Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Film Pet Peeves - Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich

If there are two filmmakers currently in Hollywood that I cannot stand, it is the work of Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich. How these two were able to make more than one movie in Hollywood is beyond me. 

Michael Bay is known for his many box office smash hits, including “Armageddon,” “The Rock,” the “Bad Boyz” movies and the Transformers film series. While Roland Emmerich is the guy that brought us “Independence Day,” “The Day After Tomorrow,” “Godzilla” and “White House Down.”

The reason I group them together is because they’re quite similar in their approach to making movies: Appealing to the lowest common denominator. They get success because they make their films flashy and filled to the brim with eye candy. Story, characters and logic take a back seat in their films, instead focusing on explosions and action sequences. 

I feel it is because of this line of logic that has led to the deterioration of the summer blockbuster. Studio executives are looking at how successful the Transformers films are doing at the box office and believe that this style of filmmaking works, and thus use it for many other movies. This is what created films like “Battleship” which looks and feels like a Michael Bay film without Bay’s influence. 

Here’s the thing about eye candy in cinema: Even though film is a visual medium and relies heavily on its images, that should not be the only thing to admire. If there is no substance to what I’m looking at, then it is the filmic equivalent of junk food. It might taste good while you’re feasting on it, but once you’re done you feel empty. You eat too much of it and you feel sick to your stomach and ultimately regret your decision.

Bay and Emmerich’s films mostly exist just to get to the action sequences. I give Emmerich a little more respect, because at least his action sequences can be comprehended. Bay, on the other hand, usually has the camera moving so rapidly and edits his shots so much that it is sometimes impossible to tell what is going on.

This is especially worse in the Transformers films, when many of the giant fighting robots are all the same color, gray or slightly darker gray. The only Transformers that can be identified in an action sequence is Optimus Prime, whose primary colors are red and blue, and Bumblebee, who is yellow. 

If you can’t tell which giant robot is which, then your movie sucks. If you don’t even bother to give half of your robots names and personalities, you fail as a filmmaker.

Not to mention, most of the “comedy” in Michael Bay’s films are questionable at best. Most of it just makes me tilt my head, wondering why anyone would laugh at Shia LaBeouf’s mom accidentally eating a pot brownie and getting high. Or showing us John Turturro’s butt. Or worst of all, useless sidekick robots that only serve to dish out the most racist personalities since Jar Jar Binks.

The fact that Michael Bay’s movies make so much money is not so much infuriating as it is fascinating, in an ironic way. I get little to no enjoyment out of his film, but I can understand why others would enjoy them. What I can’t fully understand is the truckloads of money they continue to rack in, all because they appeal to the lowest common denominator.

Instead of making a compelling story, or giving us relatable characters with a struggle that is all too real to many people or just giving us an interesting world can be both terrifying and awe-inspiring, Michael Bay is all about the eye candy in an attempt to make some money. And it works. 

This is almost like anti-filmmaking. Where instead of the creators doing it for the passion and love of cinema, Bay is handling it like a business, only interesting in the money. 

While the reason Hollywood continues to make movies for all the dough they create, the existence of well-made movies and quality products shows that not everyone is in it for money. Some just want to make a film that others will remember after they leave the theater. They don’t just want their money, but their hearts and mind as well. 

Not Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich though. 

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