Michael Bay’s not the villain cinema deserves, but he’s the one it needs right now.
Before I begin this bizarre defence of the capitalist golden boy that is Michael Bay, let it be known that I hold him as a director of zero artistic integrity. This must be clear. To compare his body of work to the art of cinema is like comparing that dirty McDonald’s you consumed at 3am after leaving the club to the likes of Michelin starred restaurants; it is clear one is a slap-dash quick fix for basic consumption, and the other involves people actually giving shit about their craft. Bay doesn’t care about the art of cinema, but cares about how much money his films make, hence the lack of originality in his filmography both as director and as producer. In clarifying this, this defence is more explaining why we need Bay in the multiplexes. And the basic reason for that is that we need a collective cinematic public hate figure.
We need Michael Bay in the multiplexes. And the basic reason for that is that we need a collective cinematic public hate figure
Other ‘filmmakers’ (God, that we use that word to describe both Bay and Akira Kurosawa makes me think we need to invent a new one to divide the two) can have their share of fans, which means public opinion becomes divided. Adam Sandler makes abysmal comedies, set in locations he wishes to holiday, and which revolve around his ego and descend into racially stereotyped performances from Rob Schneider and ball-hitting jokes. But Sandler has loyal fans that see his work still afloat, and sometimes those films perform poorly at the box office, like Jack & Jill. This means the opinion from Sandler’s loyal fans dictate his films’ success, not reliance on mass advertising. So it’s easier for those who dislike Sandler’s work to accept that he needn’t be a hate figure, for his success doesn’t always trouble the box office.
Then there’s M Night Shyamalan, who has devoted fans that like his pretentious style of filmmaking but are completely unaware of it. This makes him a laughable figure amongst film fans who see his style for what it is: huge ego stroking (ie taking the directorial cameo idea away from a brief appearance for the devoted fans and making himself pivotal to the plot). But due to the lack of shiny moments in Shyamalan’s films, they’re unable to bypass the intellectual part of the brain and penetrate with the instinctual mind-numbing fun Bay somehow has accomplished. And, again, haters of Shyamalan’s take comfort that his box office failings lead to less projects produced by him.
And finally, another once internet-beloved hate figure was Uwe Boll, who made such abysmal video game adaptations as House of the Dead and Alone in the Dark, both aptly placed in IMDb’s bottom 100. But Boll is too niche of a filmmaker to be noteworthy as a cinematic hate figure. He had moderate success and notoriety in the mid-00s, but now he’s no more than a blip on the radar followed by a few devoted cult film fans.
Bay is something for everyone to collectively bitch and moan about, keeping that debate of art versus commercialism alive
Michael Bay’s success has allowed the vast spectrum of film fanatics to come together and revel at the anomaly that is his success and the atrocity that is his work. His films are hollow, and they offer nothing of any real substance to true film fans, but it is positive that we have a hate figure for cinema. He is something for everyone to collectively bitch and moan about, keeping that debate of art versus commercialism alive. He does lack artistic integrity, his depiction of women is atrocious and his military fetish is overbearing, but it’s for all this hyper-masculine, quasi-conservative lunacy that makes Bay a marvel of the success anomaly and not of the art.
The Transformers franchise was originally founded by two toy companies; this is a movie series that is and always was about making money and not art. For people to concern themselves over Michael Bay’s success damaging the potential success of small/independent/original films, think back to the food analogy at the beginning. Yes, fast food chains generate more income, but that doesn’t hinder smaller and, at times, better quality restaurants. Cinema is the same. Let us relax and criticise the films of Michael Bay, whilst taking comfort that he is the only one earning such success with such abysmal movies.
Read more: The corrosive appeal of Michael Bay
Featured image: Darz Mol (via Wikimedia Commons)
Inset image: Warner Bros