No, that’s not one of my typical ridiculous titles designed to elicit a click, I really do think that. I wasn’t always subscribed to that belief, but after thinking about it recently I came to the conclusion that yes, he is in fact one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. If anything ever needed an explanation, it’s this, so allow me to oblige.
People operate under the assumption that a movie is a story told via the medium of moving pictures interlaced with sounds. Sure, that’s one definition, but it’s not Michael Bay’s definition. His definition of a movie is visual entertainment. That’s it. Pure, unadulterated, bombastic fucking on-screen visual entertainment. It’s the cornerstone of every Michael Bay picture ever created, and not once has he abandoned his own brand of integrity and colored outside the admittedly-fucked up lines he himself put in that coloring book.
How does Michael Bay do it?
That’s what makes him great. He has never even come close to making something different than what he does best. I can name you a bunch of lauded directors who, at one point, have gone outside their forté and created something they wish they could take back. Michael Bay isn’t on that list. Michael Bay belongs on a list with people like Quentin Tarantino. From Reservoir Dogs to his latest Django Unchained, has he ever made anything other than gritty, violent, over-the-top films? Nope, and he’s fucking awesome at it. His “shittiest” movie ever was the Death Proof segment in Grindhouse, and it was fantastic. I put Michael Bay in the same league as Tarantino, and while that makes film students and critics alike froth at the mouth, it’s a valid comparison.
“But what about a director like Martin Scorsese?”
That’s a good question, and he’s extraordinary, but Michael Bay has a better record. What constitutes “better”? Is it box-office earnings? Is it critical reception? Is it award count? It’s none of that. It’s all about consistency in what you do and the willingness of people to watch it. Michael Bay makes summer blockbusters, and all nine of the films he has directed have put more asses in seats than Texas’ capital punishments. And he has yet to fuck up in that regard. That’s what makes a great director.
Scorsese made Bringing Out the Dead, and that was horseshit. Granted, the culprit may not necessarily have been Scorsese’s directing, but in fact the inclusion of Nicholas Cage as its protagonist, yet the example stands. Michael Bay cast Nick Cage in The Rock, and that shit was a hit. If you disregard that, Scorsese also made Boxcar Bertha, a film which the great John Cassavetes called “a piece of shit”. And let’s not leave him out either, because John Cassavetes directed Big Trouble which the great Orlando Winters calls “a bigger piece of shit.” These are two phenomenal directors who at some point slipped and put out garbage. Need more proof? James Cameron: Piranha Part Two: The Spawning. Stanley Kubrick: Fear and Desire. Tim Burton: Planet of the Apes. Steven Spielberg: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Shia LaBeaeoiuoiaeuf. Clint Eastwood: The Rookie and that thing with the chair. Roman Polanski: Pirates and that thing with the underage girl. There are directors like Christopher Nolan and Quentin Tarantino who have yet to fuck up, but they’re still young and have plenty of time left to go full-retard on us.
Let’s run down Michael Bay’s directorial accomplishments.
Bad Boys – This is the first movie he directed. Let that sink in for a second. It’s the very first movie Michael Bay ever directed, and it grossed over $140 million on a $19 million budget. It propelled Will Smith from his humble princely beginnings into a Hollywood superstar who not only pulled off the action bullshit with dialog gems like, “aw hell naw”, but also managed to actually act in critically acclaimed films with rich plots.
The Rock – Once Jerry Bruckheimer noticed how much Michael Bay and him shared the love of explosions and gratuitous car chases, he had no trouble at all bankrolling the shit out of his next endeavor with original James Bond vs. Nick Cage. It cost $70 mil to make, and it brought in hooker & blow money in the form of $325 mil. He outdid himself yet again. Just like Bad Boys, there were explosions, car chases, and two leading men.
So he follows a formula?
Armageddon – $140 mil poured in, $553 mil came out. This is just Dirty Dozen in space and has more plot holes than a slice of Swiss cheese in 50 Cent’s pocket when he got shot, but who gives a fuck. It flowed the same as the previous two, had all the explosions, action, and yes, even a fucking car chase. This movie was about stopping an asteroid from destroying the world and he managed to work in a car chase scene. Let’s see Darren Aronofsky pull that shit off.
