movies are a low point. One of the real big problems is that what Michael Bay thinks is funny just isn’t very funny at all. Racist robots? No thanks. Robots weeing on people? Definitely not. Annoying parents taking weed and talking about sex? Leave that one out please. His films are rarely funny and when they are they definitely aren’t as funny as he seems to think they are.
‘The Rock‘ is one of Bay’s best. It has a decent story with some good action, good acting and gels together well. Similarly, I quite like ‘Pain & Gain‘, a more character based movie that is actually kind of funny, despite the fact it is based on a series of real life crimes. The first ‘Transformers‘ is okay, though still has a lot of the problems which are just amplified later. ‘The Island‘ is intriguing, but devolves into something less so as it wears on. ‘Armageddon‘ is alright, but is a bit corny and doesn’t handle the characters amazingly well. ‘Bad Boys II‘ is better than the first, but as will almost all Bay movies, it’s just way too long. Make a 2 hour film by all means. Maybe even add an extra 20 minutes if the story really needs it. But please stop making films that are nearly 3 hours and are mostly just boring, weightless, emotionless action scenes that have little to no stakes in them.
Look, I get why these films make money. They’re popcorn blockbusters geared for a large audience. Bay himself has even said “I make movies for teenage boys. Oh, dear, what a crime.” Fair play to him. If you’re good at it and you enjoy it, keep doing it! I just wish there was something more to his films than the great special effects and sometimes enjoyable action stuff. I want those things, yes please! But I also want real characters that I like and care for. I want jokes that are funny. And I want to actually really care about everything that is going on and actually feel some tension when the fate of the world is at stake. Story and character should be the most important things when making a film, not the special effects and action sequences. Having both should not be too hard a thing, other films do it great. But hey, I don’t make billions of dollars at the box office, so what do I know?!