Michael Bay Thought 'Transformers' Was 'Terrible' During Test Screenings

The Transformers franchise remains one of the highest-grossing franchises of all time. However, the movies themselves haven’t had the same success winning over critics. Even Michael Bay, director of the Transformers movies, supposedly thought the first film was “terrible” while watching it during test screenings. 

Michael Bay’s movies have never been winners with critics

Michael Bay has a very distinct style of directing. His action movies contain gunshots with rapid, quick editing and massive explosions. They’re a lot of fun to watch, but they’re often not paired with the best screenplays. This could be why Bay’s films typically do well at the box office, despite receiving negative reviews from critics.

Currently, on Rotten Tomatoes, Bay’s two highest films are his latest movie, Ambulance, and The Rock, with both sitting at a 68% critic score. Many of the critic scores for his movies are fairly low with his lowest being for Transformers: The Last Knight (2017), which sits at 15%. The first Transformers movie is one of his highest-rated films. However, Bay was initially worried by test screenings that the movie was terrible. 

Michael Bay thought he made a ‘terrible movie’ after ‘Transformers’ test screenings

In an interview with Screen Rant while promoting Ambulance, Bay discussed being incredibly nervous before Transformers debuted. There were two test screenings; one being for a family crowd while the other was mostly for adults. After receiving an unenthusiastic response from an adult, Bay was worried that Transformers was “terrible.” Fortunately for Bay, Transformers did very well with audiences when it debuted.

“When directors go pre-screen their movies, we’re testing them, you see what [audiences] feel and whatnot, and I’ve got the sound thing there, you want to throw up. Every director wants to throw up the first time a big audience is looking at that thing. And you’ll see people walking down slowly in the test, and you want to grab them, “No, no, no. Hang on. There’s a big scene. If you miss this scene, you’re going to miss the whole thing.” So it’s intense, like Transformers…So two houses, 400 people in each house, starting 15 minutes difference or something like that. I’m now watching it with a whole bunch of families and kids, and I’m like, “Okay, dumb robot movie. Oh my God. It’s just a kids’ movie. Oh, man. Oh, what did I do?” It gets a huge score, and it was unfinished. Then I go to the next theater, and I’ve got the sound thing and there’s an empty seat and there’s a guy, whatever. This is more of the adult kind of room, and I look to the guy and I [ask], “Do you like this movie?” And he goes, “[meh hand motion].” And I’m like, “Oh, this is terrible. I just made a terrible movie.” Whatever. Huge matching score, like a 94. That’s a spectacular movie score.”

Despite poor reviews, Michael Bay’s ‘Transformers’ movies are massive box office successes

While the first Transformers movie did pretty well with critics, the subsequent sequels didn’t fare as well. Despite that, the Transformers franchise has made over $4.3 billion worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo. Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Age of Extinction are the most successful in the franchise and have made over $1.1 billion worldwide.

Funny enough, Bumblebee, which was directed by Travis Knight instead of Bay, received a 90% critic score, but performed the worst at the box office. Audiences and critics just can’t agree on the Transformers movies or on Bay as a director. 

Bay’s latest movie, Ambulance, arrives in theaters on April 8. 

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