Michael Bay has never had an easy time with critics. In response to the harsh reviews for his latest Transformers outing, Bay said ‘they love to hate, and I don’t care; let them hate’ just before diving into an Olympic sized swimming pool filled with his box office earnings.
However unsubtly made, Michael Bay can certainly draw a crowd with his explosion-filled spectacles. His films continue to maintain this dichotomy of financial success and critical reaction, further affirming his place as the Dan Brown of modern cinema. Some would argue that his features, much like Brown’s novels, have entertainment value that goes widely unappreciated. Are critics too snobbish to give any praise to this brand of silly popcorn cinema?
For the purposes of research I decided to re-watch Armageddon. I figured if there are any redeeming qualities to Bay’s work they can be found in that film where a bunch of oil drillers save the planet. It’s a film that has a bit of everything: logical inaccuracies, an Aerosmith soundtrack, ‘space dementia’ and the worst Russian accent you’ll ever hear. Just like the rest of Bay’s work, it’s designed to thrill, but when every scene is edited like a K-pop video the action loses its capacity to do that. The movie has no sense of pacing, sprinting from one explosive set piece to another for an exhausting two and half hours. I even had to look away from the screen at times in order to stop an encroaching headache. Armageddon is loud and stupid and without any sense of irony, but If you embrace the gung-ho attitude there is some fun to be had watching Bruce Willis blow up an asteroid.
I think the main problem we have with Michael Bay is that we’re not eight years old anymore. People like to complain that their beloved childhood Saturday morning staples are being exploited without considering that if Bay’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles came out in 1990 they would have eaten it up. Yes, his films are made with corporate interest and have no soul but they hit certain notes that resonate with the child within us. Robots beating up robots. People dying while screaming “Noooo!” There’s a sense of nostalgia to his work which reminds us of a simpler time.
Michael Bay should continue making immature films for immature people: children. As much as I can’t stand Transformers, it’s infinitely better than his foray into more serious territory (see the nasty Pain & Gain). I don’t think his films should be taken seriously (particularly considering their questionable sexual politics) but they should be accepted for what they are: trashy, mindless nonsense.