Why Michael Bay Can't Lose

There’s a fascinating pattern in the first Transformers reviews:

There is nothing to watch here, nothing to grab onto or hook into in even the simplest of ways. I staggered out of the theater feeling assaulted and insulted, but by the time I was standing out on 42nd Street in the muggy summer evening air, even those angry feelings had passed.

Richard Corliss agrees: “The final half-hour devolves into a kind of abstract-expressionist chaos, with commercials. Nothing coheres.” At IndieWire, Eric Kohn complains that Michael Bay “constructs a barrage of showdowns remarkable for their ridiculous propensity to feature explosions and slo-mo, gravity-defying feats. They’re all unmemorable but equally loud and visceral.” The movie isn’t just bad—nobody going into any of these reviews expected anything else—it’s impossible to engage with critically, or to even remember, like a trauma or an accidental nap or the ten seconds after you hit the snooze button. It’s tempting to blame the movie’s attempts to appeal to an international audience, but even that seems backwards: Captain America, the highest grossing American film in China so far this year, was coherent and smart and about Captain America. You can’t translate a thing you can’t parse in the first place. Maybe you don’t need to!

Another pattern: Not one review on the Rotten Tomatoes page for Age of Extinction, as of Thursday night, was assigned to a woman. What does it mean? Or wait, is this, too, impossible to engage? Two thumbs in all directions for Michael Bay! At least Snowpiercer is supposed to be good.