A month ago, Guardians of the Galaxy was released. It was one of the movies I was eager to watch. The trailers were phenomenal and they were going to show a bunch of characters that even the most hardcore comic fans weren’t familiar with. I mean, the first trailer of the film even had to introduce the heroes since no one knew who the hell they were!
After watching it, I immediately wrote a review of the film saying how great it was and that everyone should watch it. And a lot of people did. A lot of my friends who are also geeks watched it and loved it. But the other people that I’m acquainted with didn’t. In fact, when I told them it was a “must see” movie, they thought I was joking!
They couldn’t believe a film with a talking raccoon and a giant tree-like creature who could only say three words could be a fantastic movie. It didn’t matter if it’s one of the highest rated films in the year and that critics loved Guardians of the Galaxy. It didn’t matter if it was another Marvel movie and they’ve watched all of the Iron Man, Thor and Captain America movies in the past. They couldn’t fathom that a superhero film could be hilarious and still provide great action at the same time. They just thought the film would be bad and they made up their minds about it.
Oh, but they were extremely excited to watch the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film because Michael Bay’s involved with the project.
And guess what? These were the same people who were first in line when Transformers: Age of Extinction in June and they couldn’t believe that the other Transformers live-action films (despite having very little connection with the original comics, cartoons and toys they’re based on) were considered bad films! Why is that? Why does it seem like a lot of ordinary people love the Michael Bay style of movie making? I guess the thing we have to do is analyze the Michael Bay aesthetic and what he usually has in his films.
The first thing I have to discuss is when he developed his “signature.” You did see a lot his directorial style even in his initial films like Bad Boys and The Rock. But I don’t think he really came into his own until after he made The Island. The Island was a fairly complex film but it didn’t seem like it. It suffered from, for a lack of a better term, a lack of direction. I think after The Island, Michael Bay looked back at his earlier films, like Bad Boys and Armageddon and looked at what worked for him and why they were huge hits. He then made a conscious effort to follow that formula for his future films, resulting in the Michael Bay formula we all know and love.
The first constant in the Michael Bay formula has to be explosions; the more, the better! In fact, I think, whenever a moviegoer sees something detonate in a film, they instantly think of Michael Bay now! Also, there has to be a lot of property damage. At least one building has to collapse in his films. This things have become so distinctly Michael Bay, I remember when the Battleship movie came out in 2012, some people mistakenly called it a Michael Bay movie!
Another component of the Michael Bay formula has to be hot women. After the first Transformers film was released, people couldn’t believe no one discovered Megan Fox, even though she’s had movie and television roles for a long time!
She was actually a regular in a show called Hope & Faith and had supporting roles in films like Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen. But it was her role as Mikaela Banes that brought her to the spotlight. She became an sex symbol overnight because of Transformers and she would’ve probably remained in the fringes of stardom if it weren’t for Michael Bay.
However, it doesn’t mean that the female characters are particularly strong characters. Most of the time, they aren’t. In fact, in the last Transformers film, she cast a new hot female, Tessa Yeager, and he actually made sure you knew she was the one he wanted viewers to lust over. In her first scene ever, you see Tessa wearing one of the shortest short-shorts in film. And she just came from school dressed like that!
Like Megan Fox, Tessa was another female actress that was in films before. Her real name is Nicola Peltz and she’s actually in the A&E series, Bates Motel. She was also one of the leads of the craptacular live action adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Yes, the girl a lot of guys were so hot for throughout the entire film was the “white girl” that portrayed the supposedly Inuit-like character Katara!
This leads me to the final primary component to the Michael Bay formula: one-dimensional characters. Even fans of his films have to admit most of Bay’s characters are caricatures of how a real person would behave in real life. Apologists will say “It’s a movie” or something like that and I understand the argument. But I think more people would appreciate his films if they don’t insult their intelligence. I do think he did kind of try to add a little bit more characterization in Pain & Gain, but it was minimal at best.
So, let’s recap. The formula for Michael Bay looks like this: explosions and destruction plus hot chicks plus one-dimensional characters equals big bucks! This formula shouldn’t work in the modern age of film making. Yet it works for Michael Bay. Why? The answer’s actually pretty simple: they don’t ask anything from the viewer!
There’s nothing challenging about a Michael Bay film. You come in for the spectacle of huge explosions and carnage. You watch it to ogle hot girls (and hot guys, if you swing that way). You watch it because it’s easy to understand the motivations of the characters. It’s not challenging at all to watch a Michael Bay film! You just let the stupidity wash over you for a couple of hours and come out feeling entertained. You remember some of the more energetic scenes that just fade from your memory after a couple of days.
Michael Bay knows what works. He knows what makes money so he does it over and over again. I can’t blame him. I may hate him for destroying some of my favorite childhood memories because, hey, he’s just giving what the public wants.
Why do you think Michael Bay films make so much money? What’s your theory? Leave your ideas in the comments section below!