In current Hollywood, few directors can guarantee a film a million-dollar opening weekend like Michael Bay. The man behind the Bad Boys and Transformers series, Bay has churned out popcorn classics for the last twenty years with almost mechanical efficiency. How has this quiet man figured out how to make an entire filmography that meets success at the box office? Because he basically only makes one movie, over and over and over again. If you’re not looking closely, it seems like Michael Bay has concocted a series of diverse(ish) films about everything from killer comets to giant robots to surly soldiers. If you pay close attention, however, you’ll notice that there are some things you can absolutely count on seeing whenever you sign up for a Michael Bay flick.
1. A ‘Network’ Is Going to Get Hacked
It might be a major plot point, as when Ewan McGregor sneaks into the bad guy’s headquarters to hack the network and expose the truth in The Island, or it might be one part of an action scene like at least once in every single Transformers movie. One thing is sure, though, somebody’s vague computer thing-y isn’t secure and someone else is going to make them pay for it, hacker-style.
2. Someone Is Going to Run Directly at the Screen (and Probably in Slow Motion)
It’s not fair to chastise Michael Bay for having explosions in his movies. Lots of directors have explosions in lots of their movies because explosions are objectively awesome. However, not every director includes a shot of people running towards the camera in slow motion — sometimes with a big boom in the background, sometimes not — in every single one of their films. It happens in The Rock when Nic Cage blows up the last virus canister. It happens in 13 Hours like five times, and it happens in Pain & Gain at the beginning of the movie when Mark Wahlberg is tackled by cops.
3. Someone Is the Best Blank in the Whole Darn World
When your movie has Michael Bay-level stakes, second best just won’t get the job done. At some point in every Michael Bay movie some character is going to call in the best something in the world to handle their problems. Bruce Willis is the best oil driller in the world in Armageddon. Anthony Anderson is the best hacker in the world in Transformers. Djimon Hounsou is the best recovery expert in the world in The Island.
4. One Person Will Have a Funny Foreign Accent
If there’s one thing that Michael Bay is convinced his audiences will love, it’s a character who is some kind of terrible foreign stereotype. His absolute favorite is using Peter Stormare as an outlandish Eastern European fellow who either uses caveman-like strategies to save the day (a la Armageddon) or acts like belligerent a-hole just when an action scene is called for (a la Bad Boys II).
5. The Camera Will Spin Around the Hero (or Heroes) at Some Point
Ready to get nauseated? Just join Michael Bay in the editing room when he’s trying to convey kinetic drama. The director inevitably resorts to the same camera technique: a full 360-degree spin. See: both Bad Boys films, The Rock, etc. It’s always there.
6. At Some Point, Sh-t Will Get Real
For the first two acts of most Michael Bay movies, the characters are joking around while explosions are going off and the world is gradually disintegrating around them. Then, at some point, something will happen that causes our heroes to suddenly realize that it’s time to get serious. In Pearl Harbor, the titular attack causes Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett to (finally) stop bickering over some chick. In Bad Boys II, Gabrielle Union’s kidnapping cause Martin Lawrence to literally say, “Sh-t just got real.”
7. Somebody is Going to Lose Their GD Mind
Because the sheer (literally) explosive insanity unfolding around them is too much for most people to bare, a lot of people in Michael Bay movies have a tendency to run right outside their minds. Steve Buscemi made that look like an art form in Armageddon. The Rock makes a show of losing his values in Pain & Gain.
8. Ladies Are There to Look Good and Pretty Much Nothing Else
If there’s one thing that you can count on in a Michael Bay movie, it’s that the cast will be a total sausage fest. Women show up in the films, but they’re mostly used as scantily clad mannequins. That being said, Bay is always sure to include at least one moment where his otherwise useless female character gets to put her foot down. Liv Tyler gets to push Bruce Willis around once or twice in Armageddon. Megan Fox gets to drive a car in Transformers. Mostly, though, Bay’s ladies are there to look pretty.
9. There’s a Sassy Black Person
In almost every Michael Bay action film, you can rest assured that — at some point in the proceedings — a black person will be enlisted to either sass a major character or comment sassily on the events at hand. Even the transformer Jazz got tons of heat for sounding like a bigoted interpretation of a “sassy black person” in Transformers: Dark of the Moon. To Bay’s credit, he is capable of enlisting some pretty solid talent for that part. Comedian Eddie Griffin is one of the primary faces on the street when asteroids bombard New York in Armageddon. Community’s Yvette Nicole Brown gums up the works in The Island.
10. There’s a Super Boring, Stoic Soldier Type
Even as the rest of the movie industry has (very slowly) discovered that heroes can take on a variety of sizes, Michael Bay still likes to make sure that — even in an ensemble — there is always some grim hero who’s just trying to get the job done and get home to his wife and kids. Even though Optimus Prime is the technical hero, everyone from Josh Duhamel to Mark Wahlberg shows up as the “soldier” in Transformers movies. Pretty much the entire cast of 13 Hours fits that description, too.
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