So long, Michael Bay, so long.
If you’re anything like me, Michael Bay’s Transformers movies have hurt you in ways beyond repair.
The first one was fine, I guess, and Transformers: Dark of the Moon isn’t the worst film to ever be made. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Transformers: Age of Extinction and Transformers: The Last Knight, however, have all turned my heart into stone, making us all think there was never going to be any hope for this franchise whatsoever.
But wait. Do you see that? The light at the end of the tunnel? That small glimmer of hope most of us had given up on?
From Kubo and the Two Strings director Travis Knight, Bumblebee is a new Transformers movie without any Michael Bay attachment. That’s right, there’s no more underage sexualized females or Shia LaBeouf screaming ‘Optimus!!!!’ — this time, we just have a cohesive, enjoyable Transformers movie.
Bumblebee opens on Cybertron, where the war against the Autobots and Decepticons rages on.
We still don’t really know what this war is actually about or why the Autobots are labeled as traitors throughout the film, but I guess that we’ll just leave that backstory to the hardcore Transformers fans. Why waste time with exposition when we’ve got robot fights to watch, am I right?
With the planet nearing the brink of destruction, Optimus Prime (once again voiced by Peter Cullen) decides to send Bumblebee — who can actually talk at the beginning of this movie (voiced by Dylan O’Brien), even if it’s only for, like, five minutes — off to a new solar system so that he can find a potential home for the Autobots to take shelter in.
Where he lands, obviously, just so happens to be Earth.
Bumblebee doesn’t exactly receive a welcoming party upon his arrival, though. Along with Sector 7 agent Jack Burns (John Cena) leading a team to destroy all alien life forces, a couple of Decepticons have followed him to Earth and quickly start hunting him down in order to extract some information out of him.
That means that Bumblebee needs some kind of shelter, and fast.
He winds up taking cover with a young teenager named Charlie Watson (Hailee Steinfeld), who is going through all kinds of trials and tribulations of her own (as most 18-year-olds are).
Of course, Charlie wasn’t exactly prepared for the yellow Volkswagen that she found at her uncle’s garage and then fixed with her own two hands to turn into a giant, friendly robot, but she’s not exactly complaining upon that realization, either. For the first time since her father died, she finally has someone she can be herself around.
Which means that when the Decepticons find their way to Charlie’s small little town in Southern California, she — along with her friend/possible love interest Memo (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) and younger brother Otis (Jason Drucker) — aren’t just going to sit idly by.
It goes without saying, at this point, that Bumblebee is the best live-action Transformers movie we have to date. That’s really not saying a whole lot when the previous entries haven’t been good, but it’s still worth noting nonetheless.
More impressive, I think, is the fact that Bumblebee really works as it’s own stand-alone movie. It’s got its problems, yes (I’ve read some reviews that do nothing but praise and praise this movie for saving the franchise, when I think it’s important to keep in mind that it still comes with some problems of its own), but there’s a lot I like in here, too.
Primarily, I’m a big fan of how Travis Knight creates his characters.
Gone are the days of LaBeouf’s narcissistic heroism or Mark Wahlberg’s incoherent ramblings. Charlie Watson is actually a grounded character with relatable, realistic emotions. Her backstory is actually drawn out and, even more importantly, is one that we care about.
So, when Bumblebee does enter her life, he isn’t just there for the sake of mining jokes about a human and giant robot interacting. The two form a bond together which helps them grow, meaning that Bumblebee’s presence adds something to Charlie’s character arch, and Charlie’s adds something to his.
That also establishes a really well-balanced and refreshing tone for Bumblebee. We aren’t dealing with the fate of the entire world this time around. There’s a couple of villains (who are voiced by Angela Bassett and Justin Theroux, which I didn’t know until right this very second) in here, yes, but the film is primarily a coming-of-age story that just happens to have Transformers in it more than anything else.
When the film does have to face the facts and come up with an ending is when it begins to run into some trouble.
Of course, there’s no great way to incorporate a giant climax into Bumblebee when the rest of the film is so grounded, and I will say that I appreciate the fact that I can see what’s actually happening during the action scenes this time around. It is, however, another ‘giant tower in the sky that needs to come down’ kind of ending and it’s not really presented in all that interesting of a way, either.
I also have to say that John Cena didn’t totally work for me here. Cena has certainly come a long way as an actor compared to something like Twelve Rounds, and I think he’s actually got his comedic timing down which can be seen in Blockers. In Bumblebee, though, he still doesn’t seem to have nailed dramatic acting just quite yet, as his lines often come off as rather wooden.
At the end of the day, Bumblebee really is the first live-action Transformers movie worth seeing. Now, that’s not to say this is unlike anything you’ve ever seen — it plays on pretty familiar tropes, both from past Transformers movies and from something like The Iron Giant. It does them right, however, which is all you can really ask for when this franchise has caused us so much pain in the past.
Watch the trailer for Bumblebee here and then let us know, in the comments below, what you thought about the movie!
'Bumblebee' - A refreshing change of pace [REVIEW]7