The 2000s were certainly a strange era. Youtube, the premiere video-sharing website was emerging from its infancy and not yet stricken by the oppressive pittance of financial censorships, video-games were still breaking into an entertainment field of their own and not yet completely corporately gutted for every last feasible cent, and despite economic crises and wars, the world seemed to bear this slightly better nostalgic, fun feeling about it. Certainly, it was no haven of happiness and prosperity akin to a cultural Enlightenment or Renaissance, but people were being silly and fun. Comparatively to today, where even the slightest raunchy joke shall land you in hot-water with a self-declared urbanite class of thought police that prowl all manner of social medias with hordes of anonymous mobs in tow; at the very least. In my view, the epitome of the 2000s and early 2010s culture was Michael Bay's Transformers, along with a slew of other productions made by this enigma of both director and man. From Pearl Harbor, which arguably focused more on a fictional love triangle than the real-world occurrence of Japanese bombers incinerating American sea-craft, to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series which came more recently, having controversy for its star characters resembling some terrifying mutation rather than the lovable 90s mascots.
Bay's treatment by critics, whether deserved or not, has been equal to the over-the-top nature of his creations. General audiences and storied critical reviewers alike bemoan Bay's prioritization of scantily-clad females, forced entries of American imperialist propaganda, explosions, and seemingly every lazy cinematic trope imaginable over creating something that'll truly stand the test of time and remain a hallmark of its genre for generations. Yet still, for all his assailment via the wider cinematic world, famous directors such as Spielberg willingly collaborate with Bay on his projects and invite the man to enjoy a leading role in their own. Bay's filmmaking credits, whether he bore a pertinent role in their making or simply acted as a background financier or adviser, can be seen on popular modern IPs such as John Krasinski's 'A Quiet Place' to the 'Purge' series.
Why? The answer, in my humble opinion nonetheless, is rather simple. Bay embraces the outlandish role film society has labeled upon him, and makes no illusions as to what a movie is. We cannot discuss Michael Bay's immortal legend without remarking the Transformers movies, his most famous works, for good or bad reason. These juggernauts have made millions in box office sales and beaten out arguably more introspective and intriguing films that explore our inner nature, they have marked entire seasons of film in their heyday despite their blatant lack of substance and have been hailed constantly. Those who dictate that Bay's movies never produce cult followings are incorrect, as even today there are loyalists to his rendition of giant robots delivering destructive pain onto each other, and even a movement dedicated to finalizing his franchise by constructing a fan-made edition of 'Rise of Unicron', the planned final installment in Bay's Transformers saga. In an era dominated by ugly political discoursing, in which the strongest arguments for either side boils down into who can insult each other the hardest or use internet tools to uncover their real-world information to utilize as weapons in this seemingly eternal war for the American soul, Bay's films hark an age of explosive madness and strict Americana. The United States military works together with heroic robots from another planet to prevent their devious cousins from destroying ours or resurrecting theirs... at the expense of ours. They must find a hidden artifact of which our main protagonist is intricately linked towards, and there's a romance subplot and patriotic subtext and messages against greed and evil lumbering about somewhere in this messy screenplay.
Revenge of the Fallen, produced in the Hollywood Writer's Strike of 2008, was mired by a series of production difficulties, highlighted by the lack of any available screenwriters to compliment Bay's visions that could be equated to practical insanity. Without a room of writers to plug any plot-holes and grant meaningful advice to the maestro of murder and bayham, he simply pushed through with his ideas in a span of three weeks and let legendary special effects and action-packed stunts fill in the blanks. By all accounts, this movie would've been another in the endless sludge of evil alien invasion blockbusters and lost into film history's dustbin. By some accounts, it was. Even Bay in retrospect admitted the film's creation was ridden by issues, yet it still made a legendary score of cash at the box office. 836.9 million approximately. Because of that signature injection of Bayham, because of Bay's inability to stop himself. What if our heroes scoured the Smithsonian to seek an ancient Transformer to help them unlock the secrets of the Fallen's evil plan to destroy Earth? Why not? What if they ran into security guards and had a comedic segment where a protagonist tazes a guard and ends up being immobilized himself? Do it! Have them go to Egypt and engage in an all-out war against Decepticon foes as Earth's sun becomes at risk of destruction by an evil machine? While also having Shia LeBeouf and Megan Fox run through explosions and being pursued by Megatron himself? While also having a side-arc where Bumblebee learns to regain his self-confidence after being treated as a seeming object by Sam? YES, DO IT!
That is the glory of Michael Bay. He bears the financial capacity and mental willpower to simply place anything slightly cool or interesting which he feels will enhance the screenplay into the plot without any qualms. People wresting for creative control will find themselves baffled at the fact that Bay seemingly adds entire segments of film without warning into the storyline and expects his small army of special effects teams, designers, artists, actors, and other hapless servants of the eternal Bay Machine to accommodate. In Dark of the Moon, he desired a scene where the military's special forces utilized wingsuits to infiltrate a war-torn Chicago after seeing a similar stunt take place on TV, and he did it. That kind of attitude, while one can argue is defective and prone to creating failures on the big screen, is also perhaps the same sort of chaotic energy that spurned the randomness and hilarity of 2000s and early 2010s content, an internet golden era where creativity reached incomprehensible boundaries and continued to bravely push forward and feared no consequence. Compared to today, where rarely originals worth remembering are produced and it seems American media is being usurped by Japanese animations and other foreign creations, and sometimes I cannot help but grow nostalgic for the era of my childhood ruled by creators such as Ray William Johnson, early Minecraft Youtubing channels, and of course, the legendary and eternal Michael Benjamin Bay, whom I have to thank in no small part for sparking that fire of imagination that shall roar in my bloated; greasy heart till my body decomposes to naught but ash.
The Glory, the Legend, the Maestro of Explosive Talent, of whom I shall grant a stellar 10/10. Keep it up, Bay.