For some reason — probably to get attention to the new Michael Bay movie — Michael Bay has been on an apology tour of late, and for some of the best work of a previously unabashed blockbuster film career spanning nearly two decades. Which is strange, because liking Michael Bay's movies earnestly has become a thing people are allowed to do these days... and without shame. You no longer have to hide your head in the sand for liking movies like Armageddon. But apparently Michael Bay does.
For almost all of many teenage and adult lives, liking Michael Bay has been something of a taboo. Michael Bay movies are quickly cut and action packed and the dialogue is never great. They all have a very distinct car commercial style. (Or have car commercials adopted Michael Bay's style? It's hard to tell. Michael Bay started in commercials.) Anyway, talking about how much you liked a Michael Bay movie wasn't something you did if you wanted to be a person who was respected when talking about the movies.
And now here comes Michael Bay, sitting down for a string of interviews to promote the new Michael Bay movie Pain & Gain, the one that stars Mark Wahlberg and The Rock and opens on Friday, saying sorry for one of the great Michael Bay masterpieces. "I will apologize for Armageddon, because we had to do the whole movie in 16 weeks. It was a massive undertaking," Michael Bay told The Miami Herald on Monday. "I would redo the entire third act if I could."
That's pop perfection, popped. This is not a good thing, Michael Bay. Not a good thing at all.
See, here's the thing about Pain & Gain: It's not your typical Michael Bay movie. The shots are longer than usual; the camera lingers on actors' faces for more than an eighth of a second. It was made on a shoe-string budget compared to Michael Bay's usual fare — about $26 million. "Pain & Gain stylistically still has a poppy vibe, but often it’s just actors acting and you can just point your camera at them and let them go," Michael Bay explained to the Herald. "It's still glossy, but different." Michael Bay told The New York Times' Dave Itzkoff that Pain & Gain was "a quirky movie," in a lengthy profile for Sunday's paper. "I wanted to do something small, just actors acting. It was almost like film school again for me," Michael Bay told the Times. Because Michael Bay almost seems to be turning a corner, attempting to shed the image built up as the most expensive, most ridiculous director in Hollywood. "When they get too big, it becomes un-fun," Michael Bay said. "You just see the money leaking away."
Michael Bay also told the Times that Michael Bay has no idea how to film a movie: "I don't always know what I'm doing," Michael Bay said, and every film school student nodded in agreement. "But you've got to jump off the cliff with me and just hope." But that's not the Michael Bay we know. Michael Bay is big and stupid and so are Michael Bay movies. There is a certain expectation there. That is certainly the hope for Pain & Gain — that it may be a Bad Boys level comedy with explosions, but that it's still popcorn worthy. If Michael Bay ever tried to stop making popcorn, it would be something close to tragic.
A recent convert to the Michael Bay style is Mark Wahlberg, who has worked with David O. Russel and Martin Scorcese but is a Michael Bay believer — having taken a role in the fourth Transformers movie without reading the script. "I am there to service his vision," the actor told New York magazine recently.
Other potential converts to the Michael Bay school of Hollywood: film nerds! The Alamo Draft House movie theaters recently announced a mini-marathon of Michael Bay movies leading up to select Pain & Gain premieres that would appropriately be titled Baymageddon. "I wasn't taught them in school, you don't see any books on them, but his films deserve to be recognized and revisited on the big screen," said the theaters' programming director, Greg MacLennan. "Blockbusters may come and go, but his films stand the test of time. He's made heroes out of everyday actors, and somehow, along the way, he became one himself."
Michael Bay is a hero, and Michael Bay should never apologize for that.
Update, Tuesday: Now that's more like it.