"He has the best eye for multiple levels of pure visual adrenaline." — Steven Spielberg
I know what you're thinking: Michael Bay is a horrible director — this is click-bait! But hear me out. I know Michael Bay has made some really really bad movies. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Age of Extinction and Pearl Harbor are pretty terrible when it comes to story and narrative. Fortunately, in his defense he has also made some great films including The Rock, which is one of the best action movies of the '90s, and 13 Hours, which is one of the biggest surprises of the year. Michael Bay has been very hit-or-miss when it comes to making quality movies, but he has gotten so much hate over the Transformers franchise that people forget what what else he has accomplished. Bay is the master at making guilty pleasure movies, and though that may be an unpopular opinion, here are four reasons why he is one of the most unappreciated directors in Hollywood.
Lights, Camera, Explosions!
1. He Has A Great Eye
"I've studied his films and 'reverse-engineered' his shooting style. He loves what I call 'the big train set,' huge physical production, just as I do. It is the most challenging type of filmmaking, and he does it gorgeously." — James Cameron (Terminator, Titanic)
You would be lying to yourself if you don't think Michael Bay has a distinct visual voice. A director would be very lucky and privileged to be known for a certain style. Michael Bay's high-intensity colors, lens flares, and explosions make up a signature look that is automatically identifiable.
His style is so distinct that it is easy to find copycats. Movies like Furious 7 and Battleship are full of Bayhem cliches using many of his real-time action techniques, low angle character shots and in-camera dynamic scenes. In his films, his lens is always moving. In fact, the final shot of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, oddly stuck me as something Michael Bay would do. I was not alone in thinking this. I later talked to many who shared that opinion and saw comment sections that cited the out of place circular camera movement. Michael Bay's slow motion and action are like no other, and though it may sometimes be confusing, it is not doubt that whenever you see one of his set-pieces you think: This IS Michael Bay.
Every Frame a Painting's Tony Zhou made a great analysis of Bay's visual style:
2. He Turns Actors Into Stars
"I think Michael is actually an auteur in the true sense of the word. Every movie he makes reflects his personal creative vision. You may like it, you may not, but those movies are him without compromise. There's something to be said for sticking to your guns." — Ben Affleck (Argo, The Town)
Have you heard of Will Smith, Nicholas Cage or Ben Affleck? Chances are that before Michael Bay made them stars, you wouldn't have. Cage was only doing smaller independent films before he was tapped as Goodspeed in The Rock. Ben Affleck only had supporting role in Good Will Hunting, as well as a promising start in screenwriting before he went straight into blockbusters with Armegeddon. Last but not least, Will Smith had only been known as the Fresh Prince before breaking into Mike Lowrey for Bad Boys. It was due to one scene in that film where he admits: "[Michael Bay] took me from comedic television actor to...movie star."
The fact that he put Transformers back on the map and kick-started Shia LaBeouf's career wasn't bad either. This proves a very important point: Bay has an eye for talent. Since then, all of these actors have accomplished a lot. Cage managed to steal the Declaration of Independence, Smith is now a fan-favorite DCEU character as Deadshot and Affleck is — you know who he is.
3. The Rock Is One of the Best Action Movies Ever
Director Michael Bay orchestrates elements into an efficient and exciting movie, with some big laughs, sensational special effects sequences, and sustained suspense.
You probably could not guess who said that about Michael Bay's full-on action spectacle, but if you thought of pioneer Roger Ebert, you would be correct. The late and respected critic thoroughly enjoyed The Rock, but whenever the name of the "skilled craftsman" is brought up, no one ever brings up his best work.
The Rock is full of hardcore action, absolutely awesome one liners, and has a fantastic score from Inception and Man of Steel's Hans Zimmer. This is not even mentioning the very solid performances of Cage, Connery, and Ed Harris (whose character comes with very understandable motivations). In Time Out's list of best action movies of all time (determined by industry experts like John McTiernan) The Rock beat out the likes of Scarface, The Dark Knight, The Avengers and Gladiator. Even though The Rock is far from flawless, it does prove that Bay has talent. With a good script he can create a movie full of fun, gore and even heart.
4. He Knows That He Makes Guilty Pleasure Movies
"I make movies for teenage boys. Oh, dear, what a crime."
Let's face it: Michael Bay is no way a great director. In fact, he is not even close to one. I did not make this article to put the filmmaker on a pedestal, but to let people know how unappreciated he is. He has launched careers, franchises and made a myriad of guilty pleasure films.
I have to admit, I love the first Transformers movie. The visuals are spectacular, LaBeouf had great chemistry with the gentle giants, and the film felt like a Spielberg-esque first contact story at times. Even though I was noticeably younger when it was released, it gave me that sense of wonder and awe that actually inspired me to watch more films. Not only does it have great special-effects and an underrated soundtrack, but it finds a great every-man in its main character Sam Witwicky, who is as awkward and likable as that name suggests. Its sequels ended up being as good as a guilty pleasure and as horrible as a visual noise crap fest, showing that Bay has stopped caring about the franchise even though the studio keeps on making him do more. In all honesty, I will never let go of my love for the first Transformers, even though it is far from perfect.
Most of his films are popcorn movies, and one should respect him for acknowledging that. Armageddon is just dumb fun. If you watched the film, which marketed funny one liners and oil-drillers becoming astronauts, would you really expect the movie to take itself seriously? Bad Boys II is over the top ridiculous and it knows that it is. No one can deny the chemistry of the combined star power of Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. The fact that the film opens with a KKK shootout says it all. The movie even has a car chase that involves a truck releasing and destroying dozens of cars onto a highway just to stop the main heroes. If that's not enough, try watching this scene without cracking a smile:
He Is Much More Than That
"It's not just blowing stuff up, I like the way he composes scenes and action. He's inspiring." — Neill Blomkamp (District 9)
When you think of Michael Bay you probably think of explosions and hot women. You might be still convinced that this guy's a hack, and that he has no talent. Sorry to disagree, but Michael Bay does have talent, and this talent mostly shines in his passion projects. One of most underrated films is Pain and Gain. If you watch it in the intended light, this film can be considered genius. The main characters are so dumb and hilarious, you won't believe what they did. See it in the wrong light, and you will just find unlikable characters with a very bad plan. If you enjoy a movie that makes fun of its characters, and the work of the Captain America's Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, you're bound to get a kick out of this one.
13 Hours is also a feature in which Bay tackles another "true story," and may be even looked back as the film that made John Krasinski a movie star. This time, Bay plays out a very sensitive story: the September 11 attacks on Benghazi. He respectfully shows true American heroics in a film that actually caused a stir when it came to politics. Who knew that Bay would have an impact on the 2016 United States presidential election?
Overall, Michael Bay is much more than people make him out to be. It is about time that people step out of the Bay-hater bandwagon and know that to him, there is more than meets the eye.
In the same vein as Michael Bay, check out what movies would look like if everything was directed by J.J. Abrams:
Which Michael Bay movie do you think is his biggest success?
Sources: Cinefix, Birth Movies Death, Time Out, Every Frame A Painting, GQ