Michael Bay keeps denying that he's really going to do a fourth Transformers movie. Which shows that he hasn't completely lost his mind. Michael Bay is an artist, who needs to branch out and try something new, before he loses all his cred. Michael Bay should spread his groovy wings, man.
Seriously, there are a dozen movie projects we'd rather see Michael Bay make instead of Transformers 4. Oh, and before we get started, let me just put it out there: Michael Bay is actually an okay director, and the first Transformers is a pretty decent movie — people give it a bad rap because Transformers 2 & 3 were horrible and bleh, respectively. His biggest problem was shaky-cam, and apparently shooting in 3D reduces that issue considerably. He's not a McG or a Ratner — he has a genuine flair for action, even if he does recycle stuff.
Okay? So here we go.
Avatar 2 & 3.
Sure, James Cameron is already on board to direct these sequels — but as far as we know, filming hasn't started yet. There's still plenty of time for Cameron to jump ship and direct something actually interesting, like Fantastic Voyage. Or Joe Haldeman's The Forever War. And while we're lukewarm about two more Avatars from Cameron, we know Bay would give us what we want from these sequels — giant mechas coming down and crushing the Na'vi from space. You just know that in the Bay sequels, the humans would come back with overwhelming force. And Jake and Neytiri would get his-and-hers booty shorts. Those cute monkeys would probably have their own subplot.
Now that every Disneyland ride needs its own movie, this one should be a Michael Bay joint. Why is outer space inside a mountain? Who cares! It's a thrill ride — especially if there are awesome cars driving inside the mountain and then winding up in space. Maybe there's a hyperspace gateway, or a pair of transdimensional booty shorts, and our hero has to journey through this Mountainspace to find out who he really is. But before he finds out who he is, he has to find out what he is — is he a man? More to the point — is he a Mountaineer? Figuring out the answer will involve blowing a lot of sheeit up. Poster art by Greg Maletic.
Who didn't love Duke Nukem, growing up? The jetpack-wearing, alien-killing, Earth-saving superspy is like our ultimate avatar of manly violence. (Note to Michael Bay: Do not cast Shia LaBoeuf in this role.) There are few directors in Hollywood today who could channel the sheer destructive power, and the pure id, that the Duke Nukem movie of our dreams requires. This movie practically writes itself — aliens, helped by the vicious Dr. Proton, are attacking our world, and only one man has what it takes to stand in their way. But along the way, Duke Nukem has to deal with the President, who doesn't have the guts to stand up for what's right, and some squeamish bureaucrats, who only want him to blow up half of everything.
After watching the first two full-length movie versions of this anime classic, we're trying to imagine which U.S. director could possibly bring to life the giant-mecha-suit-vs.-weird-angels action, plus all of the angst and daddy issues. And the somewhat incesty teen sexuality, complete with ogling and inexpressible longing. It's a whole bundle of Freudian schmutz, mixed up with supermassive explosions and giant combat. And if someone actually decent wrote the screenplay, we bet Michael Bay could film the hell out of this.
Terminator 5/Terminator reboot
I'm torn about this one — on the one hand, another Terminator movie seems totally unnecessary, and Terminator Salvation was a powerful argument in favor of just letting the series die. On the other hand, the basic idea of time-traveling cyborgs wreaking havoc and smashing shit up is just full of boundless possibilities for awesome. And the one major change Salvation did to the Terminator universe was to make it more like Transformers. So why not just embrace it, and make a totally crazypants Terminator movie with giant robots, like pretty much only Michael Bay can? John Connor could be a young guy searching to figure out who he is, with his best friend a quirky cyborg trying to protect him from all the other cyborgs.
If The Avengers is as mega-successful as everybody expects, then Marvel may eventually decide that the third time's a charm for a Hulk movie. And there's pretty much one Hulk storyline that we'd kill to see on the big screen: Greg Pak's masterwork, where Bruce gets exiled to the planet Sakaar and forced to fight as a gladiator — until he leads a rebellion. It's basically like John Carter meets the Incredible Hulk, and the movie version would require one thing: a capacity for sheer, joyful destruction and craziness. Although there are a lot of supporting characters who need a fair bit of real character development, like Miek, so you'd need a strong screenwriter involved. Whatever happened, it would probably be the greatest Bayhem of his career. Seriously.
