Michael Bay is a polarizing filmmaker. The veteran has been in the business for over 20 years, first doing commercials and music videos before making the transition over to feature films. Bad Boys was actually Michael Bay’s first venture into big-budget moviemaking. Despite some script issues in the pre-production process, the 1995 feature came out to a lukewarm response, but the movie made over $140 million worldwide at the box office thus making it a success. From that moment on, Bay continued to direct mainstream big-budget action films that audiences would eat up. Armageddon, Transformers, Pearl Harbor, Michael Bay is one of the most commercially successful directors in Hollywood, amassing over $5 billion worldwide. However, while it appears that audiences enjoy most of Bay’s work, it’s agreed upon that the filmmaker is not on the level of Quentin Tarantino or Martin Scorsese. That brings up the question, even though Michael Bay is a financially successful director, is he a good filmmaker?
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Exactly what does it take to be a good filmmaker? Someone with a strong voice that can guide audiences through a spectacular journey that features excellent and well-written characters, and an engaging story. This doesn’t mean that a filmmaker has to be some Oscar-winning name; Great and influential filmmakers like Alfred Hitchcock, David Lynch, and David Fincher have yet to win the prestigious award. The decision on whether a filmmaker is mostly subjective. While many would consider Alfred Hitchcock to be an excellent filmmaker, there are plenty of people who would object to that statement. However, there’s a conventional form to great filmmaking. Long story short, Michael Bay doesn’t truly meet that conventional form. Guys like David Lynch are also unconventional when it comes to their movies; however, his films still have true value and meaning. Unfortunately, Michael Bay’s films don’t particularly have that subtext. Exactly what’s the meaning behind two rats having human sex (Bad Boys II)? Or the unnecessary action porn that bombards most of his films?
When you examine a Michael Bay movie, it’s not hard to decipher what his films are, but unfortunately, an abundance of action and violence doesn’t necessarily equate to a well-told story. Since Bay relies so heavily on action porn to move the story forward, it sacrifices character development and a coherent story in general. A fully fleshed out human being isn’t made by him dodged gunfire or running from a Transformer. Even when Bay allows his characters to breathe for a second, it’s usually non-sense. Exactly why is a young man trying to explain that’s okay to date an underage girl? Or why are most of the jokes a form of crude humor that doesn’t play into the story and serves more as a distraction? Again, why are two rats having sex! Now, I’ll give credit where credit is due, there are things that Bay does extremely well. Of course, it’s the tremendous action scenes displayed throughout his films. Everything is crisp, clear, and exciting.
Plus, there are moments where the filmmaker does get characters and story right. Dr. Goodspeed and Mason from The Rock are solid characters who have great back-and-forth banter with one another. In fact, The Rock is arguably Bay’s best film thus far. His Bayism’s are still present; however, there’s decent balance between characterization and story, and it’s just a good time overall. Some of his other films range from overly ambitious (Pearl Harbor, The Island) to an unnecessary action fest that satisfies Bay’s explosion and fight urges. Bay tries bis best with Pearl Harbor, mixing war and romance and it also marks one of his better works, though it fully missed the mark. The Island seems to be a collection of ideas that would’ve worked wonders in two separate movies, but somewhat got forced together in one. Filmmaking is hard, as a guy who understands and works in the business, I can’t simply call Bay a terrible filmmaker. That would mean that he’s in the same league as Ed Wood or Uwe Boll, who are horrendous in nearly every aspect when it comes to filmmaking. Bay has a strong eye when it comes to action and he’s showing a level of content in a good portion of his films. At the very least, they’re shot well and the scenes generally make sense. Michael Bay is not in the league of Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino, or Stanley Kubrick. He’ll likely never be. He has his set of films that most audiences typically love, even though they’re far from masterpieces.