10 Signs You're Watching a Michael Bay Movie
The Unprepared Person Who Is Just Naturally Awesome
Experience, wisdom, professionalism, the ability to learn a skill and utilize it effectively: NERD STUFF. The Bay protagonist is untrained, unprepared, unlikely?and completely the right man for the job. In The Rock, Nicolas Cage is a chemical weapons specialist with scarce field experience; within hours, he's running, gunning, and car-flipping his way through San Francisco and Alcatraz. (At one point, he specifically tells his superiors that he isn't trained for interrogation; they immediately send him in to interrogate someone.)
Most of Bay's central characters follow a similar story arc. Ewan McGregor's Lincoln Six-Echo has never even seen the outside world, but he's able to drive like a superstar because ''driving like a superstar'' is in his blood or something. Shia LaBeouf and Mark Wahlberg are introduced as lovable nerdy small-town guys who are uncannily capable of taking down building-sized alien death machines. Pain and Gain is the first Michael Bay film to actually play its characters' ineptitude for laughs.
Authority Figures Are Totally Lame
Boo, people in charge! The Bay-ography is littered with tight-assed senior officers whose main crime is not letting the (completely unprepared, usually amateur-level) heroes do their hero thing. Marg Helgenberg in Bad Boys won't let Will Smith and Martin Lawrence tear apart Miami: LAME! In The Rock, John Spencer's Womack spends the entire film being abused because he doesn't want to let a (totally awesome) criminal go free. Frances McDormand and Kelsey Grammer don't like how the Transformers literally tear apart entire cities when they fight: Ugh, mom and dad are so annoying.
Guys With Glasses Are Evil and Boring
Because Michael Bay is a fifth grader, glasses can only denote one thing: Loser. Typically, the guy wearing glasses in a Michael Bay movie is a stuffed-shirt low-level servant to the previously mentioned lame authority figure. Lately, though, the glasses-wearers have trended evil. You know that Ewan McGregor's Tom Lincoln is probably a bad guy when he shows up, because he's wearing glasses (unlike his nice guy clone). To recap: Sharing someone's genes mean you share their driving ability, but not their eyesight.
Shockingly, Mark Wahlberg wears glasses in Transformers: Age of Extinction. But only because he is supposed to be an inventor. And what better way to express that your hero—a muscular, Boston-accented Texan wearing form-fitting T-shirts—is actually a total nerd?
Cars Flip, Over and Over Again
Michael Bay has shot many car chases. But really, Michael Bay has only ever filmed one car chase. As an action auteur, Bay essentially has only one trick: The moment when a car flips end over end, sometimes after an explosion, sometimes just because gravity gives out for a second. The apex of Bay's flip-dom came in Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon or Whatever, when a car transforms into a robot, and the robot does a flip, and then transforms back into a car. Did you know that movies used to star human beings?
Products Will Be Placed
Bay began his career in advertising. Perhaps that's why he seems so comfortable with filling his films with relentless product placement. Characters eat at Burger King. They wear Puma shoes. They play Xbox—dear God, they love their Xbox. There's a moment in Transformers: Age of Extinction when one giant dumb robot punches another giant dumb robot through a bus, and the bus is destroyed, but the Victoria's Secret advertisement on the bus remains perfectly immaculate.
In this sense, the Transformers movies represent Bay's magnum opus: They are lovingly shot car commercials, starring products. In both the first Transformers and the new Trans4mers, characters complain that Bumblebee—who, again, is a giant alien robot from space—has taken the form of a lame old-school car. Bumblebee thus assumes the form of a new, much cooler, more expensive car, because this is absolutely something that an alien robot from space would spend time doing while other alien giant robots from space are threatening to destroy all life in the universe.
Yes, yes, it's just a movie, nothing needs to make any sense, but there are movies where nothing makes sense in order to make the movie more fun, and then there are Michael Bay movies, where nothing makes sense in a way that is specifically designed to sell cars.
The Military Is Totally Badass
Of course Michael Bay loves the military. Of course Michael Bay took the original script for Transformers—which appealed to producer Steven Spielberg because it was an E.T.-esque tale of a suburban boy and his robot—and wedged in an unnecessary B-plot about a bunch of military dudes wandering around the desert occasionally fighting robots for no reason. Of course Bay could never figure out whether Ed Harris in The Rock was a villain or a hero. Of course he drenched Pearl Harbor in self-importance, reducing the lead-up to World War II to a narrative where a bunch of heroic military guys were held back from fighting the bad guys by lame authority figures, until finally the bad guys attacked and the heroic military guys solved everything immediately.
Throughout film history, people who aren't actually brave enough to join the military have fancied themselves heroic-by-proxy. Directors fancy themselves generals. Francis Ford Coppola once equated filming Apocalypse Now with actually fighting in Vietnam, which is insane. Michael Bay has no such excuse. Bay's treatment of the military in his movies would be propaganda if it weren't so shallow and wrong-headed; the loving way he films bombs dropping on Pearl Harbor is offensive, an attempt to make a real-life event look as cool as possible. And it's worth pointing out that Bay is an equal-opportunity propagandist: Transformers: Age of Extinction features a couple of extraneous scenes that clearly establish that the Chinese government will protect Hong Kong from the attacking space robots. There's actually a scene where a Chinese government official says: ''We must protect Hong Kong!''
Hilarious Stereotypes of Everyone Besides Cool White Dudes
Michael Bay is a human person living in the 21st century who thought it was completely appropriate to make a movie featuring Mudflap and Skids, two racist caricatures, and throw up his hands explaining that the characters were just supposed to be fun space robots from space, come on man, don't be so serious.
Somewhere between Transformers and Transformers 2, Bay just stopped trying to pretend. When it comes to his female characters, he's interested in precisely three things—their legs; their breasts; and everything between. Rosie Huntington-Whitely gets introduced onscreen butt-first. Nicola Peltz in Trans4mers wears Daisy Dukes and says maybe 10 things in the last two hours.
Bay has compared filming Victoria's Secret commercials with filming a glazed donut, and that disinterested gluttony comes across on screen. Because Bay can't really conceive of his female characters as, like, humans, they all just feel like interchangeable hotness delivery systems. Did you know that two different women with the surname Hepburn were allowed to headline major movies made by Hollywood? And both Hepburns were really great! And now Michael Bay gets to make movies, and his movies star a bunch of douchebags wearing Puma shoes flipping expensive cars while women scream for help and wait patiently for the chance to express any emotion besides hot fear.
Very talented comedians pop up frequently in the Bayverse, usually for cameos that feel mostly improvised and which immediately become the least funny work said comedian has ever done.
A Complete Inability to Tell a Story or Maintain a Consistent Character Arc or Film Conversations Coherently or Do Any of the Things That Defined the Medium of Cinema for a Century Before Michael Bay Started Making Movies
Y'know what? F--- it. Seriously, just?just f--- it. [Pours glass of scotch, drinks]