Michael Bay: Most movie critics are ‘born with the anti-fun gene’

June 29, 2009 | 12:29 p.m.

Wow, what a weekend for “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.” It’s north of $360 million  worldwide and counting. We’ve had tons of coverage on the film that is breaking records at the box office and we’re not done yet. Today, on the front page of the Los Angeles Times Calendar section, John Horn takes a look at the staggering disconnect between the critical reception and commercial fortunes of Michael Bay’s summer juggernaut. — G.B.  

Michael Bay and his loudspeaker


Director Michael Bay has never been a critics’ favorite, but the thrashing he received for “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” was the worst of his eight-film career.

Reviewers ridiculed the new sequel about battling robots as “beyond bad” (Rolling Stone), “bewildering” and “sloppy” (the Village Voice) and “a great grinding garbage disposal of a movie” (the Detroit News).

The early notices were so uniformly disapproving that after Bay’s traditional opening-night dinner party at Beverly Hills’ Mr. Chow, the 44-year-old director wondered aloud to executives at distributor Paramount Pictures about the possible impact of the drubbing. He needn’t have worried: Rarely have critics been more disconnected from what audiences want and love.

Since it arrived early Wednesday just past midnight, “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” sold more tickets in its first five days — an estimated $201.2 million — than any other movie in Hollywood history except one: last year’s “The Dark Knight” (which grossed $203.8 million in its first five days and went on to earn $533.3 million at the domestic box office). By the end of this week, “Transformers” likely will surpass “Up” and “Star Trek” to become this summer’s most-attended release.

“I think they reviewed the wrong movie. They just don’t understand the movie and its audience. It’s silly fun,” Bay said over the weekend of the many “Transformers” critical detractors. “I am convinced that they are born with the anti-fun gene. The reviews are just so vicious. A lot of them are more personal than anything else.”

Transformers in action

His film’s strong debut cements Bay’s reputation as one of the town’s most consistently commercial directors. A colorful personality who drives fast cars, dates knockout models, wears his shirts unbuttoned and is infamously demanding on and off his movie sets, the boyish Bay possesses one of the highest average theatrical grosses among Hollywood’s best-known directors.

Bay’s seven movies (“The Rock,” “Armageddon,” “Pearl Harbor,” “The Island,” the two “Bad Boys” films and the earlier “Transformers”) before the sequel averaged $152.5 million in domestic theaters, according to the website Box Office Mojo. That places him alongside “Transformers” producer Steven Spielberg (average gross: $156.9 million as a director), “Titanic’s” Jim Cameron ($163.8 million) and “The Lord of the Rings’ ” Peter Jackson ($159 million). What’s more, all of Bay’s previous movies have grossed more overseas than they have domestically.

Movie review aggregator websites assigned the film average scores ranging from 21% positive to 40% positive, with Rotten Tomatoes giving the sequel the lowest marks in Bay’s career.

Audiences saw the movie quite differently. At the AMC Puente Hills 20 on Friday night, the majority of the film’s showings were sold out, and some “Transformers” fans waited two hours to get into an open screening.

Fred Aldaco, 23, was visiting from Phoenix, and said Bay had respected the Transformers legacy, which includes toys, comic books and an animated television series. “He did a good job with it,” Aldaco said. “They took their time and knew how they were going to do the story. You can hardly say that about any other comic book” movie director.

Although La Puente’s 27-year-old Diana Salazar didn’t know that Bay had directed the movie, she praised its execution. “It had a lot of action. It was really interesting to see the good fight scenes,” she said. “Either I like the plot or I don’t. It makes absolutely no difference who the director is.”

Paramount’s national exit polling revealed several notable facts. While the first “Transformers” film, released in 2007, skewed 60-40 toward men over women, the split in the new film was more even at 54% male, 46% female. More than 90% of those surveyed said the new movie was as good as or better than the first film…


— John Horn


Transformers Revenge of the Fallen poster

Bay: “There’s a lot of poison on the Internet . . . whatever”

PHOTO GALLERY: The romantic side of Bay’s boy movies

Critics hate “Transformers” but it’s not going to matter

Michael Bay’s “Transformers” payday? $75 MILLION… and counting

“Transformers” screenwriters are having a summer to remember

Michael Bay talks about Shia LaBeouf’s dark moods

“Transformers” sequel: The mother of all robot-on-robot violence

What 2009 fanboys films now have a shot at best-picture nomination

CREDIT: Images courtesy of Paramount Pictures.


29 Responses to Michael Bay: Most movie critics are ‘born with the anti-fun gene’

  1. kevin powers says:

    His original Transformers was pure fun, and that's what I think most folks were expecting this time around. Fun, however simple or silly, still needs a modicum of skill and effective execution (outside of pyrotechnics), which Bay seemed to ignore in the sequel. But more importantly, fun doesn't equal good. The two can be (and often are) mutually exclusive. Revenge the Fallen may have been a fun movie, but it was also a bad one.

  2. Michael says:

    Mr. Bay, it's not that reviewers don't like FUN movies, it's that they don't like STUPID movies. I movie can be both smart and fun (Iron Man springs to mind). Your films are popular because they pander to the lowest common denominator, and that's nothing to brag about.

