Opinion: Michael Bay – Franchise Killer?

A couple of months ago, a major announcement was made in Hollywood which made a wide audience of people cast decidedly sceptical and unimpressed glances upon producer/director extraordinaire Michael Bay. A careless comment from Bay at a press conference intimated that Paramount’s upcoming reboot of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would retcon all previous versions of the popular characters, replacing  the origin story with a facetious narrative that casts the turtles as part of an alien race instead of adhering to their well-known backdrop of the mutation of genetics which forms the focal genesis of the series. The comment was perhaps taken out of context in terms of poor wording and the potential of the insufficient briefing of Bay stemming from miscommunication; however it goes without saying that this change in direction for the series was inevitably met with fan backlash and negativity towards the project. This is a common occurrence with such popular cult figures with a hardcore fan-base, yet the connotations of Bay’s involvement with the PR issue reflects a deeper problem at the root of his career and more harrowingly at the heart of Hollywood. The question here is whether Bay himself is potentially the killer of viable, profitable franchised brands, or is he merely a personification of the fickleness of big-budget Hollywood in 2012?

Bay’s career hinges on the recent wave of reliance that cinema has seemingly come across on the premise of remakes, sequels and reboots, which I previously covered here on RhettMedia at https://rhettmedia.wordpress.com/2012/03/31/opinion-hollywoods-adaptation-factor/. Prior to the revelations held at March’s ill-fated press conference regarding the upcoming Ninja Turtles flick, Bay’s credits highlight the chequered history of the modern obsession with remakes and adaptations. Particularly focussing on the horror genre, Bay seemed determined to reinvent and modernise the most classic films of the category, becoming involved with remakes of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Amityville Horror, Friday the 13th and A Nightmare On Elm Street franchises, all which would receive fairly mediocre to downright awful receptions throughout the 2000s with audiences and critics alike. These ‘re-imaginings’ of such core films to the genre were largely regarded as visually upgrading their ancestral films, yet lacking in terms of the execution of enabling the remakes to live up to the lofty artistic standards of their originals. This phenomenon displays how Bay perhaps lacks the finesse of a truly excellent director/producer, and is perhaps the very first sign of the more worrying trend which conveyed his simultaneous willingness and disregard to put his own spin on projects with a heavily faithful and fundamentally critical fan-base.     

Perhaps a more pressing depiction of Bay’s ability to severely injure the legacy of a beloved cult series is the curse of his recent interpretations of the legendary Transformers franchise. With a heap of money from the monolithic Paramount Pictures production company to throw at the project, Bay construed his accumulated half a billion dollar budget over the current three existing movies in the franchise as a means of producing approximately a million CGI battle and action scenes, sacrificing character development, coherent plot and any semblance of the original heart of the series in the mean-time. While the pictures amassed absolutely colossal box office profits of near three billion dollars, it can be said that as pieces of cinematic art Bay’s visions of the Transformers franchise bombed massively. Cold and devoid of the real characters that fans know and love, the movies became robotic clusters of grey, emotionally static set-pieces that, while visually impressive, remain spiritually demoralising, soul-draining to sit through and leaving its audience wondering why they should care about the events on-screen. The first half of the third instalment is so woefully atrocious in its attempts at humour that it leaves you pitifully begging for the mindless action scenes that span around an hour afterwards until the credits signal when you can go home and wonder where it all went wrong.

This unconvincing track record is intensified by Bay’s comments on March. Whether it is general ignorance on the part of Bay in regards to the terrible manner in which the Transformers franchise was also handled or more related to an over-eagerness to add an original spin to a story that has already been told is unclear, but what becomes overtly obvious is that the announcement of Bay’s fingerprints over a project will always be met with an anxious raising of the eyebrows by dedicated fans. Perhaps Bay is a killer of franchises in an artistic sense, yet it should be stressed that he is probably far more concerned with pleasing the higher-ups of Paramount Pictures than the loyal fan-bases and it is irrefutable that the ridiculous amount of money that his pictures have grossed over the years means that the franchises remain viable and most importantly profitable. With a record that cannot be argued against in terms of financial success, it seems more pressing that Bay will retain the power to mismanage some of the finest cult classics for the foreseeable future, but for now let’s hope that the comments from March’s press conference stem purely from a misunderstanding and that the Ninja Turtles franchise will not be another series that Bay has unwittingly damaged beyond artistic repair with his carelessness and ignorance.

Ninja Turtles is scheduled for release December 25th 2013.

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~ by jrhett on May 16, 2012.

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