In Defense of Michael Bay

f0aa9b9404ef9d5599aaa92d6504fddc.750x574x1The good people over at Movie Finatic have written a piece where they explain that Michael Bay, who for some reason gets no credit for his involvement with the excellent Armageddon and Pearl Harbor movies but is famous for the recent Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film adaptations, is considering taking on Thundercats. The piece, titled “Michael Bay wants to continue ruining your childhood! He’s on to the Thundercats!” paints the director’s work in a not too flattering light, stating that “fans of the animated show are not happy about this, with many expressing disdain for Michael Bay. It is a huge “blunder” for fans of the cartoons, saying that they don’t want anymore “80’s or 90s childhood series” to be directed by Bay, especially ThunderCats.” But here’s the thing – Michael Bay didn’t “ruin” anyone’s childhood.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Transformers movies were both good updates. In our nostalgia ridden mind “the old ones were better”, but let’s face it, they were not. “We” think that the stuff we grew up with, whether it’s movies, TV shows, or toys, is “better”, but in reality it’s not that the old movies / shows / music / whatever is better – it’s that the childhood memories that we attach to those artifacts are precious. It may well be that some older things – mostly classics that withstand the test of time – but “classic” TMNT and Transformers were no timeless classics. TMNT, both the movies and the cartoons, were good for their time. The cartoons had campy stories and imaginative characters. But in the end they were by no means as good as the more developed, better written, visually impressive 2003 counterpart cartoon or the fairly interesting 2007 movie. The same is true for the Bay movies. Yes, the original movies had ooze and more dialogue and Casey Jones, but the Michael Bay reboot had the Ninja Turtles actually doing Ninja Turtle things, like using their shells as a defense / to surf and actually flipping around in a parkour-like style. Yes, there were explosions and campy jokes, but there were also explosions and campy jokes in the original cartoons.  The same is true with Transformers. The original cartoons were fun action romps filled with battles between transforming cars and transforming planes. Michael Bay’s adaptation is an update on that.

Old vs New Ninja Turtles

Sure, Bay’s TMNT didn’t have the “iconic” COWABUNGA! until the end, and even then as a joke, nor that ever amazing Ninja Rap by Vanilla Ice. No, Transformers didn’t have the “iconic” “eek erk ark uk erk” noise as they transform, but that’s ok. Updates don’t have to be 100% faithful to the original.They have to capture the essence of the original and update it. And as far as that goes, it would be hard to argue that Bay captured the essence of “transforming robot cars” and “ninja turtles” fairly well, even if the stories were not as fleshed out as they might have been.
Old vs New Optimus

Old vs New Optimus

As for Thundercats, I’m sure people will criticize it for being “too much action.” But the thing is that Thundercats originally was about action. Every single episode was “The Thundercats are faffing around in the castle, the bad guys hatch a plan to destroy the Thundercats, fighting and explosions, the Mumra conversion, Lion-O wiggles his sword, it grows, and spits out some red light from its eye, the Thundercats win, the end.” It’s a series that just begs to be Michael Bayed.

About Quijano

Johansen Quijano is a professor of English in The University of Texas at Arlington, where he is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in English. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in the Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Development focusing on TESOL, and a Master’s Degree in English Literature. He has published and presented on a variety of topics including video game studies, popular culture studies, education, teaching methodology, language acquisition, romantic poetry, and victorian literature. His research interests include the above-mentioned topics, narrative, interactivity, simulation, new media in general, and 18th century literature. He also enjoys creative writing (fiction, historical fiction, and poetry), and reading all kinds of epic literary works - from the Epic Poem of Gilgamesh to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series.

Posted on December 30, 2014, in Film Commentary, Media Commentary and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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