Do movies desensitize you to violence? That jury’s out on that one…but they definitely desensitize you to drama.
“Bayism”, named after the director most infamous for it, Michael Bay, is a problem that had grown more and more epidemic in recent films after CGI freed directors and filmmakers from the burden of needing to consider plausibility or possibility for a film. It stems from the central incorrect idea that somehow “more violence and more chaos = more drama”. It involves dramatically escalating the violence and destruction happening in a movie scene in an attempt to build excitement by placing normal human beings in dramatic, violent, and shocking situations.
In truth…just the opposite occurs.
As “Bayism” has continued, not just in Michael Bay movies but in action films in general, the subconscious idea that “everything needs to top the most action-filled movie before that” has been prevalent, causing the ante to be upped in every new movie. And yet, the actual danger level to the characters has not increased. They’ve been able to survive just as easily cities being annihilated by aliens as they were able to survive being slammed into metal cars by explosions propelling their bodies over 100 mph, both without broken bones or scratches.
The end result is that drama is eliminated all together. No matter the explosions or “apparent” danger, the survival of the protagonists is completely assured and the audience knows it in advance. Injury or death will only occur as a matter of plot convenience. Everyone else is wearing “Plot Armor”. The end result is literally a great deal of “noise” that’s more annoying than dramatic and is essentially dull filler that the audience wishes would lead up to something more meaningful.
As stated before, Michael Bay is the ultimate example of this. The “Transformers” franchise is the best indicator of that, as the humans are essentially invincible to falling from hundreds of feet, being slammed and blasted around, attacked by metal robots, or anything else until the script/plot requires them to no longer be invincible.
“The Hobbit” franchise, in an attempt to “do better” than “Lord of the Rings”, has done the same in chase sequences both through the goblin tunnels, the river leading out of the Elf King’s halls, and Smaug himself.
The original “Die Hard” focused sharply on the “physical toll” that John McClain incurred trying to kill a dozen terrorists by himself. But by the fourth and fifth installment, he essentially became invincible himself against any manner of danger, explosion, or opponent.
The “Resident Evil” franchise has clearly done this in the movies, but actually also in the games. Leon and Helena would have been killed ten times over through the situations in “Resident Evil 6”, which include being slammed into a skyscraper by an out-of-control helicopter, knocked into the same helicopter by an explosion, falling several stories onto metal, crashing in a bus over a cliff, and many other situations that fail to even slow them.
While the “Indiana Jones” franchise might have been doing Bayism as early as “Temple of Doom” with the rubber raft sequence, between the three waterfall drops, the vine sequence, and, of course, the “nuked fridge”, “Crystal Skull” went way over the top.
The Bond franchise was doing this for a while into the Brosnen years, scaled back a bit at the onset of the Craig years, but then went back into Baysim with “Skyfall” considering the Gambit Roulettes in the film.
The newer Batman movies ended at just the right time as Bayism was becoming more prevalent toward the latter half of “The Dark Knight Rises”.