The cacophonous Super Bowl spot for Transformers 2 made me think -- not for the first time -- that Michael Bay is full of crap. There are plenty of directors who make stupid and expensive action blockbusters, but few who are so damned self-righteous about it. It seems that every interview with the man contains a response to his naysayers to the tune of: "I don't see anything wrong with spending a lot of money to make big action movies to entertain people. Yet somehow, I come under special scrutiny. I mean, why don't people get upset if Dow spends $300 million to invent some new chemical? Audiences like popcorn movies. What's wrong with that?" and "What we do is not brain surgery. We are entertainers, plain and simple, and we're responsible to bring that money back, to make a profit."
As a response to the criticism that his movies aren't very good, this is, of course, complete nonsense. There are people who make very commercial, very popular Hollywood films who don't have to resort to the "I'm just making popcorn movies" defense -- which, as Eric D. Snider pointed out to me, is another way of saying "I'm not making very good movies." Google Sam Raimi, and you'll get quotes about the power of great stories, and his love for his source material. Even Stephen Sommers, who has certainly made some reviled films, talks about his enthusiasm and inspiration; you can sense he's trying. From Bay, you get: "I'm an entertainer -- don't hold me to any standard."
Bay-bashing is a bit of an old practice, I realize, but I submit that it's time to bring it back in earnest. If The Dark Knight proved anything, it's that we don't need this guy. Hollywood doesn't need this guy. No one does. Dark Knight was a movie that became a gargantuan smash not despite its quality, but in large part because of it. Pixar's work is another example. There are tons of people who are as eager to make good movies as they are to rake in the profits -- and, more importantly, people who realize that the two are related.
Of course, this is begging the question -- I hated hated hated Transformers, and don't think Bay has ever made a good movie. I think his work is as boring and ugly as it is noisy. I understand there are people who feel differently. (Why? How?) But even if you liked Transformers, or The Island, or whatever the hell else Bay's churned out in the last decade, do you think Bay's I'm-just-an-entertainer schtick passes muster? Given what the likes of Sam Raimi and Christopher Nolan have shown is possible? (And given this terrifying glimpse into what a Bay-directed Dark Knight would have looked like?)
Popcorn flicks aren't "just" popcorn flicks. Making good ones is hard. Let's stop letting people foist garbage on us in the name of populist entertainment. We can demand more from our mainstream Hollywood filmmakers.