While waiting for a screening of footage from Journey from the Center of the Earth 3D at WonderCon, I was in a discussion with a couple people about Transformers. Someone called Michael Bay a hack and I had an adverse reaction. I snapped, and for almost no reason. I’m not a huge fan of Michael Bay, or his films, but at the same time, I appreciate his cinematic efforts more than most educated movie fanatics. I later realized it was probably because of the usage of the term “Hack”. I’ve heard many people call Michael Bay a hack over the years, but truth is…
Michael Bay is NOT a Hack!
Let’s first look at some of the definitions of the word “Hack”:
- One who works for hire
- A person who works solely for mercenary reasons
- Someone who works on order
- A person who aims solely for commercial success
- To be exposed or offered or to common use for hire; to turn prostitute.
- To use frequently and indiscriminately, so as to render trite and commonplace.
Taking a quick look at the definitions listed above, one will immediately see that Michael Bay is NOT a hack.
Some people may argue that Bay is someone “who aims solely for commercial success”. Bay shoots for commercial success just as much as Sam Rami shot for commercial success on the Spider-Man films. Bay makes big action films, with big budgets, which therefor must hit all four quadrants in order to make their money back. This is something that is genre specific, not Bay specific. Michael Bay brings a unique style which could not be classified as the safe and most commercial way to shoot a movie, therefor he is not solely shooting for commercial success.
Bay’s style of explosion-filled fast-cutting music video meets commercial style filmmaking is far from the norm. I can’t think of another director who creates films that look and feel like a Michael Bay film.
If you hear any interview with Bay, or actors or crew that have worked with him, you will quickly realize his enthusiasm for making his style of movies. He’s also not the type of guy to take on any project which is offered to him.
You can argue that Bay’s films are not high art.
You can argue that the screenplay/stories behind his movies is generic or stock.
But one thing you can not say is that Michael Bay is a hack.
Who is a hack?
On example I call out on a regular basis is Brett Ranter. He’s the typical work-for-hire director. His films aren’t necessarily horrible, they are competently made, but lack anything above or beyond that.
So please… say Michael Bay creates horrible films. Say that he’s a horrible director (which actually also isn’t true, he’s technologically proficient and able to handle huge action set pieces and has a style that is uniquely his own). You can say that he his source material is generic and cliche. But don’t call him a hack!