Archives For Michael Bay

Insight Into Blockbuster Filmmaking

I found the above picture on Reddit today and it made me laugh. After all the fancy storyboards and pre-viz and careful planning, sometimes the best way to figure out how a stunt is going to go is to just use some miniatures and move them around with your hands. I mean, look at that! That there is Christopher Nolan, one of the biggest directors in the world, planning a stunt for The Dark Knight Rises, one of the biggest and most expensive movies yet made, wearing a suit and essentially playing with hot wheels.

It reminds me of the South Park episode, ‘Imaginationland’, where the military enlists help from filmmakers to get ideas for how to solve their dilemma. Michael Bay shows up and his ideas aren’t ideas at all. They’re basically just ideas for special effects and stunt sequences, and he describes them with all the “woosh”es and “bang”s and “blammo”s of a five year-old playing with his toys. That was sort of a knock against Bay, but when you think about it, what’s wrong with bring that into the process at least a little? It’s physical and uses the imagination, and combined with Nolan’s use of as many practical stunts as possible, it can make for some pretty thrilling cinema.

Transformers 3I am a simple man who enjoys simple pleasures. One of those simple pleasures is seeing things in movies get blowed up. And nobody knows how to blow stuff up quite like Sir Michael Bay. The man is an auteur, and I make no bones about liking what it is that he does. The fetishistic gaze upon military equipment, technology, cars, women, destruction, all of it. It’s beautiful. High art, really.

Now, I also recognize that Bay has only ever made one good film: The Rock. I love The Rock with all my heart. It’s silly and crazy, but it’s got some great actors, a pretty decent set-up and plot, and unlike most other Bay films, you actually care about the people who may or may not get exploded. The rest of his films range from awful to mediocre, but even then, the craft on display is almost always impeccable. The visual and explosive craft, I mean.

Take The Island as an example. That film, the only one of Bay’s career to be considered a flop, actually had a story and ideas, and sure, they were all stolen from other films (though not always better films), but Bay still managed to put together a visually interesting film with some crazy action.

The first Transformers was a bad film. Well-made, but bad. It was bloated like no other Bay film had ever been, and for the first time in a Bay film, the action actually suffered from being TOO big. The biggest problem was that Bay shot the action from a lot of the same focal distances he normally uses, but in this case the screen was filled with giant metallic robots who were quite difficult to tell from one another. And yet, most of it still worked to provide a decent thrill.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was a completely different case. The film was terrible. Just terrible. A plot that actually made no sense from one scene to the next made sitting through nearly three hours a fairly painful experience. It didn’t help that Bay took his mission to provide AWESOMENESS a little too seriously. Everything about the action in Transformers 2 was just too much. All the same problems of the first film, but doubled in size. It was an assault on the senses, and all I can say is that while watching it, the numbness I felt was the only positive I could really latch onto.

But from the trailers for Transformers: The Dark of the Moon, it looks like Bay has been forced to alleviate this problem. That’s not to say he has been “artistically” compromised. No, no, not one bit. The action and explosions and destruction look bigger and more explosive than ever, but finally he seems to have understood that pulling the camera back to show us the full scope of the mayhem might be a good idea. I suspect that the use of 3D cameras has in this case altered Bay’s method for the better, and I am not ashamed to say that I am excited to see what will undoubtedly be an awful movie because of the promise of some absolutely kick-ass action and big explosions.

Like I said, I’m a simple man.