A Renaissance: - Is 2010s Michael Bay the 1990s Michael Bay for a new generation?
Michael Bay made three movies in the 1990s and all three of them showcased his rise in Hollywood. Bad Boys was a low budget action comedy and a suitable movie for a first time director under the guidance of Jerry Bruckheimer. The Rock was a bigger budget action film that showed the success Michael had had with breaking out as a filmmaker, and Armageddon was a big budget summer blockbuster that cemented Michael as a go-to director. Even though Michael has found success long after this with him becoming a household name in the 2000s along with other directors of recent big successes such as Peter Jackson and Christopher Nolan, many have viewed a certain charm to his earliest three movies, perhaps because of a far more noticeable sake of progression. Even though Michael grows as a filmmaker with every feature, somewhat as it was put with having a new love interest in Dark of the Moon, people are more interested in the falling-in-love (starting out in Hollywood) rather than the established relationship (established director). The same could be said for Peter Jackson and Christopher Nolan today too, and this seems to be a trend that goes every far in film history such as the early successes of Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese.
However, is Michael making a kind of renaissance this decade? After thinking about it due to my excitement over 13 Hours and how it feels like one of the greatest and most rewarding war films I have seen in some time, I think he is.
Pain & Gain
Although not Michael's first movie of the 2010s as Bad Boys was for him in the 1990s, there are a lot of parallels that can be made between the two films. I even view Pain & Gain as the somewhat unofficial final film of a Michael Bay Bad Boys trilogy. Despite one being an action film and the other being a crime thriller, both Bad Boys and Pain & Gain are films set in 1995 Miami, were produced on a very small budget, and featured an extensive use of comedy (Bad Boys had a fair share of black comedy while Pain & Gain thrived on it). Due to the large scale of films such as Bad Boys II and Transformers many viewed Bad Boys as a very small scale and restrained outing from Michael, when only a few years later the same people seemed to think of Pain & Gain in the same way as if Bad Boys always was a massive action epic, perhaps due to the films Michael made in the 2000s or because of the Bad Boys name due to the big scale of the 2003 sequel. Pain & Gain could easily have been Michael's first movie had he started out in the industry only a couple of years ago. If we were to draw a line as the beginning of this renaissance, it certainly is with Pain & Gain as it is a spiritual successor to the original Bad Boys.
Transformers: Age of Extinction
This one is tricky and is perhaps best to leave excluded from this concept of a renaissance, which I will explain more on later with Transformers 5. If someone was to refer to something as "Classic Michael Bay" this is where we could call into question what they are referring to. If they are referring to the uncensored style Michael has with the successful films he has made, in which Age of Extinction would absolutely fall under. Or if the word "classic" is referring to a sort of "old school" style, then it would be more suited for something like the film that was released a year previously. Age of Extinction can be seen as a way for this renaissance to be "phased in" rather than come out full blown as we still get what we expect from Michael's output along with his rebirth. Age of Extinction could also be a comment on Bad Boys II, where a follow-up was so much grander than what had come before which highlights the importance of this "return to form".
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
Parallels between The Rock and 13 Hours can already be drawn from the fact that they are released 20 years apart, 1996 and 2016 bridging the gap between these classic "Bay thrillers" which have extensive action sequences but were still produced on a relatively low budget. As I recalled in my review of 13 Hours, the film features very grounded action, something which Michael hasn't done in a while as his action in The Island and Transformers films were extravagant due to the science fiction aspect as well as Bad Boys II due to its large scale. Going down Michael's filmography we arrive at The Rock which is the last of his films to really feel like whats on offer in 13 Hours, not to mention the action in both are hard R. Both films have a military driven story, a lengthy first act to the main event which features a day time car chase as a something fresh due to the upcoming night time action, and have very similar themes and internal conflicts the characters must face. Even many of Michael's critics, who consider The Rock to be his best film, have praised 13 Hours and consider it one of his best as well. And Mason and Rone? Anyone else see their similarities? Somehow? And I may be pulling straws here, but even their appearances are pretty damn close:
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So what about Armageddon?
Michael will probably be able to direct two more films to see this decade out, with Transformers 5 in 2017 and most likely something else in 2019. With two potential films on offer there most likely will be some form of spiritual successor to Armageddon so all three of his 1990s movies have been given new life in the 2010s. Based on the format we have already, it would seem Transformers 5 will serve a similar purpose as Age of Extinction by offering more high-octane escapism that Michael has mastered with the 2019 film serving as the similar as Armageddon's twin. However, as I pointed out in my introduction, Armageddon was the big budget popcorn blockbuster that cemented Michael's name in blockbuster history. Transformers 5 may very well be the film that will honour Armageddon. The 1998 classic is all about something coming to destroy the Earth, so a team has to be round up to be launched into space and solve the conflict there. Going by where Age of Extinction ended, as well as anybody well educated in Transformers lore, does it seem like Transformers 5 may be any different? Obviously there will be many differences to keep both films separate and fresh but there is that chance that Transformers 5 will be to Armageddon what 13 Hours was to The Rock and Pain & Gain was to Bad Boys.
I can't remember exactly where I heard it, but Michael is interested in exploring other genres, such as romance. I think there clearly is some form of renaissance here, and a film about a love story may be a later step if there is going to be a nod to Pearl Harbor.