Explosions. If there’s one thing that comes to mind when you think of a Michael Bay movie, it’s explosions. There are always quick cuts, slo-mo, widescreen action shots and beautiful women, but nothing says “Bay” in people’s minds like a burst of debris and pyrotechnics. It might be what he’s known for, but I wanted to see if he really deserves that reputation.
So I watched every one of Michael Bay’s movies and counted every explosion on-screen, just to see how many he really packs into a cinematic adventure. I found out just how much BOOM he puts in, and then saw if it makes him more money, and what the critics think about it.
I watched all nine of Mr. Bay’s movies, and every time an explosion occurred, I noted it using a handy app on my Android phone. Then I compared that number with the running time and box office, and figured out how many Explosions per Minute (EPM) each movie has, just to make everything fair across movies (After all, if one movie turned out to be an hour shorter than the other, it might not have as much time for pyrotechnics. Luckily none of his movies are under two hours, so it all worked out).
I also was careful with what I called an “explosion.” If there was a fireball, or a terrific outward burst of debris with some sparks flying, I counted it. I didn’t count it if someone shot at something and there was a piece of the wall flying out. Honestly, I might’ve counted a few blow-ups multiple times by accident; Bay likes to show an explosion multiple times from different angles for dramatic effect, but it’s hard to tell if it was the same explosion or a concurrent one. So take my results as I saw them, but don’t consider them hard science.
I want to note that I have no kind of vendetta against Michael Bay. He makes movies, they make money. I’ve seen a number of them in the theater, even a few multiple times. I caught the first two Transformers movies with a group of friends, and I watched Pearl Harbor after borrowing it from my girlfriend. If I was going to make some kind of case against someone in showbiz, it wouldn’t be Bay.
And now, the results.
The bottom line is every Michael Bay movie has some number of explosions happening, either during action scenes or the big climactic parts. This is normal for any action movie director. There’s also no usual number of times something blows up in his movies; there are actually about a hundred more explosions in Transformers than The Rock.
The number of explosions in each movie and EPM follow the save curve. If a movie has more explosions than the other, the number of Explosions Per Minute will be more as well. It makes sense since all Bay's movies are over two hours.
My thought was to tie the number of explosions to how much money it made at the box office, to see if there’s a connection between the fireballs and the money made. The movie with the most bang for the buck was the third Transformers movie, Dark of the Moon, which as of this writing has made just a bit more than a literal billion dollars worldwide, and has 283 explosions by my count (1.84 EPM), the most of any of his films. His lowest grossing movie, the first Bad Boys, made $1.41 million and has only 18 explosions. The next one up the list is The Island, which has 16 explosions (the fewest of all nine movies), and made $1.62 million. So yes, Michael Bay’s most explosive movie made the most money, and the least explosive two made the least.
(NOTE: None of the movies Bay has directed has lost money. They’ve all been profitable.)
Interestingly, the Bay movies with that were best received by critics were The Rock (67% on Rotten Tomatoes and 59 on Metacritic) and the first Transformers (57% RT, 61 Metacritic). The Rock has 22 explosions and made $3.35 mil, and TF has 128 booms and made $7.07 mil. So there isn’t any real connection between how many times things blow up and how critics feel about a Bay movie. As I noted before, there’s almost 100 explosions more in TF.
So there you have it. Semi-scientific proof that Michael Bay loads his movies with explosions whenever possible, and tends to get better box office when he does so, though critics don’t really notice. Of course, Bad Boys III could come out in two years, do major box office and screw up my numbers. That’s the essence of Michael Bay, blowing up your stuff.
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