Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Studio Cancels All Screenings of 'No Good Deed' to Preserve Shocking Twist That It's Probably Terrible Studio Cancels All Screenings of 'No Good Deed' to Preserve Shocking Twist That It's Probably Terrible 'No Good Deed' Reviews: And the Twist Is That It's Good! (Not Really) 'No Good Deed' Reviews: And the Twist Is That It's Good! (Not Really) 'The Cobbler' Reviews: 'Makes Me Want to Upgrade Everything I've Ever Seen Half a Star' 'The Cobbler' Reviews: 'Makes Me Want to Upgrade Everything I've Ever Seen Half a Star' 'The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them': 'Between Just Enough and a Bit Too Much' 'The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them': 'Between Just Enough and a Bit Too Much' Daily Reads: The Death of Adulthood, the Future of Film in 'Snowpiercer' and More Daily Reads: The Death of Adulthood, the Future of Film in 'Snowpiercer' and More Kevin Smith Is OK With Critics Now Kevin Smith Is OK With Critics Now Why the Unanimous Praise for 'Boyhood' Is Bad for Film Criticism — and for 'Boyhood' Why the Unanimous Praise for 'Boyhood' Is Bad for Film Criticism — and for 'Boyhood' 'Phoenix' Reviews: A Postwar-set Masterwork By Way of 'Vertigo' 'Phoenix' Reviews: A Postwar-set Masterwork By Way of 'Vertigo' 'While We're Young': Noah Baumbach's Xer-Millennial Comedy Ponders the Difference Between Sharing People's Lives and Stealing Them 'While We're Young': Noah Baumbach's Xer-Millennial Comedy Ponders the Difference Between Sharing People's Lives and Stealing Them Criticwire Classic of the Week: Federico Fellini's '8 1/2' Criticwire Classic of the Week: Federico Fellini's '8 1/2' 'The Duke of Burgundy': With Butterflies and BDSM, a Kinky Romance Woos Critics 'The Duke of Burgundy': With Butterflies and BDSM, a Kinky Romance Woos Critics 'Men, Women & Children': Frowny Face Emoticon 'Men, Women & Children': Frowny Face Emoticon Kevin Smith Turns to Horror With 'Tusk,' and the Results Are Insane: First Reviews Kevin Smith Turns to Horror With 'Tusk,' and the Results Are Insane: First Reviews 'The Expendables 3' Torrent and the Techno-Utopian Delusion 'The Expendables 3' Torrent and the Techno-Utopian Delusion Comparing Lena Dunham to Woody Allen Is Unfair — to Lena Dunham Comparing Lena Dunham to Woody Allen Is Unfair — to Lena Dunham Did 'Edge of Tomorrow' Just Get a New Title for Home Video? Did 'Edge of Tomorrow' Just Get a New Title for Home Video? 'The Maze Runner' First Reviews: Once More Around the Dystopian YA Block 'The Maze Runner' First Reviews: Once More Around the Dystopian YA Block Now Streaming: 'Ida,' 'Last Year at Marienbad' and 'A Woman is a Woman' Now Streaming: 'Ida,' 'Last Year at Marienbad' and 'A Woman is a Woman' Daily Reads: The Disgusting But Important 'Wetlands,' Comic Book Movies That Thankfully Never Happened and More Daily Reads: The Disgusting But Important 'Wetlands,' Comic Book Movies That Thankfully Never Happened and More 'The Counselor's Extended Cut Is Inspired Madness 'The Counselor's Extended Cut Is Inspired Madness

Is Michael Bay "The Most Important Director in Hollywood"?

Photo of Sam Adams By Sam Adams | Criticwire July 9, 2014 at 10:04AM

Love them or hate them — or both — Michael Bay's movies can no longer be ignored.
12
Michael Bay and "friend"
Michael Bay and "friend"

Is Michael Bay the most important director in Hollywood? Robbie Collin makes the case at the Telegraph:

The trick to understanding Bay is not dismissing him. Any common-or-garden nitwit can, and frequently does, point a camera at girls, cars and carnage, and call it a movie. Not anyone can take those three elements and turn them into a film that can fill cinemas for weeks. Bay’s detractors often grouse that he has nothing to say: what they mean is they’ve heard what he says loud and clear, and don’t much care for it.

His films are unashamedly patriotic (heroes stand proud before fluttering Stars and Stripes), militaristic (conflict solves problems, diplomacy always fails) and materialistic (everything that’s shiny and expensive is fetishised to the point of parody).... But Bay’s vision of a rad America — supersized, steroid-pumped, verging on self-parody — is one that can be enjoyed almost anywhere....

“I met this guy in Bali who lives in a hut with a television, and he loved The Rock,” Bay said in a 1998 interview. “That means something, doesn’t it?” Damn right it does: it means Bay’s films are exportable. The world wants to buy what he’s selling.

When he says "important," Collin mostly means "influential," a observation that, for better or worse, is difficult to argue. But he's also genuinely admiring of at least some of Bay's movies. Even "The Island," the rare Bay production to fare almost as poorly with audience as critics, he calls "surprisingly thoughtful and moving." (He's in good company there: No less an authority than Neil deGrasse Tyson lists it among his Top 10 Science-Fiction Films.) 

One point I wish he'd pursued further is the apparent disparity between the prevailing sexism of Bay's movies and their relatively robust appeal to female viewers: They are, he admits, aimed at "the teenage boy in all of us," but at the same time, an estimated 36 percent of early audiences for "Transformers: Age of Extinction" were female. Perhaps it's because for all the ways he condescends to and minimizes the few characters he gives screen space to, Bay still regards them with genuine awe, as if they're orange-hued goddesses in short shorts. Or maybe sometimes women just like to see giant robots blow stuff up.

Whatever its value as cinema, "Age of Extinction" is a landmark movie, not least in its blatant pandering to both the Chinese movie audience and, more problematically, their authoritarian government; the movie is unlikely to break $300 million at the U.S. box office, but it only took 10 days for it to become the top-grossing movie in Chinese history. One of the strangest aspects of watching "Age of Extinction" is the way it inhabits a kind of virtual U.S., created by an American director but intended for a global audience, one for whom an onscreen caption reading "Texas, U.S.A." is not instantly laughable.

In his video essay, "What Is Bayhem?" Tony Zhou quotes Werner Herzog's dictum that a serious student of cinema cannot "avert your eyes" from the prevailing trends, no matter how odious or dispiriting they may be. As high as you look, you'll still see a giant robot blotting out the sun.

This article is related to: Michael Bay


E-Mail Updates