Verdict: A delightful origin story that elevates the Transformers franchise.
Michael Bay directed a then-little-known Transformers in 2007 and made a five-movie franchise out of it that got a bad rap with the critics but won millions at the box office. With the fifth one faring worse than the others, it was decided that The Last Knight would be the director’s exit from the movies. Now, director Travis Knight puts his own flair to the spin-off film make Bumblebee stand out from every other Transformers film that has come before it.
What’s Bumblebee About:
The war in Cybertron is on. The Decepticons are winning and the Autobot rebellion led by Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) is losing. Bumblebee is the Autobot that is directed to go to Earth but he lands near a group of U.S. Army soldiers who see him as a threat. The year is 1987. Everything seems to be against Bumblebee. With Agent Burns (John Cena) and Decepticons’ Shatter (voiced by Angela Bassett) and Dropkick (voiced by Justin Theroux) looking for him, Bumblebee is hidden away in a junkyard in the form of a Volkswagen Beetle. This is where Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld) finds him and takes him home, without realizing that this car will become the most important part of her life.
Director Travis Knight balances everything well in Bumblebee in a way that has never been seen before in a Transformers movie. The action sequences are flawlessly choreographed in a way that lets you know exactly what is happening without getting confused by the ramped-up violence. There isn’t any large-scale destruction that levels cities here but rather just the perfect amount that makes sense in the context. There’s even humor that doesn’t seem out of place as it plays out through absurd situations that the characters find themselves in.
There is a perfect mix of human drama and robot drama. There’s a lot going on in Charlie’s life – she is dealing with the loss of her father and struggling to get close to anyone, including her neighbor Memo (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) who has a crush on her. But what stands out the most is the friendship she forms with Bumblebee, who helps her out in ways that nobody else could. Hailee Steinfeld has given a heartfelt performance as the lead that wins you over with a convincing portrayal of a range of emotions. John Cena stands out as a beefy villain delivering one-liners that perfectly fit in with his tough-guy character.
Lastly, as Bumblebee is set in the 1980s, there are plenty of throwbacks that fans of the decade might enjoy. Multiple songs by The Smiths and even the most famous John Hughes movie, The Breakfast Club, are highlights of the film.
What Could’ve Been Better:
This isn’t your usual Transformers film, so those who expect it to be the same might come away surprised by the direction the film takes. It is also not quite sure where the film stands in the franchise as even though it is technically a prequel, it changes the history of Transformers on Earth as was shown in the previous films.
Why You Should Watch:
Bumblebee is a must-watch for Transformers fans who thought the franchise had run out of places to go. It takes a completely new direction with a more faithful approach to the animated series and comic books from the 1980s. Go for it to see some brilliant action blended with some touching moments that will pull on your heartstrings.