As summer approaches, we often get excited about all the seasonal fun yet to come. Relaxing outside, swimming, finishing that book you’ve been meaning to read for months, and for millions of Americans, enjoying the next big blockbuster at a local movie theatre. If you’re an average person like me, there’s likely one name that comes to mind when we think of big-budget summer blockbusters packed with action and special effects: Michael Bay.
Love him or hate him, Bay is undoubtedly one of the most prominent filmmakers of the past decade, having spearheaded countless projects such as the Transformers series and the TMNT reboot films. A question I would like to ask today, however, is something most people wouldn’t waste time wondering about — can Michael Bay be considered an artist?
I completely understand why many would be appalled at this question. How could a filmmaker so seemingly obsessed with maximizing profits and lacking vision ever be considered an artist, or a “real” filmmaker?
Despite his flaws, I believe that Michael Bay can technically be considered an artist in the world of film. Technically, all film falls under the category of art, just as a painting you made when you were 6 counts as art. To clarify, the type of art which film often aspires to is referred to as, “high art.” This encompasses great works of literature, music, and visual art, such as the works of Da Vinci, Shakespeare, Beethoven, and countless others throughout history.
There is a concept in cinema known as Auteur Theory, where a director is not only a filmmaker, but an “auteur,” someone with a clear vision and style which can be seen throughout their body of work. Famous modern Auteurs include filmmakers like Stephen Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson, and Edgar Wright. The films of these directors present a clear vision and style which prevails across their entire body of work. Many of these films, including Jurassic Park, Pulp Fiction, E.T., and Jaws have cemented themselves as cornerstones of American pop culture and stand as a testament to the influence and creativity of American cinema. One could argue that the films of Michael Bay are just as iconic as classic movies like these, even though they may not be as universally praised as their predecessors.
Bay’s films attract audiences worldwide, performing well in domestic markets and even better in foreign markets like China. Love it or hate it, one can easily recognize a Bay film within minutes of sitting down. I believe this is the strongest piece of evidence indicating that Bay is indeed an auteur. His films clearly lack much of the vision of other iconic films, often preferring to focus more on the raw spectacle of cinema instead of interesting characters or a compelling plot. However, Bay’s style is clear and consistent throughout nearly all his films: grand displays of action and special effects, low sweeping shots, and creative sound design. When Michael Bay makes a movie, he makes damn sure you’ll know it’s his work.
Such an approach to filmmaking is admirable in a way, even if it doesn’t always appeal to audiences. Regardless, it’s clear that Bay’s style is iconic, enough to stand out among his peers and establish its own niche within the film market. Whether you love Bay’s films or hate them, you at least must admit that if you’re reading this, you know who he is.