Why Michael Bay Doesn't Care What You Think
Posted by Steve Gustafson on 08.12.2014
With the huge success of the Michael Bay produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, 411's Steve Gustafson takes a look at the criticism leveled at Bay and why it doesn't matter.
My name is Steve Gustafson and thanks for stopping by.
"This celluloid abortion should be buried in a vault and shown to film students as an example of big Hollywood at its worst."
-Julian Roman, MovieWeb, about Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
"Pure Bay. Utterly soulless. Earplugs optional."
-Glenn Whipp, Los Angeles Daily News, about The Island
"The result is still like being urinated upon, but at least this time Michael Bay was considerate enough not to ingest asparagus first."
-Garth Franklin, Dark Horizons, about Transformers: Dark of the Moon
"Bad Boys II isn't just bad—it's a catastrophic violation of every aspect of cinema that I as a film critic hold dear."
-James Berardinelli, ReelViews
"It's a sickening force-feeding commercial frenzy to sell cars, toys and war in the same breath that it pawns itself off as 'cinema.' This is not cinema. This is acid kool-aid for children. Don't drink it."
-Cole Smithey, ColeSmithey.com, about Transformers
The name Michael Bay draws a passionate response. He is the director of the Transformers franchise, Pearl Harbor, the Bad Boys franchise, and many other movies that you love to hate. Or hate to love. Because as much as we read about how much people despise Bay and his movies, he's ruling Hollywood right now. Transformers: Age of Extinction became the first film this year to pass $1 billion at the global box office. For those keeping score, this is the second picture in the Transformers franchise to hit that billion mark, after 2009's Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Age of Extinction got a boost from China, where the film has earned north of $300 million, a new record for the world's second-largest movie market. Its cumulative total includes $763.8 million internationally and $241.2 million at the domestic box office.
Paramount is making sure to keep Bay happy too. Last week it announced a three-year deal extension with Bay and his production company, Platinum Dunes. That's a smart move on their part, as the 11 movies he's directed, he has a lifetime worldwide gross of $2,139,916,859. Worldwide that number is over $5 billion.
Bay produced the remake for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The movie encountered it's fair share of negative press with rumors of it being called just Ninja Turtles, reports of turning them into aliens, and the usual Bay hate.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles took the #1 spot this week with a domestic box office total of $65 million. The movie was project to perform in the $40 million to $45 million range and overcame scathing reviews and negative buzz to do so. The movie added $28.7 million overseas for a worldwide first weekend of $93.7 million. On the heels of their impressive opening, Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies on Sunday announced plans for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2, with a release date of June 3, 2016.
Yes, Michael Bay will return to produce.
Already Bay-hate is coming out in droves but why? I took a look at the major criticism aimed at Bay and try to make sense of it.
"Just because a movie makes a lot of money doesn't mean it's good!"
I find people who can't explain why they don't like a popular movie, actor, or director are quick to use this excuse. From a certain point of view, this is true, but it doesn't take away the fact that a lot of people have seen it and were probably entertained by it. To me, a movie tells a story. Good or bad, if you want to measure it's success, you have a few options: Look at the domestic box office or foreign box office, look at actual ticket sales, or compare dollars spent in production per ticket sold. Unfortunately for Bay detractors, Bay wins this across the board, maybe slipping a little when it comes to production dollars over tickets sold.
Critics and reviews are too subjective to base an opinion on. I've found that NO movie is universally loved. Even so called "classic" films have that pocket of people who will quickly tear it down. That's why so much debate heats up whenever a Bay movie comes out. It's easy to point out the flaws and it's flabbergasting to true "fans of the cinema" that a Bay movie breaks box office records. Like it or not, Bay KNOWS HIS AUDIENCE. He's said so himself in a number of interviews. Which leads us to...
"His movies suck!"
Another favorite that's found on message boards everywhere. Another way to measure a movies success is done without numbers but asking the question, "Did this movie connect with its intended audience?" While Bay's films are savaged by critics and on websites like Rotten Tomatoes (His highest rated movie is The Rock with a 67% rating), there is a very large segment of people out there who are paying to go see these movies. Every single time. Bay himself says it best in an interview with Asawin Suebsaeng, "For instance, you look at the box office returns: Break it down, and you see that 120 million people went to see Transformers 3. So, you know, 500 critics are not going to take the fun out of it for me. I make movies for people. I make movies for audiences to enjoy. A few sour apples are not going to spoil my fun."
Bay knows his audience doesn't care what critics think. Like it or not, he creates the movie a large segment of the population wants to see. There's no mystery to his formula. Bay's style of doing things is: Loud noise, big explosions, gravity-defying stunts, simple storylines, cool cars, hot women, and silly laughs. Does that suck? The easy (and cheap) answer is: It depends. If you like that sort of thing, then it definitely doesn't suck. But I have to wonder how many of those detractors out there have slandered a Bay movie online, yet goes to see it in the theater? Are any of you guilty of that?
"He ruined my childhood!"
While you usually hear this in relation to George Lucas, helming the Transformer franchise has put Bay in the crosshairs of the purist who say he's strayed too far from the source material. Funny enough, Bay got his start in the film industry interning with Lucas when he was fifteen, filing the storyboards for Raiders of the Lost Ark, which he thought was going to be terrible. His opinion changed after seeing it in the theater and he was so impressed by the experience that he decided to become a film director.
So thank Lucas and Steven Spielberg for that.
This is the only thing I don't have a problem with. We have to take out childhood games, TV shows, and movies off the pedestal. Yes, they were awesome and entertaining but what do we really expect from a Transformers movie? I'm all for taking a cool concept and updating it for a new generation. While it may not be my cup of vodka, I know that I'm not the intended audience. I can always watch the old cartoons or movies and be perfectly content.
When it comes down to it, does it matter what critics say? If someone likes Bay's movies, is that so bad? And what does Bay think of all this?
"Let them hate."
Before I say GOODBYE!
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