Viking Night: Michael Bay May Phase IV
By Bruce Hall
May 24, 2017
For several weeks now, I’ve been locked in a mortal struggle of wills between my own intelligence, and Michael Bay’s burning hatred of it. Those of you who have taken this ride with me know that unlike a Michael Bay film, our journey has been filled with emotional highs and mostly lows, as well as the acute human drama inherent in watching potential greatness die, again and again. It’s been a bit like Groundhog Day meets Edge of Tomorrow meets whatever Siskel and Ebert are doing in heaven right now (following this column, no doubt).
But before we continue our travels together, I’d like to clarify something. When I set out to do this, it wasn’t for the purpose of doing just another “Michael Bay Sucks” longform rant. The Internet is full of those already. Some of them are quite good, and most of them are horrifyingly accurate. In this case, though, I wanted to take a sincere look at the man’s work, and draw my own conclusions from the experience. I haven’t seen any of these films in a very long time, and while my opinion of them has remained relatively consistent over the years, I wanted to go deeper than the usual Bad Bay diatribe.
Brett Ratner is also considered a… ”controversial” director, in much the same way as Bay. The critical difference, of course, is that people come out in droves to see Bay’s work. Ratner also occupies that critical no-man’s-land between acceptable box office and popular outrage - but his batting average isn’t even close. As I’ve already said, even people who enjoy Bay’s movies tend to hate them, and I’ve already figured out the reason why. The trick is to put as much effort into intentionally making a bad film as other people put into making great ones.
This means prudently putting as little effort into the screenplay as possible, while making sure to accentuate top-notch special effects, kinetic visual storytelling and appealing stars. It works the same way as fast food, hard drugs, and binge watching Japanese game shows. It feels trashy, you don’t understand it, and you’re fully aware that it barely qualifies as entertainment. It’s stupid, and almost unbearably so. But it’s so... seductively stupid.
Have you ever had a purely physical short-term relationship with someone you don’t entirely respect, simply because you can’t believe such a preposterous person exists? Obviously, I have, more times than I can count. But for those of you who don’t live the punishingly erotic life of an Internet film critic, I can see how such an experience might be worth having.
But not... remembering.
Do YOU remember the plot of Bad Boys (hint: there isn’t one)? Of course not. But I’ll bet you started giggling as soon as I mentioned the name. Bingo - that’s how McDonald’s does it. It’s how El Chapo rolled. It’s also how Super-Mecha Daidai Trivia Face-Off got on the air. And it’s why Michael Bay has as much money as Steven Spielberg, but Martin Scorsese can’t be in the same room with him without getting hives. That’s good work if you can get it.