By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
Watching a Michael Bay produced film is like watching a music video. He drowns audiences with flashy edits and loud bangs. When considering that is how this producer/director started in the entertainment industry, most people will find that his style has never evolved beyond the four-minute exploitative product and that is most likely why his recent works get panned a lot. He actually started making films fairly well. The Rock was actually a decent film that owed its debt to the dynamics that Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage had on screen more so than Bay’s direction. His break out film, Bad Boys, owed everything to the talent of Will Smith and Martin Lawrence.
Bay’s early films were decent wham bam thank you ma’am action flicks. And before the band Aqua files suit, the sexual allegations is less about the metaphors being made but more in what Bay believes is an ideal film. The reason his films are box office earners is simply because he’s a true believer that goes for what he sees in what can sell a film more than in what can earn a film a place in cinematic history. Even back in the golden age of cinema, the filmmakers were not making their movies with the knowledge that their products will get fondly remembered a century later.
The live-action version Transformers will go down in history as the worst cartoon to film adaptation for many reasons. Just who can be blamed should not rest on one person. Instead, it’s on the team assembled to put together the product; they created the ideas that the director has to interpret and craft into a visual product. If there’s something lost in the translation from screenplay to digital celluloid, the responsibility often falls on the director by those viewers who think the film is a jumbled mess. The most common faults are found in the dialogue, the dimensionality of the characters, the flow of the narrative and scope of how revisionist the tale is.
Perhaps the biggest question that needs to be addressed is in who should really be blamed for the 2014 reboot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles — the producer Michael Bay or director Jonathan Liebesman? This breakout filmmaker started off quite well by showing that he knows his horror product. But when he’s suddenly dropped into making sci-fi genre movies with Bay to guide the final product, problems are no doubt going to arise. Audiences have very little to go by to see if Liebesman has the talent to guide the motion-capture actors to behave like a strong fellowship of brothers. The production team may be close, but what about the cast?
Also, Bay never fell from grace. There’s no film that deviates from the large-scale action spectacle that he loves to craft. Pearl Harbour is a fine example of glorifying the American ideal and shoving the real history under the rug. If filmgoers want something closer to the truth, they should go see Tora! Tora! Tora! instead. Some may wonder just what kind of relationships Bay has with the writing team, Liebesman or the other actors. Does he feed them ideas or are they left to their own devices to write or interpret from the script?
With the Transformers franchise, a conundrum exists. Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci can create some excellent material on their own, especially with the fact they are executive producers of Transformers Prime and Fringe. But when they’re under guidance by other executives or directors, it seems their work is dumbed down.
They can craft some chic films as a team but now that they have split, just what the future will bode for genre films is going to be uncertain. With other talented writers getting plenty of recognition for their adaptations of material from book to screen — like James Gunn, Nicole Perlman, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely — maybe there’s a chance for some filmmaking team to get a few pop cultural icons decently adapted to cinema.
After all, do we really need Howard the Duck to return to screen?