Michael Bay: Idiot Or The World's Most Underrated Director?

With the imminent release of 'Pain and Gain' we ask, 'Is Michael Bay' actually a true artist?
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With the imminent release of 'Pain and Gain' we ask, 'Is Michael Bay' actually a true artist?

He’s 48 years old, his middle name is Benjamin and he’s got a haircut that screams midlife crisis, but how much do we really know about Michael Bay? When researching this article (yes, I do research, smart arse) I tweeted asking people for their thoughts and feelings on the great man. @andyonpaper hit the nail on the head, describing Bay as ‘A director who considers huge explosions to be an acceptable substitute for dialogue, and a preferable one at that.’ Succinct and eloquent, Andy.

Mention Michael Bay to any film writer worth his salt and you’ll be laughed out of the room and kicked in the balls until the words ‘Michael’ and ‘Bay’ are conditioned to send a jolt of pain through your plums. The reason being that Bay is widely regarded as an awful cunt-haired hack, the likes of which have only be matched by Brett Ratner (Fuck you, Rush Hour is wank and X-Men 3 was even worse than the first two shitstorms).

If you’re in any doubt as to Bay’s uncanny ability to shit out a multi-million dollar slice of cinematic dog sick, then let’s have a brief run through of his filmography. Bay’s highest rated film, according to Rotten Tomatoes, is The Rock at 67%. His lowest rated film is The Unborn, which presumably should have been titled The Stillborn, because I’ve never fucking heard of it.

Despite all this, the trailer for his new movie, Pain and Gain (out this weekend), actually looks bloody brilliant. Sure, it won’t win any awards, but just check out the trailer and tell me it didn’t make you want to go twok a speedboat or do a press-up.

First off, it looks to feature brilliantly self-aware performances from Wahlberg and The Rock. It’s great to see these two in comedy mode after so many serious tough-guy roles. It’s in this arena where Wahlberg excels and hopefully this will be up there with Boogie Nights. Secondly, Anthony Mackie is in it. If you’re not familiar with Mackie, he’s the black guy who didn’t speak in Gangster Squad, but, more importantly, he’s the star of numerous brilliant Spike Lee movies. Before you even think about heading to see Pain and Gain, go rent She Hate Me . Thirdly, you’ll need sunglasses to watch this film, just look at all the early 90s colour schemes going on. Even if the plot’s weak as a Mormon’s piss, it’ll still look gorgeous.

Watching the trailer I couldn’t help but be reminded of Bad Boys and Bad Boys 2, the gems in Bay’s cardboard crown. There’s the same low-angle shots of a ‘Miami’ sign, there’s the same over-saturated palette and of course, the same explosions and ‘comedic’ remarks. Another Bad Boys would be great, so someone tell Will Smith to stop churning out cack like Men In Black 3, and get on it.

Not quite sure where this one's set, Michael

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It’s easy to write the rest of Bay’s back catalogue off as flashy dross, but there are rare moments of genius and a few guilty pleasures hidden amongst the turds. Armageddon is a pretty generic end of the world thriller, but who doesn’t like a film featuring Bruce Willis smirking in space? It’s a perfectly engaging movie, despite Aerosmith’s wanky song and the old USA saves the day tropes.

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I also have to admit that I quite liked The Island. I don’t think I’d ever bother to illegally download it, but it did a sufficient job of taking my mind elsewhere for an hour and a half. It also stars Ewan McGregor, who, for the most part, can do no wrong. (Beginners is one you need to watch).

In 2005, Bay’s company Platinum Dunes remade The Amityville Horror with Bay producing, and it was also not an entirely bad film. It successfully made me chew my fingernails off and Ryan Reynolds is on great form. It’s always nice to see RR doing some serious acting, and here he does his best, the Blade Trinity-era beard. However, he did seem implausibly toned for a normal guy.

Ryan Reynolds: What a showoff

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I think part of the reason I enjoyed Bay’s Amityville Horror was because I’ve never seen the original. The opposite is true of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The original is probably the most disturbing thing I’ve ever seen, and I bloody loved it. (as a side note watch this video of footage from the film set to Queens of The Stoneage’s Mosquito Song, it’ll give you chills ). However, I’d rather go through the events of the first film than sit through the Bay produced remake.

It is perhaps, unfair to judge Bay on the strength of other people’s films, but Bay the filmmaker (i.e. director and producer) is equally as responsible as them when things turn out less than adequate.

Bay gets a lot of stick for his Transformers series, but I have to say that I quite enjoyed the first one, despite the best efforts of that Even-Stevens goon LaBouef. After Pain and Gain, Bay’s next two projects are Transformers 4 (which he’s directing) and Ninja Turtles  (which he’s producing). Both of these are sure to be God-awful twaddle that will only appeal to reality TV contestants. However, we can’t write Bay off completely because, just occasionally, occasionally, he pulls a moment of genius out of an otherwise awful film, and on even rarer occasions, his films are actually watchable. Pain and Gain looks to be one of these films.

There’s a moment in the trailer for Pain and Gain where Wahlberg says ‘I’ve watched a lot of movies, I know what I’m doing.’ It’s tempting to think this is Bay speaking, winking at his haters from inside Walberg’s head, but somehow, I don’t believe it. But, despite all the flack he gets, Michael Bay is a director and producer who’s been working for eighteen years and made over twenty films, so he must be getting something right, however miniscule. At least his explosions are nice.