About 10 years ago Michael Bay was yet to be considered a total hack. In fact, his first two films “Bad Boys” and “The Rock” weren’t terrible. Actually “The Rock” is still considered quite awesome in some social circles. Each film lacked any and all substance, but they were essentially mindless action films with a lot of explosions. They weren’t supposed to be deeply moving.
Most importantly the films were hugely successful, meaning studios trusted Bay with astronomical budgets, inflating his already dangerously large ego. The result was an end-of-the-world drama in “Armageddon,” complete with an Areosmith hit single, and Ben Affleck. The film wasn’t very good, and when it comes down to “meteor colliding with earth” films from the summer of 1998, “Deep Impact” wins every time — and that sucked too.
However audiences still came out in droves to see the film, giving Bay the inexplicable confidence to direct a three-hour-epic film about the Pearl Harbor attack, now known as the worst war movie of all-time.
This was hyped as the summer of 2001′s biggest blockbuster, aimed to shatter box office records and make the film industry genuflect in awe of Bay’s filmmaking ability. “Pearl Harbor” was supposed to be Michael Bay’s “Titanic.” At the time of the film’s release he could already taste the champagne of awards season while he bathed in his box office millions.
As we now all know the film didn’t quite pan out as Bay would have liked. In fact it was completely panned and left audiences, to this day, wanting three hours of their lives back. Critics verbally abused every facet of the film from its pathetically bad dialogue, to blatant historical inaccuracies and a love triangle that encompasses the muddled mess of a film.
One of Bay’s biggest detractors, Roger Ebert, gave Pearl Harbor a famously brutal review, which ironically perfectly describes Bay’s directing style.
“The film has been directed without grace, vision, or originality, and although you may walk out quoting lines of dialog, it will not be because you admire them… The filmmakers seem to have aimed the film at an audience that may not have heard of Pearl Harbor, or perhaps even of World War Two… There is no sense of history, strategy or context… How can it be entertaining or moving when it’s simply about the most appalling slaughter? Why do the filmmakers think we want to see this, unrelieved by intelligence, viewpoint or insight?”
And thus the joke of Michael Bay was born, and his name became synonymous cinematic travesties everywhere. In many ways Bay did achieve something quite incredible. He took one of the most devastating and emotional events in United States history and created a film that forgets to invoke an once of emotion.
Now-a-days, Bay can be found directing “Tranformers” sequels and Victoria Secret commercials, full of sex, transforming cars and — you guessed it– explosions. The closest he’s come to a film with remote historical significance is producing “The Texas Chainsaw Masacre: The Beginning.”
Today, when we reflect on the tragic events that happened at Pearl Harbor and pay tribute to the men lost in the attack and on the USS Arizona, please watch the History Channel and remember that U.S. History according to Michael Bay sucks.