This series focuses on the one and only Michael Bay. Attempting to deconstruct his filmography, one film at a time. The ideas explored here may or may not end up in my Dissertation about Michael Bay and Post-Cinema.
And to answer the question: Does it ever rain in a Michael Bay movie?
“Your “best”! Losers always whine about their best. Winners go home and fuck the prom queen.” – Mason
It was about 30 seconds into THE ROCK, that it dawned on me that this is perhaps the least Michael Bay, Michael Bay movie. What I mean by that is that there are the flourishes of what people think of when I say ‘Michael Bay’, but there is a somberness and tragedy to the film that I can’t quite place.
This is the last Don Simpson film produced before he died. Maybe that has something to do with it.
Something Patrick Willems brought up in his fantastic YouTube series, ‘Michael Bay: Understanding A True American Auteur’ (Parts One & Two) is that Bay has this inherent distrust of Government figures, whilst holding up the forces as honourable and righteous. THE ROCK is perhaps the best example of this.
Ed Harris’ antagonist, Brigadier General Francis X. “Frank” Hummel is filmed by Bay, and portrayed by Harris as a justifiable force. His actions are reasonable, insane but reasonable. To hold San Fransisco hostage with deadly VX gas missiles, with the demand of money. The reasons? The servicemen and servicewomen who have died under his command aren’t recognised as the heroes that they deserve. Their families aren’t given the truth, and are refused financial compensation. Pretty reasonable if you ask me.
However, as Hummel states to his men, this will be an act of treason. But he deems it as a necessary step to take for justice. When it is revealed that he was bluffing, and the men who want financial reward (they see themselves as mercenaries, and as such are not held to the same honourable code that military men hold) end up turning on him, he dies a ‘noble’ death. The Brigadier General who stuck by his moral principles and took a step to push the Government into making a rightful choice, is punished. All the mercenaries die, with Yarrow and Frye dying most horribly.
Hummel is a tragic character.
Mason is a man pushed to the edge. He has ceased to exist, because he holds the keys to the darkest secrets of the US Government.
Godspeed (played here by Nic Cage, giving glimpses of Cage-ist acting that show why Arnie was right to turn down the role), is an office drone. Pushed out of his safety net by the unusual circumstances. His fiance is pregnant, he spends lots of money on original Beatles LPs (a Tarantino touch surely), and he isn’t corrupted by the suits higher up.
There’s that recurring theme of distrust in the Government. When the flares go up and Godspeed holds them aloft, arms spread like Christ on the Cross, the missile has been fired. The final explosion doesn’t kill anyone, its just there as an explosive full stop.
The chase of the Ferrari and Hummer through San Fransisco, and the hotel scene previous, has all the touches of BAD BOYS mentioned in my last post. There’s the unusually sized explosions (can Trams actually explode?), the casual juvenile humour (the wheelchair basketball players are back), and the casual homophobia (the gay jokes based around the Stylist are very troubling). Its also here where there is the signature low angle, circling, push in on the face of Nic Cage before he steals a bike to hunt down Sean Connery.
Looking back at his filmography, I am always surprised that THE ROCK is a Michael Bay film. Maybe its because of the somber touches, the pathos of Ed Harris’ Brigadier General, the presence of a star like Nic Cage, the presence of a star like Sean Connery. Maybe because it doesn’t seem to have that ‘overkill’ touch that BAD BOYS had.
I do like THE ROCK, but if I was to have have a late 90s action film with a cool premise and a Nic Cage performance alongside an aging actor with a visually unique action director at the helm, give me FACE/OFF.
Lastly, did it rain? Yeah. It did. The first 5-10 minutes. Which means I have to maybe change the title of these blogs to, ‘Does it rain in THIS Michael Bay movie?’