With due respect to Ezra and Matt, Michael Bay sucks. He doesn’t suck in an interesting way, he doesn’t make “good” bad movies, he can’t direct an action sequence, and he has terrible instincts as a filmmaker. He is, in short, a no talent hack.
I grew up with Transformers, both the toys and the cartoon. I loved the first film when I saw it as a wee lad, and could acknowledge that it still had a certain charm when I watched it again a couple years ago. I felt compelled to see the new film, even though I have never had anything but contempt for Michael Bay and the works that he has wrought. My expectations were utterly fulfilled; the movie was simply terrible. One could enjoy, say, Live Free or Die Hard as parody, as camp, or as a well constructed entry in the action genre. The action sequences made sense; it was possible to follow particular characters, events within the sequences built to understandable climaxes, and each sequence had elements that were restrained enough to provide contrast with the high kinetic elements. In Transformers, as with most of Bay’s work, there was no such contrast, the characters were hard to tell apart, and the sequences lacked any internal logic or direction. Michael Bay simply cannot direct action scenes. Full stop. He can’t direct any of the other constituent aspects of a movie, either, but that would be forgivable in certain circumstances if he could handle a damn action scene. As Matt correctly notes, the only talents he has are for filming abs, and filming men watching abs; this talent was demonstrated upon Megan Fox, but I felt almost dirty after watching those scenes.
Friends don’t let friends see Michael Bay movies. And Davida, I deeply, deeply apologize for making you watch that movie.
…UPDATE BY SL: To recapitulate, the other thing that should be said in re the “but he makes good popcorn movies” defense is that Bay is extraordinarily pretentious. In the tradition of Keith Emerson and Kip Winger, his shows of technique have no purpose — not only no artistic purpose, but no purpose in terms of constructing an action sequence, advancing a story, etc. — other than to draw attention to themselves. This is usually intolerable coming from people with real talent; when someone is showing off skills no different than dozens of guys who direct car commercials it’s especially irritating. I also blame Bay for the trend of summer genre movies with threadbare-at-best plots and no characters that go on for two and a half hours.