  3. JPB says:

    Screw the critics. I never go by their word. I think most of them are uptight a-holes who love misery.

  4. max says:

    Michael Bay doesn't understand the audience. Transformers could have been an AMAZING set of movies. Instead it is commercialization and forced marketing. People paid so much because they HOPED it wouldn't STUNK like the first one.
    It is a TOY MOVIE for KIDS. Read that again. Based off a CARTOON.
    Instead we get Bay's soft porn and twisted metal scenes where we don't know what robot is which. The dialog is horrible. The "humor" is base and sexual with dogs in heat and little robots cursing.
    Stay home. Don't give this guy more cash to make lame films.

  5. Alex says:

    Michael Bay is correct. Most critics have forgotten how to have fun and enjoy a movie. But the reviews have more to do with the fact that the more successful a director becomes, the more critics resent it. If you notice, the reviews are very personal and have very little to do with the movie itself. This is especially true when a movie is obviously meant to please audiences and not critics. Regardless, it is the audience whose voice that matters. Clearly Michael bay has demonstrated he knows what he is doing and audiences love his films. I would take the audience over the critics any day.

  6. Alex says:

    Michael Bay is correct. Most critics have forgotten how to have fun and enjoy a movie. But the reviews have more to do with the fact that the more successful a director becomes, the more critics resent it. If you notice, the reviews are very personal and have very little to do with the movie itself. This is especially true when a movie is obviously meant to please audiences and not critics. Regardless, it is the audience whose voice that matters. Clearly Michael bay has demonstrated he knows what he is doing and audiences love his films. I would take the audience over the critics any day.

  7. David says:

    Michael Bay is a hack. Seriously. Just take a look at the list of his films – one clunker after another. A massive box office does not equate to a strong film. Most Hollywood films with huge numbers are crap films. Bay is an idiot.

  8. Alex says:

    Usually, when someone says another director is a hack it is because they are envious and are merely frustrated at their own meager accoplishments.

  9. Allison:) says:

    I loved this movie and i think critics should get off Michael Bay's back for once. Either the critics personally dont like the diector or they are reviewing the wrong movie. Well, Michael is getting the last laugh because despite the bad reviews the film is still making big bucks. Transformers Revenge of the Fallen is a great summer blockbuster and it is a fun and silly movie to watch!

  10. Neal says:

    This movie was based towards teenagers and those in their 20s. Anybody downtalking the movie is probably too old and doesn't understand humor.

  11. David Almada says:

    This movie was bigger & better than the first one. After reading the reviews, I was absolutely sure that this was going to be a HUGE pile of dog poo, and instead, the 8 year old in me had the time of his life… Granted, you have to like the source material, otherwise it's like watching metal grinding for two hours, but if you understand and like the fact that your favorite toys now have a huge hollywood movie, it's WAY under par… There are movies to take seriously, and then there are movies to have FUN. This is one of those movies…

  12. justin says:

    I personally love the movie. I thought the movie was enjoyable and action packed. I am personally glad Optimus Prime did not spend the film crying over Jazz like the critics seem to have wanted. The plot was easy to follow for anyone with a brain and made sense when you think about them being giant alien robots. I loved the film and I believe critics hate movies like this because this way people talk about them more. I they loved the film no one would care and they would lose their job.

  13. sarah says:

    If want to all secret about Michael Bay visit to http://popularnewstodaynow.blogspot.com/

  14. Philip says:

    Critics are intellegent people. They are not so easily distracted by lots and lots of cgi and explosions. Transformers was awesome for its special effects and the origional was a fairly well-rounded movie. What make the two movies so different? THe first movie had something called a plot, and a fairly coherent one at that. The second movie however, may have a plot or two, but the plot had quite a few loopholes and was completely incoherent. While Transformers 2 can be praised as a great display of cgi, its lack of storytelling makes it a rather lopsided movie. But is this Michaels Bay's fault? Maybe, he might have skimped on the storyline for special effects. Don't get me wrong, the movie will leave you on the edge of your seats, but I feel like he could have somehow gotten a good plot in there. Bay was under a lot of pressure to make the sequel better than the first. As a movie, Transformers 2 was absolutely horrible, but who the hell is going to see it for a storyline, the vast majority of the audience just wants to go see the visuals. Critics have to grade it as a movie. Think of it like this, critics reviewing tansformers 2 is like a book critic reviewing playboy or another porn mag.

  15. Drew says:

    If anyone saw they South Park episode "Imaginationland" then you know how this movie would turn out.
    General-"Mr. Bay, do you have any ideas of how to solve this?"
    Michael Bay-"Ok so theres this sky scraper, and then all of the sudden METEORS BLAST THROUGH IT AND ITS LIKE 'BOOOOOOOOM!' and then theres this semi truck full of gasoline and a dump truck hits it and its like 'PSSSSSSSHHHEEEEEWW!!'"
    General-"Mr. Bay, those are not ideas. Those are special effects."
    Michael Bay-"Uuum… I don't understand the difference."
    General- "We know."