Pearl Harbor – At first glance of the title you think, “fuck, Bay is going for storytelling over filmmaking.” Wrong. This thing could’ve been called, “Predictable Love Triangle Story and Oh Yeah That Thing The Japanese Did Too With Explosions.” Bay didn’t stray from what he does best. There were plenty of explosions, two leading men, and while they couldn’t manage to squeeze in the car chase without entirely insulting the intelligence of viewers, they turned it into a plane chase, which is even more awesome. $140 mil budget, $449 mil revenue. When will it end?
Bad Boys II – His first sequel. Michael Bay didn’t have to think too hard on how to improve the first movie. How did he do it? Jumped the car chase up a notch by adding more than one car chase, doing so with a CAR CHASE IN ANOTHER FUCKING COUNTRY. Not just “another country”, a country with a goddamn embargo and culminating with a dirty Cuban drug dealer being shot in the fucking head on the doorstep of Guantanamo Bay. $130 mil in, $273 out. At $143 mil profit it probably made him a little sad. Surely he cried all the way to his vacation inside many, many women.
The Island – This is Bay’s most experimental film because it marks the first time he departs from Jerry Bruckheimer throwing money at his project. This time Bay produced it himself. It features car chases, explosions, clones, Michael Clark Duncan’s fight or flight reflexes, and Scarlett Johanssen. $126 in, $162 out. A pittance of a profit by Bay’s standards, but it was his first foray outside of Bruckheimer’s tiny-but-powerful wing. Plus he toned down the number of explosions.
Transformers – When Hasbro wanted a live-action film around its lucrative toy and cartoon series, they didn’t look to other greats like Peter Jackson or Ridley Scott, they went to Michael Bay and asked him to make audiences simultaneously jizz themselves and demand two sequels (a third sequel is being worked on). He took it up a notch by going farther in space than Armageddon, blowing up more shit than Pearl Harbor, and throwing in a brunette bombshell hottie that surpasses those of every other movie he’s made. Yes, Scarlett Johanssen is beautiful, but she has to partition her “beauty” attributes with her “sexy” attributes. Megan Fox is in no way beautiful, she’s just straight-up hot. Or at least she was. Whatever, $150 in, $710 out. Back on top.
How can you prove that’s what people want?
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen: – Critics hated this movie. When I say hated, I mean it’s so bad that Michael Bay HIMSELF stated he thought the movie was “crap.” It’s a movie about robots fighting each other, there’s no real plot even though writers tried their damnedest in the first and this one. But you know what? The car chases, the robots chasing cars, robots chasing robots, the explosions, and all that other shit that makes Michael Bay films Michael Bay films raked in $836 mil on a $200 mil budget. $636 mil in profit is nothing to scoff at.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon – His latest film. $1.124 BILLION fucking dollars. Think about that. What do Antigua, Somalia, Gambia, Liberia, Grenada, and Samoa have in common? That their entire fucking GDP is lower than what this movie made. This one movie made more money than the literal worth of about 23 other countries, and it cost $5 mil less than the previous one. The profit margin is just shy of a billion dollars. And what was it? The exact same shit as the other two movies, but replace one hottie with a different hottie.
If by now you can’t see what I mean, then you’re just in denial. Michael Bay has never made a film that wasn’t at the Michael Bay standards, and while he may have hated Transformers 2, it was extremely Michael Bay. People watch his movies, more so than any fucking arthouse film circle jerked by film critics paid entirely too much money to tell people what they should like. To Bay, a movie isn’t strictly storytelling. Yes, many interpret it as that, but Bay interprets it as purely visual entertainment where you can suspend not only disbelief in certain plot lines and the plausibility of occurrences, but the complete disbelief in reality as it is.
That’s why if you watch Armageddon, they show frames of New York, Paris, and India being simultaneously bombarded by meteors while it’s daylight in all three locations. Same goes for when the Mir space station explodes, EXPLODES, in space. Accuracy is moot, because as far as Michael Bay is concerned, who the fuck gives a shit?
I certainly don’t. Not anymore, at least.