Robot Jox remake
This one is sort of a no-brainer — this underappreciated 1990 movie has many of the same elements as the Transformers movies, including huge machines pounding the stuffing out of each other. But it also opens up a lot of scope for fun human drama, and would allow Bay to stretch his creative muscles. It's 50 years after a nuclear apocalypse, and war has been abolished. Instead, the two great superpowers now settle their differences the sensible way: with giant mecha gladitorial matches. Achilles, the pilot of one of the great giant battlesuits, wants to retire — but he keeps getting pulled back in, and meanwhile there's corruption and conspiracy all around him. Put the female mecha pilot Athena into some booty shorts and add a funny sidekick, and you've got a Michael Bay movie right here.
He drives around, shooting spies on the highway. It's like the perfect setup. But Michael Bay could add whole layers of meaning to this simple premise — for one thing, he would have to jump his car over explosions on the highway, while shooting at enemy helicopters. And you need a sexy female mechanic named Red, who can fix the car while it's still going top speed. But for another, the eponymous Spy Hunter would be faced with the difficulty of figuring out who's a spy while going 100 miles per hour. Any car on the highway could theoretically be driven by a spy — so how do you figure out which is which, without ever slowing down? You trust your heart, that's how, and you man up, and you drive like gangbusters, until you run every last spy off the road. It writes itself.
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
I know what you're thinking - this is a highfalutin literary book, and Margaret Atwood probably doesn't know anything about explosions, or cut-off jean shorts. But — spoiler alert — this is an apocalyptic classic, in which the human race is all but wiped out. And there are transgenic animals, who could be turned into some of Bay's trademark CG comedy sidekicks with just a few tweaks here and there. There's also heavy drug use and lots of crazy weirdness. What kind of race do we want to replace humanity? What kind of world do we want to leave behind? It's time to drive straight into the heart of the tornado and find out, metaphysical guns blazing and hair being whipped back by the headwind.
The Six Million Dollar Man
Michael Bay is nothing if not a champion of identity crises — whether it's the clones in The Island or Sam Witwicky in the Transformers films, his heroes are always journeying to the center of what they are and why they're alive. We know why they're alive, of course — they're alive to blast a fiery hole in the whole boring pile of everything. But what if you were part machine, and you had to question your very humanity? What if you had to do that while wearing a bright red jumpsuit and fighting robot replicas of people, on top of an oil tanker that's going to blow up in five minutes? What if you had one arm that could lift enormous weights, and the other arm was just sort of regular? Would you look kind of lopsided after a while because the muscles on the cyborg arm would atrophy? Michael Bay is the man to answer these questions.
We already mentioned the Marvel Comics epic we'd like to see Michael Bay adapt, but what about DC? We'd really like to see somebody take a crack at Adam Strange, the planet-hopping hero. He's basically like Indiana Jones, a heroic archeologist, except that he randomly gets zapped to the planet Rann, where he meets a sexy blue-haired girl and fights off aliens using ray guns and jetpacks. Very few directors could serve up this kind of Silver Age action-adventure silliness with a straight face, but Michael Bay probably could. The crazy gadgets, the mid-air battles, those weird Sekowsky-esque gargoyle-faced aliens, the hints that the people of Rann just want Adam Strange to impregnate their women because all the male aliens are sterile — it's a whole stew of neurosis and raw destructive power. Adam Strange can only cope with all of the psychosexual pressure — and yes, the strangeness — by gritting his teeth and flying his totally not phallic jetpack into the heart of a double explosion.
REAMDE by Neal Stephenson
Okay, you've already totally accepted the idea of Michael Bay adapting a Margaret Atwood novel, so this is hardly a leap. Right? And consider: this is widely being described as the closest thing Stephenson's written to a blockbuster thriller. It's full of nonstop action, including a 200-page gunfight. There are terrorists, huge explosions, crazy action sequences, and computer skullduggery, with a virus that wreaks havoc via a popular online game. All Michael Bay would have to do is add an extra layer of splashy property damage, and you've got movie gold right there.
Thanks to Annalee for the suggestions!