Life is full of little cruel jokes - why does toast always fall butter-side-down? Why are the London streets infested with Black Cabs until you actually need one? And, most infuriatingly, how can the worst filmmaker in Hollywood also be the most successful? Michael Bay is an adolescent director, whose aesthetic ethos has always been "more is more". Here is a man who has absolutely no understanding of how to tell a story, create any sort of emotional connection between his characters and an audience, or even invoke any sense of tension in the completely over-the-top action set pieces that are supposed to be his forté. Despite the fact that almost every single one of his movies has been universally panned by critics, his back catalogue has grossed $1,676,907,691 (the only major commercial flop being 2005's The Island), which has caused some to label him "critic-proof"; the manufacturer of a product that sells in extraordinary numbers despite being of no artistic merit.
"So what?" people say, "if that many people enjoy it, it doesn't matter if it's rubbish, not everything has to be Citizen Kane!" This is the argument that has been used to defend Bay's work, and up until recently I would have seen their point. However, in Mr. Bay's most recent outing his directorial styles raise some more seedy and frankly disturbing issues, and suddenly the "it's just a bit of fun" excuse is simply not good enough. Transformers are a toy. A children's toy. And the movies are a marketing vehicle through which more toys will be sold. To children. If you were to look on the side of the packaging for the official Transformers™ movie Bumble Bee™ action figure, you will clearly see that it says in big gold letters "Manufacturer recommended age 4-8 years". Why, then, is a film whose sole purpose is to flog toy robots to 4-8 year children so unashamedly and explicitly sexual?
Transformers: Dark of the Moon is dreadful; containing laughably bad acting, a completely incoherent plot and one of the most misjudged finales seen on celluloid, but that is not the big problem. Bay's direction is staggeringly lecherous and his depiction of women is beyond questionable. The camera moves in an almost predatory fashion, pursuing the posterior of big-screen debutante and underwear model, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley like a drooling adolescent, and at one point, swooping down underneath a car, paparazzi style, to look directly up her skirt. After sitting through over two and a half hours of Transformers 3, the camera is so focused on its co-stars behind that I think I would struggle to recognise her if I passed her in the street. Does Bay really think that this is an acceptable way to shoot a film whose key demographic is young children? I realize that Dreamworks also have the teenage audience very much in mind, but I find it puzzling to see how Hasbro (manufacturer of the toys) can endorse something so ludicrously inappropriate.
After the release of the previous Transformers movie, Revenge of the Fallen, which was by Bay's own admission, "crap", many critics pointed out that, along with it's inherent sexism, some of the lighter "comic" characters were racially suspicious at best. Not only do they return in the third instalment, but now we have the addition of some more loveable stereotypical robots. So far, so repellent, but the nail in the coffin of Bay's lack of self-awareness occurs not in the revival of the recurring gags about Onanism, but in the dénouement (if you can have a dénouement that lasts over an hour) when one of the hilarious African American robots describes the situation as "a complete clusterf*ck". Although the last syllable is truncated with a classic bit of "Bay editing", it's not exactly appropriate language for the under-tens.
Although, as a critic, I have always hated Michael Bay's films, until now they could simply be dismissed as rubbish, but his sexulaization of Megan Fox and her replacement has no place in a franchise about toy robots. Let's hope he realizes this before the next, inevitable installment.
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