With director Travis Knight taking the reigns from Michael Bay known for his explosive Transformers series, comes Bumblebee – a sweet, touching and fun take on the beloved characters. Knight delivers a film full of heart and humour, contrasting vibrantly from the paper-thin Bay tropes stripping down the series’ habits.
With a child-like coming-of-age touch, the film delivers the backstory to a loved character – now, a VW Beetle reverting back to the original look that Bay rejected. Additionally, the film offers great fan service in the minimal scenes on Cybertron, with the very familiar 80’s Transformer designs from the cartoon and previous material before the recent films.
Most would argue the bar is low, but Bumblebee is most defiantly the best made live-action Transformers film. Crafted with delicacy and provides a great character study for Bumblebee and Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld). Written by Christina Hodson, who develops this touching relationship in a way reminiscent to Steven Spielberg’s ‘ET’ among many other influences and does a great job. However, it is not without flaw – in the process there is a lot of baggage, especially Agent Burns (John Cena), Memo (Jorge Lendeborg Jr) and Charlie’s family who feel little and useless in this study of a friendship.
We follow Charlie Watson, a young girl struggling with the jump to adulthood in a divided family – everything changes when Charlie spots a rusty-old VW Beetle in the year of 1987, prior to this Optimus Prime orders Bumblebee’s retreat to Earth to protect it’s people and take refuge until the Autobots escape the grasp of the Decepticons.
While dodging the complaints of the previous Transformers films, Paramount have brought to life a rather nostalgic-very-80’s look on the iconic stories successfully. Although rather slim on action and spectacle, it entertains on a sentimental level with the actual connection to these well thought out people or robots.
The minimal action scenes have elements of the Bay fights, there is not much reliance in the smashing, punching and explosions – in scenes where you can mostly make out each character, shot in a simplistic and not over excessive way that helps route a connection in the violence.
The film is musically wonderful, with a sweet list of 80’s songs harking back to times past help drive the relationship between Charlie and Bee as they try to find his voice. Honestly, this element was one of the best parts – the routing of song creating meaning is utterly enjoyable and satisfying.
However, among the good tropes of the film there is a lot of rolling of the eyes that will be done – with the poorly written one dimensional supporting characters and the mix in humour falls a little flat at times. With the attempt to appeal to kids and adults, there is this clash in substance especially with Charlie’s little brother (Jason Drucker) appealing to the kids yet will be rather cringe-worthy to people over the age of 12 and the jokes harking back to 80’s nostalgia that no one under 20 will get. The film’s humour works for the most part, however it must be said it works WAY more than Bay’s failing dry jokes.
Ending on an uplifting, exciting note for true Transformers fans this prequel will serve as a melancholic coming-of-age journey into the backstory of Bee and a great ‘restart’ to the direction of the film series as a whole.