Bumblebee Review: Moviegoers, roll out to see this refreshing entry for the Transformers franchise
If you’ve been frustrated by the confusing plots, egregiously bad looking CGI, and films just filled with constant explosions that the Transformers series has brought thus far, Bumblebee is not only the cure for the series, but a great film in its own regard.
Taking a solo look at the titular Transformer, Bumblebee sends its viewers back to 1987 to see how Bumblebee’s journey began. Right of the bat, viewers will be able to tell that this is a different kind of Transformers story just from the looks at the robots in disguise. The Transformers, in this film, look much more like action figures this time around and each have distinctive colors. It actually feels much more in line with the original cartoon and is mostly likely thanks to director Travis Knight’s animation background. His work on films like Kubo and the Two Strings and ParaNorman, showcases his love to not only bring a distinct look to each character on-screen, but also a little heart.
Knight’s love of bringing heart to his characters is seen all over Bumblebee as it hits some solid story beats that are reminiscent of those seen in classic 80s coming of age movies. This is especially true with Bumblebee, himself, as his more child-like personality, that is seen through gestures rather than heard through words, is easily one of best parts of this film. It’s no wonder that he’s become a fan-favorite for the franchise and Knight makes sure that fans will fall in love with him in a completely new way.
It’s also nice to see the film just be focused on telling Bumblebee’s story rather than bring in a ton of Autobots and Decepticons or have an incredibly complicated plot. While Megatron, Optimus Prime, and the war on Cybertron are cool, I found myself to actually be much more engaged in Bumblebee’s smaller origin story than any of the more overcrowded plots of the other films. Also, as an origin film, it doesn’t rely too heavily on more “on the nose” references and set-ups.
However, Bumblebee isn’t the only main player here, as the film also brings in both a much smaller human protagonist, Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld), and a not so much smaller human antagonist, Agent Burns (John Cena). Steinfeld captures Charlie’s more anti-social and angsty personality for better and for worse. She has her awkwardly cringe-filled moments that are mostly eclipsed by her more touching moments with Bumblebee. I will say her issues with her father’s death and her relationships with the rest of her family felt a little cliché and lacked much impact.
Cena’s character, a soldier who was among the first to encounter Bumblebee when he comes to earth, also brings some fun moments to the film. Burn’s more quip-filled tough guy personality is actually a great fit for Cena and he seems incredibly comfortable in the role. Cena even brings some fun, almost Meta lines, which made me appreciate the film’s ability to have some “dumb” fun.
Bumblebee also has some incredibly well-paced and brutal action scenes that feel like an incredible stepping stone for the series. There are plenty of brutal moments that push the envelope on the films PG-13 and that actually made my jaw drop as it completely surprised me. Not to mention because of the pyrotechnic obsessed Michael Bay not having as much impact, the action scenes felt more memorable without constant explosions occurring every second.
Frankly, the biggest surprise was how much I actually cared about the story that was told. There is a lot of solid build up to the epic finale of the movie that’s filled with plenty of heartfelt moments between Bumblebee and Charlie. From listening to music, getting back at some cliché 80s bullies, and even being on the run from the local police is incredibly fun to watch and really showcases how the film builds their strong relationship. Even the film’s two main Decepticons, Dropkick (Justin Theroux) and Shatter (Angela Bassett), have some great villainous moments that actually show how dire there mission is.
The film also utilizes its 80s aesthetic and makes Bumblebee truly the live-action Transformers movie that fans have been asking for since the 80s. Whether it’s listening to some great 80s hits, that eventually help Bumblebee speak, or seeing posters and pictures of your favorite 80s movies and shows, it all feels like a perfect match for the film.
So, if you were on the fence on whether or not on seeing Bumblebee, it’s definitely worth hopping onto the other side and rolling out into theaters to see it. It’s clear that Knight and company have not only saved the franchise, but brought some much needed heart to typically lifeless material.