A Message To Michael Bay…
It’s Mark. You know, from 35mm. I just had a thought that I felt inclined to share with you. Now I know it’s a lot to ask, especially of such a hotshot “auteur” director and all, but please for the sake of the greater good of the planet, I need you to start limiting your films to 2 hours. It wasn’t since 1995’s Bad Boys that you were last able to hit that time-mark, which is generally considered to be the industry standard for action and sci-fi films (as I’m sure you know and choose to ignore). And even though your increasingly bloated 2.5 hour runtimes worked to make things feel more “epic” when you were beginning to find your footing with The Rock (1996) and Armageddon (1998), our patience as a collective audience has long since run out. The problem isn’t with out attention span either – just look at the financial and critical successes of Nolan’s Batman films, Casino Royale, or the Harry Potter films as evidence. They’re all roughly the same length as your works, yet you don’t see us bitching and complaining about how excessively long or overindulgent they are.
No, the problem Mr. Bay is that you don’t know how to edit yourself. Think of it like a steak. Your films are like tender little cuts of meat of the highest quality on the market, that just happen to be wrapped inside layers and layers of disgusting grizzly fat. This fat comes in various forms, including useless characters, unnecessary subplots that go nowhere, terribly unfunny moments of “comedic lightness” and masturbatory glamour shots (often in slo-mo) of cars and/or scantily clad women. Every dozen or so bites and we might get lucky enough to catch a small taste of that delicious centre cut – the true reason we’re really here – but one can only consume so much fat before starting to feel sick. And Mike…I’m feeling pretty sick right now.
You see, against my better judgment I went to go see your new film Transformers: Dark [Side] of the Moon last night. I know, I know…it’s my own fault. I wanted to see the new Harry Potter, but I have plans to see it later this week. So, in an attempt to satiate my hunger for a big-budget theatre experience, I went with the less-intelligent option. Let’s chalk it up as a moment of weakness. In fact, if I’m being honest, I still haven’t even gotten around to seeing Revenge of the Fallen, the critically panned second film in the series. I guess you could say plot continuity has never been my main concern for a franchise that is centered around intergalactic robots. Yesterday, I went to the theatre with the intention of seeing some glorious CGI robots duking it out in 3D (shot in proper 3D for the most part, not just post-converted). And what I got was a nice little helping of just that. Along with a mouthful of fat.
What really bugs me is that I feel like your films would be much easier to swallow if you would just get ruthless in the cutting room and stop wasting so many millions of dollars on all the unnecessary crap. Sure, they would probably still be just as crass, misogynistic and painfully pro-military (I’m not trying to change your entire style here); but at least they’d be short enough to come and go without making us feel like we’re running a marathon with our eyeballs. That way, fans who grew up with the original Transformers series (like myself) would be able to go and see their childhood heroes on the big screen without feeling like they just drank a cup of lard. It’s just a thought, but one you might want to take into consideration when examining how far your star has fallen in the past decade.
I’m curious to see how you follow up these three mammoth films, now that you can put the Transformers series behind you. Maybe you’ll go for something more realistic and gritty like an urban cop drama, exploring characters that actually resemble real people instead of cardboard cutouts. Or maybe you’ll do what I think you’re going to do and make Bad Boys III: Bigger Badder Boys instead. Either way, please just do me a favour and cut the fat a little bit. You might be surprised at how much better it tastes.