Multi-million dollar Director and Producer Michael Bay is a polarising figure in film, but is he hated or just a little misunderstood? Two of our writers battled it out to decide…
For the Defence- Jeremie Sabourin
Let me preface this by saying that I am not a fan of Michael Bay’s work. I am often shocked that this guy continues to get work despite having his own production company, Platinum Dunes.
That being said, I do believe there is a need for directors and producers like Michael Bay. If you look at his resume, you’ll notice a lot of reboots/re-imaginings/re-what-have-yous. Of these, there are some ridiculously popular properties adapted from other mediums such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Transformers. Also, he has produced a number of new instalments to big name horror franchises like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare on Elm Street.
But is Bay doing important work keeping franchises alive?
In all fairness to Bay, there aren’t always filmmakers that deem these niche fascinations worthy of continuing. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were an absolute juggernaut back in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Until the reboot, there hadn’t been a whole lot of buzz about the turtles in quite some time. This isn’t to say that the Bay-produced films are any good (they’re not) but it certainly is a plus that someone out there wants to keep these characters alive for the current and future generations.
What does Bay offer to fans of the series' he revives?
The same can be said for Platinum Dunes’ horror remakes. While the three aforementioned franchises were wild successes back around their inception, they have all fallen off greatly since. Past films like Jason Goes to Hell and Freddy’s Dead killed off any remaining hope fans had to resurrect some legitimate scares out of two of the most iconic slasher villains of all time in Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger. When the reboot films came out, they weren’t horrible but they were so painfully average and unnecessary that most diehard fans consider them the metaphorical ugly stepchildren to the original films.
In saying all of this, Michael Bay isn’t the worst thing to happen to filmmaking. His heart is in the right place as he does choose projects that people would like to see once again on the big screen. It’s in the execution, whether producing or directing, that he falters. It seems as if he takes characters and things that fans want to see from these movies and throws them all in without knowing why fans clamor for them.
Between Bay’s shoddy plots and grotesque CGI effects in his films, you have to at least acknowledge that he does keep an eye out for things that fans of these franchises want. You want Freddy Krueger to be less cartoon-y than he was in some of the sequels to the original film? Done. You want to see Jason in the potato sack mask? Fine. Oh, you’ve always wanted to see Krang, Bebop, and Rocksteady in a Ninja Turtles film? Here you go. Michael Bay may not be an auteur by any sense of the word but he is a necessary evil for some of these dormant franchises. He just needs to take that next step and allow someone who understands the series’ and the fans instead of putting his own lackluster stamp of approval on the final products.
For the Prosecution- George Storr
Five of the last seven of Michael Bay’s directorial outings have been editions of the Transformers franchise. (This includes the upcoming 2017 instalment of the series.) He turned a widely appreciated children’s’ cartoon series into a glut of live action films largely greeted with critical disdain. The series’ low-points Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Transformers: Age of Exctinction, score 19% and 18% respectively on Rotten Tomatoes, (their ratings are based on the opinions of a wide array of critics,) and are shining examples of the critical disdain often levelled at Michael Bay.
Money before art?
Honestly, we don’t need a hoard of critics to tell us these films were expensive wastes of time. Transformers films have been light on plot, performance or really any merit at all and yet make up such a hefty chunk of this ‘high profile’ director’s portfolio. ‘Why?’ I hear you ask- because sadly, Michael Bay is a man who treats cinema as an industry, not an art form. There are lots of similar offenders but Michael Bay is prominent among these bandits of the silver screen, he’s immensely wealthy as a result and he’s guilty as sin.
If the ladies and gentlemen of the jury would kindly observe Exhibit A: both Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Transformers: Dark of the Moon took over a billion dollars at the box office, (yes that was a ‘b’ there, that’s not a typo,) despite their lack of substance.
Worse still- Bay DOES have some talent. Talent that he largely abuses.
What makes Bay’s insistence to churn out money-spinning Transformers films and horror re-makes so infuriating is that he does have directorial skill despite largely letting it lie dormant. This was demonstrated most recently in his 2016 film 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, which was a great action film based on a memorable true story. It tells the story of military contractors working with the CIA in Libya during an immensely dangerous period of civil unrest and while its historical accuracy has been partially called into question it stands tall as a fantastically enjoyable war film.
Michael Bay can’t plead incompetence then, and as Bay makes the final touches on Transformers: The Last Knight, (hopefully the ‘last’ in the title suggests the ‘last’ in the series,) the Judge looks ready to hand out a hefty sentence…
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