Michael Bay blows a lot of shit up. He may not single-mindedly hate the Earth like his co-master of cinematic disaster Roland Emmerich, but he loves destroying things on the planet and putting them on film, and he takes a great deal of care when doing so. In fact, he cares so much, he can’t help but equate his artistry with the meticulous process by which a chef might make a… uh, salad.
Look, they’re Bay’s words, not mine. In an interview with Empire about his upcoming film Ambulance, the director explained his philosophy about making things go boom. “There’s a special sauce for explosions. It’s like a recipe. I see some directors do it, and they look cheesy, or it won’t have a shockwave. There are certain ways with explosions where you’re mixing different things, and different types of explosions to make it look more realistic. It’s like making a Caesar salad.”
Jokes aside, I understand what he’s saying. And while I may think most (or all) Michael Bay movies are bad and stupid, and I may loathe the man personally for unleashing five awful Transformers films into the world that I was forced to watch because of my chosen profession, I have no doubt he carefully crafts each explosion he puts on screen to make it look right, to make it the right size, and to make it as exciting as possible. The question I have is whether that care means anything to viewers, who would be equally enthused watching any big explosion, or if Bay’s “recipes” are subconsciously affecting our emotional responses in some way. I absolutely allow that the latter is possible, since there are a lot of subtle things movies do to convey information and emotional impact that non-filmmakers (like myself) never notice.
According to the interview, Bay’s favourite explosion is a fireball in Pearl Harbour which he’s convinced is the biggest explosion ever put on film. Unfortunately, the Guinness Book of World Records currently lists the destruction of Blofeld’s base from the movie Spectre as the biggest, but at least Bay’s taking it well: “James Bond tried to take the ‘largest explosion in the world.’ Bullshit. Ours is.”