  16. Drew says:

    Justin, if you had a brain the plot DID NOT make sense. I don't think there is any theology which predicts the ghosts of Optimus' past in heaven, or any possible way something that stupid could happen.

  17. Levi says:

    I went to this movie because I thought it would be fun to watch giant robots smashing each other to pieces. That's exactly what I got. Aside from the twin characters which I thought were pretty cheesy the movie was something that was entertaining for a couple hours. I didn't go into the theater expecting the next oscar winner and I wasn't disappointed.

  18. oakmonster says:

    Megan Fox is hot run run robot crash robot crash Ooh Bumblebee! run run explosion 13-year-old humor run run…snore…Megan Fox looks sexy run run robot crash robot crash….snore…[SPOILER ALERT] OMFGBBQ! Optimus Prime is Jesus?? [/SPOILER ALERT]…snore….

  19. aertoa says:

    I am going to see Transformers later and then I will show you who is the critic!

  20. andy says:

    I think it's kind of ridiculous that critics don't adapt their reviews based on what the movie is trying to achieve. It'd be like complaining that your bike can't tow a boat.
    I get it, it's not a World War II movie, so it's not win an Oscar, but what on earth did you expect when you go to a movie about giant robots in giant robot death matches?
    FWIW, I'm a big fan of 1 and I thought 2 surpassed it in every way except for the music.

  21. Andy Evans says:

    Just because it made alot of money does not mean it was any good. I paid to go see it, so they made money off me. It was really really bad. Racist, LONG, and boring. It was military porn, that went on WAY to long. It was a waste of my money and I feel the media pumped it up to make it seem like a good movie.

  22. Mike says:

    Offensive Step and Fetchit robots: check.
    Over-the-top explosions: check.
    Meandering plot going in 10 different directions: check.
    Juvenile sexual humor: check (+1 for robot dry-humping).
    Millions spent on making realistic robots that you can't tell apart on the screen: check (hey, there went a green one! Was he a Decepticon or an Autobot?)
    When did the American public decide that special effects were enough? What happened to good storytelling or at least making an attempt to flesh out a character beyond a ham-handed racial caricature? I loved the battle scenes to a point, but you could just of easily of removed all the "comedy," and had the same movie but spared me an hour of my life.

  23. Elaine says:

    The critics are right on this one.
    Perhaps if someone had reminded the makers of this film that it's based on a CHILDREN'S CARTOON and left out the dog/robot humping humor, profanity, and scenes from Girls Gone Wild this could have been a good movie for the entire family to enjoy.
    Instead I was left cringing everytime a character used profane language or Megan Fox looked like she was modeling for FHM.
    In case you didn't notice there were kids throughout the theatre with parents expecting a film similiar to the first Transformers that was rated PG13 for the explosions and violence.
    Instead viewers, myself included, got youtube qaulity humor and a pin-up magazine.
    With some additional editing this could have been an enjoyable movie, but sadly it was not. Maybe they will come up with an edited version suitable for children? I would like that movie I am sure.

  24. Ryan says:

    Seriously people it's pretty freaking easy – decepticons are the only ones that can fly! They are also SILVER when robots.
    It's fun, yes, fun means just that – you laugh, you smile, you see big explosions – this weekend when you see fireworks, guess what?! Same thing. It's fun, enjoyable.
    Was it oscar worthy? I don't care, the critics and oscars and awards shows are failing each year to remember the reason WHY movies were made. The silver screen started out to entertain, and this movie does that.
    If you don't know the history, the story, the concept of this movie – why the hell did you go watch it in the first place? Sorry, but this show was the FIRST movie I went to see since Dark Knight. I couldn't have been happier.

  25. Tyrone says:

    Michael Bay is a hero and represents the best of America: success, creativity, and inspiration

  26. Hal Jordan says:

    I'm sure Michael Bay would prefer that the critics like his films but at the end of the day he make movies with massive appeal. They certainly aren't for everyone but they are for the masses and the box office totals prove that quite handily. Like I said, I'm sure he'd like everyone to write glowing reviews of his work but I'm also sure he's laughing all the way to the bank.

  27. Keven says:

    Honestly I thought it was a great movie, I understand it had some issues but whatever man it's a movie made to ENTERTAIN YOU, I for one am a huge Bay fan and I'm also smart enough to understand that critics hate his movies, I watched the movie looking for fun and excitement, I got what I wanted Ebery is a pompaus ads anyway, for gods sake he hated The Usual Suspects, you can't trust him, also I don't need to be mesmorized by Megan Fox or awesome Cgi to love it, the plot was ok enough, idc wat anyone says I loved it,^^

  28. JokersNuts says:

    Yeah any critic who disliked Transformers 2 must have an "anti fun gene". There just no way the movie could have been the huge piece of unwatchable garbage

  29. RedBull says:

    Michael Bay is laughing all the way to the bank, and there isn't a f—n single thing that these fagotty arthouse critics could do about it, except to hate hate and hate. If they are such experts in knowing what a 'good movie' should be, then I'd like to see these haters try to make a movie and see how well it does at the box office.

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