Transformers, Armageddon, Bad Boys and more blockbusting fun
As the director unleashes his new action blockbuster, Pain & Gain, we pick his most memorable movie explosions to date.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to Michael Bay. To some, he is a movie brute. He is the multiplex marauder behind Transformers, the shamelessly jingoistic director of Pearl Harbor and the cheeseball responsible for Armageddon. Yet to others, he is a master of his medium. His résumé of apocalyptic action movies, which also includes The Rock, The Island and Bad Boys, represent the pinnacle of the genre – no one else does films quite as big, as dumb and as fun. And Bay’s own answer to the debate? In an oft-quoted backswipe: ‘I make movies for teenage boys. Oh, dear, what a crime.’
Lover or hater, there’s no denying that Bay’s movies work in the marketplace – his films are reported to have grossed more than Dhs11 billion, which would make him the fourth most successful director ever. Perhaps that softens the blow of all those critical maulings, worst director polls and Golden Raspberry awards.
This month marks the premiere of the latest Bay behemoth, Pain & Gain, which sees the director moving from warring children’s toys to a based-on-a-true story premise. Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson star as beefed-up Florida bodybuilders who get caught up in the crime underworld after agreeing to commit a one-off kidnapping. Trailers suggest it will possess all the Bay hallmarks of heroic macho leads, high-octane action and – what Bay does best of all – epic explosions. To celebrate, we round up his biggest bangs to date.
5 The Rock (1996) Bay used to be known as a car-chase expert, very much in the Beverly Hills Cop mold. While The Rock is mostly set on US prison island Alcatraz, early in the movie there’s a destructive romp through the streets of San Francisco. If you think right-wing politics can’t be conveyed in terms of pure stunt work, it’s time to be schooled. A Humvee plows through a peace-sign-laden VW Beetle, totals a truck of bottled water and, finally, derails the ultimate symbol of socialist conveyance: the trolley car.
4 Pearl Harbor (2001) This director shouldn’t be allowed near serious subjects. His love of technique and mastery of craft has the unwitting effect of making a traumatic event seem, well, totally cool. Then again, that tension is also what makes Bay so dangerous – and maybe even culturally significant (we said maybe). His attack on Pearl Harbor takes up a lengthy sequence, with Bay’s infamous ‘bomb-cam’ perspective as the USS Arizona gets destroyed.
3 Bad Boys II (2003) This movie, a steroidal improvement on the first one (which Bay also directed), has car chases as thrilling as those in The Rock. But it’s Bay’s detonation of a Cuban mansion that supplies an even bigger jolt. Multiple camera angles compound the blast; Bay is something of a genius at this style of cutting. Also, crucial: plenty of reaction shots, like the guy at the end screaming.
2 Armageddon (1998) Perhaps the director’s most notorious demolition, this wipeout of the entire city of Paris elicits whoops in jingoistic audiences. Undeniably, the destruction is breathtaking, a landmark Hollywood achievement, if a decidedly crude dramatic device. Arriving in the pre-9/11 wave of disaster flicks, this scene pretty much rewrote the rules. You’ve got to love the gargoyle.
1 Transformers (2007) In many ways the ultimate Michael Bay film, the first Transformers combines his military fetishism, sentimentality and love of big toys with the introduction of bona-fide female eye candy (Megan Fox) in ways that many find totally toxic, others dumb-movie perfection. There are too many explosions to pick the best, but the casual destruction of a city bus and a Los Angeles freeway system is tops in terms of total Bayhem. Pain & Gain is in UAE cinemas from April 25.