The Transformers live action movie franchise has had a very succesful run. Well, moneywise that is, let’s all be clear about that. The films have brought in over 4 billion dollars worldwide, which I’m pretty sure is more than we will all ever earn in a lifetime. But as succesful as they have been in the theatres, they have always been met by very negative reviews, even though the public seems to love the films. Director Michael Bay has been in the director’s chair of five of those films, the last one being The Last Knight dating back to 2017. The films were following a pretty predictable formula, with lots of explosions, car chases, an overuse of special effects and pretty much no story to speak of. As a huge Transformers fan myself (it was my favorite toy when I was a kid) I found the films enjoyable, except for the last part, which really wasn’t a good film at all. But did they really capture the spirit of the original Transformers cartoon? No, sadly that wasn’t the case. When Bay finally called it quits a lot of fans were pleased and hoping that maybe someone else would take over the reins that handled the original material with more care. And then out of the yellow, erm blue, Bumblebee came out. Acting as a prequel to the other five movies, this film focusses solely on fan favorite Autobot Bumblee. And lo and behold, this for me at least, has become the best Transformers film to date.
On the planet Cybertron a civil war has been raging for centuries between two races of highly intelligent robotic species. On the side of good we have the heroic Autobots, and on the side of evil the treacherous Decepticons. As the war is beginning to reach it’s conclusion, and it seems the Autobots are on it’s losing end, their leader Optimus Prime make a decision to evacuate the planet. In order to set up their new base on an insignificant little planet known as Earth he sends out his scout B-127 in an escape pod. When B-127 crash lands on Earth however, right in the middle of a training excercise of a couple of soldiers, he has to flee the scene, as the humans mistake him for an enemy. Things become even worse however when a Decepticon Seeker finds and attacks him. Even though he manages to just overcome his enemy, B-127 is severely damaged and loses his memories just before he manages to disguise himself as a yellow 1967 Volkswagen beetle. A few years later teenager Charlie Watson is nearing her 18th birthday. She isn’t really happy about it though. Having lost her father to a heart attack she is still quite traumatized, and hasn’t been able to really move on. She also is pretty resentful of her mother who has already found a new boyfriend. But then her life is about to change. On a junkyard run by her uncle Hank, she stumbles across a beat up yellow Volkswagen beetle……
One of the things that was lacking in the films made by Michael Bay was a heart. Action and shots of beautiful girls were more important than really giving us a movie with characters that we genuinely care about. Bumblebee is the exact opposite of that. Yes, there is still plenty of action in the film, no denying that. But it isn’t as chaotic and over the top as in the previous installments, and even more importantly it’s a movie that is really able to strike a chord within us. The opening sequence on Cybertron is a true dream for Transformers fans of the older generation. We see shots of Decepticons and Autobots as they were seen in the original 80’s cartoon. I swear when I heard Soundwave speak in his iconic awesomely cool voice, I thought I was going to lose it. This is really the Transformers film that we as fans should have had from the beginning, and it’s a credit to it’s director Travis Knight to pay such loving attention to detail. The special effects in this film, while on a smaller scale than it’s five predecessors are every bit as impressive. I have always wondered how on Earth they are able to create robotic characters that seem as real as everything else that’s in the movie. Bumblebee especially almost feels like a human being in this film and his interaction with Charlie is simply amazing.
Speaking of Charlie, remember how I said above that this movie has a heart? Well, she is the center of that heart. Played by oscar nominated actress Hailee Steinfeld, her role is exactly what makes this film work so much. The very first moment she appears in the film, she just really shines and doesn’t let up until the end. Charlie’s journey in the film is great. Where in the beginning she is this sad and quite depressed girl because of the loss of her father, she learns to live again through Bumblebee. This might sound like it’s one of those totally sappy storylines, but really it never feels that way. It’s amazing that a relationship with a fully computer generated character manages to work so well. Eventually a boy named Memo played by Jorge Lendeborg jr. who has a total crush on young ms Watson, is thrown into their midst and it becomes even better. The comedic banter and camaraderie between them you just can’t help but smile at. The other noteworthy part in this film is fulfilled by WWE superstar John Cena. He plays as a soldier who is hellbent on capturing/destroying Bumblebee, because obviously he completely misinterprets the robot’s good intentions. It’s a fun role, and you can see that he is really having a good time playing in this film.
Where Bay’s movies were filled with cringeworthy jokes that failed to even make you laugh once for most of the time, Bumblebee’s humor is much better. It’s never really annoying at any point, and you are sure to laugh quite a few times. Another thing that is worth mentioning is the film’s soundtrack. As the film is set in the 80’s we get a huge number of classic songs from that era including Tears for Fears, Duran Duran, and a host of others. One of the things that was a really nice touch (pun intended) was when Bumblebee’s radio played “You’ve got the touch” by Stan Bush, a song that most fans will remember from the original animated Transformers movie. As you might have noticed while reading along with this review I am very enthusiastic about this film. After five Michael Bay movies full of explosions and mayhem, this was just a real breath of fresh air. It’s a really nice, and heartwarming film that can be enjoyed by most moviegoing audiences, even when you are not a fan of Transformers. With great action, fun characters and awesome special effects, Bumblebee is a really nice movie to spent an evening with. So what are you waiting for? Roll out, and go watch it already!
I give Bumblebee a 9 out of 10 score.