I posted this on IMDb but would like to get people views here aswell:
There is so much more to an action sequence than just explosions
First off, how much do you shoot practically? Shooting practically adds an intensity to proceedings but can get enormously complicated and dangerous. CGI is a fantastic tool, safer, you can do more but it can feel very fake (see Die Hard 4) Also do you use your stuntmen or the actual actors. Somethings you can't do it soley practically like 50Ft robots smashing through bridges but you can do the bridge practically and then add the robot in by CGI.
Then there's what to actually put into your sequence. If its a car chase, do you have close calls, mass carnage or a combination. Gun fights; what guns, how many, where to stage it. Explosions; how many, how big, type of explosion.
Now the important bit, actually capturing the sequence. What cameras to use, how many, lenses, distances, positions, movements. Bay puts cameras (and sometimes himself) in harms way to get the shots he wants; driving into cars and explosions. He knows exactly what he wants and what he needs and Spielberg & Bruckheimer have been very praise worthy about Bay on a number of occasions on this aspect.
The big bone of contention is how prominent these sequences are (or should be) in terms of the movie overall. Since Bays sequences are loud, long, OTT and frankly insane, it's kind of hard for them not to take centre stage. His sequences do seem to dwarf the characters though, losing some of the more subtle aspects of the character and story. Thing is, not wanting to state the glaringly obvious, but movies are a visual medium and if all I was interested in was character and story, I might as well read a book or listen to a radio play.
Character and story are important aspects but they can't get in the way of the overall pacing of the movie. In so many movies, they get themselves bogged down trying to explain their characters & stories that they cease to become enjoyable. The very best movies, especically action ones, get the exposition out, get the character details without sacrificing style or pacing.
But that's slightly going off the point. There is no such thing as "just an action sequence" to me. To me, any action in a movie forms as much an integral part of that movie as the characters and story do.