Posted on Tuesday, July 1st, 2014 by Peter Sciretta
While his movies make hundreds of millions of dollars within days of release, their sure seems to be a lot of Michael Bay critics out there. In my opinion, Bay gets way more criticism than is really deserved. Are Bay’s films deep meaningful pieces of art? Not really… But Bay makes some fun action films, each with some especially artful cinematography, visual effects and sound design. But Bay is one of the largest targets of film critics and moviegoers alike. Recently Michael Bay and his Transformers: Age of Extinction producer Lorenzo Di Bonaventura have responded to the criticism head on. I wanted to highlight these interviews.
First up, Mike Ryan talked with Transformers: Age of Extinction producer Lorenzo Di Bonaventura about a variety of subjects, one of them being Bay’s cold critical reception. The resulting conversation (or confrontation) is a little uncomfortable to read, but really great. Here is an excerpt:
Ryan: ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’ is going to make a ton of money. Are these movies critic-proof? Do you care about reviews?
Lorenzo: Well, first of all, I think every filmmaker cares what critics think because, you know, you’re being judged. I think if someone says they don’t care, baloney. Does it affect the gross of the movie? Probably a little bit. But, I think the problem with critics and the big movies in general is they don’t understand the format. So, they’re judging it against the kind of movie experience that it is not trying to do, nor should it. … What I mean is it’s like they’re locked into like, “OK, let’s compare this to a Marty Scorsese movie or a two-hour drama.”
I don’t know about that. Critics liked the latest ‘Captain America’ movie a lot.
But, my experience with the critics is that when they like a big movie, it’s because they’re afraid they’r going to so go against the tide that they act like they liked it. That’s my opinion. I think it’s baloney. I don’t think they understand the form of entertainment and I don’t think they appreciate the form of the entertainment. So, I think in that respect, the reason critics don’t hurt a lot of the big movies is because the audience is smart enough to go, “I don’t care what he’s talking about or she’s talking about. What I care about is did I have a great experience? Was I wowed? Did I laugh? Did I feel like I was transported to a different place?” And they’re judging it on story elements and things that… … I’m frustrated that they don’t get moviemaking today. They don’t get it. I don’t understand why they can’t evaluate movies on different experiences. My experience when I was first in the business, I really valued critics. Because even when they didn’t like something, they talked about what was good in it. So now it’s like these feasts of criticism — they just love killing the whole thing.
Good stuff right? Read that full interview at ScreenCrush. I love when a filmmaker or producer actually believes that movie journalists or fans have an agenda. I only enjoyed Captain America: The Winter Soldier because I was afraid to go against the tide? Does Lorenzo really believe what he is saying?
That said, I do agree with him that it almost seems like a popular thing to do when it comes to Michael Bay: a lot of people, both moviegoers and critics, like to tear Michael Bay’s films apart, and I’m not sure its entirely warranted.
Meanwhile, MTV’s Josh Horowitz got a chance to ask Michael Bay what he thinks of his critics, and responded with indifference:
“They love to hate, and I don’t care; let them hate. They’re still going to see the movie! I think it’s good to get a little tension. Very good. … I used to get bothered by it, but I think it’s good to get the dialogue going. It makes me think, and it keeps me on my toes, so it’s good.”
And he’s right. His movies continue to make tons of money — people are paying to see them over other big budget spectacles. Thats said, I think Michael Bay cares a lot about what critics say about his films. Critics complained about the silliness in the first Transformers films and I think the serious Chicago battle in Transformers 3 was a response to that chatter. When I’ve talked to the director, he seems very aware about what people say about him and has actively tried to sell how his latest film isn’t what you hated about his last movie. But the real bottom line is that people keep paying to see his films, because they like them. If they didn’t, the movies wouldn’t make nearly as much as they do.
You can watch Bay’s response in the video above.