Michael Bay
Michael Bay and his autobot star Optimus PrimeReuters / Paramount

For the vast majority of film buffs, Michael Bay and his explosion-laden back catalogue exist to be hated. A number even enjoy hating the director's oeuvre of shallow blockbusters. Armageddon, The Island and Pearl Harbour have all been the subject of scathing reviews, but most of all it's the Transformers movies for which Bay is hated most.

This week Bay's Transformers: Age of Extinction arrives in the UK. It is the fourth in a series that has yet to please the critics, but which has clearly pleased an audience which to date has handed over a combined $2.67 billion to see the first three films.

In fact Age of Extinction arrives on these shores already successful. Having collected $300 million worldwide on its opening weekend in the US, China and other territories, Bayformers 4 is already set to break the $1 billion mark.

Transformers Age of Extinction
Optimus Prime in Age of ExtinctionParamount Pictures

Most of Bay's critics are film aficionados who champion the very best of cinematic story-telling, but these harbingers of Bay-hate are clearly outnumbered by a film-going public who simply cannot get enough.

Whether critics have an effect on the industry is a question for another time, what I'm going to attempt to answer is why Michael Bay, above all other directors, is the most hated of all.

For the sake of clarity, I'm also one of those who loathes the Transformers movies. In my opinion they're vacuous, insulting and barely even work on basic level of blockbuster spectacle. Seven years ago however, I was on the other side of the fence.

As a 17-year-old I was ridiculously excited for the first Transformers movie. I loved the cartoon series, owned many toys based on spin-off series Beast Wars and liked what I saw in the trailers - particularly the proud declaration of Steve Spielberg's involvement as executive producer (this being a time before I learned that 'executive producer' is essentially a decorative title).

With a few like-minded friends I rushed to the cinema in time for the earliest showing on the film's first day of release. Blinded by hype we loved every second of it, but it wasn't until disastrous sequel Revenge of the Fallen two years later that my opinion began to change. The original's flaws became obvious after seeing them repeated and expanded upon the sequel.

Shia LaBeouf
Shia LaBeouf in the first TransformersParamount Pictures

My view changed, but as long as Transformers is around there will always be young boys (and certainly a few girls) who will eat up every second of robot carnage. Does any of this factor into the hatred for Michael Bay though? Is the success of Transformers even completely separate to Bay himself?

Transformers is such a simple, child-friendly concept that perhaps it will always have mass-appeal, regardless of actors or director. Maybe the only way a Transformers film could fail is if the effects look like they were conjured up on a ZX Spectrum.

So long as brightly coloured robots are beating each other up, fans of big robots, shiny cars and collateral damage on an epic scale will want to see it – and that's a licence to print money.

Even if Transformers could succeed without Bay, the calls for his head are always loudest when a new Transformers movie crashes into cinemas. It is because the two are a perfect marriage that encapsulates everything ugly about films as a medium.

Until Transformers Bay's films were mostly successful, but not runaway successes. Sure most critics still had problems with his work, but only when he had a hit the size of Transformers did people start to take notice. Then the sequel arrived to even more critical bile than the first, but by then the series was already proving impervious to criticism.

That is because Transformers is the perfect representation of the commercial side of Hollywood and all the evils that for many it represents. Good story-telling should be at the heart of all films, few would disagree, but Transformers serves as considerable proof that huge success can be found regularly without the need for a good story, good script, good acting or good anything.

Those who hate Michael Bay most are those who champion film as an artistic story-telling medium. They hate Bay and the Transformers films because they are artless but will be seen and enjoyed by more people than most award-winners and best-ever list-toppers ever will.

Of course many commercial box office champions do have virtues that critics love, but Transformers is proof that success is possible without the need for any of the sparkle that made us fall in love with films in the first place.

Then there's the final, bitter truth. That without the ugly commercial side of this business which Transformers epitomises, it may not exist at all.