Director: Travis Knight
Starring: Hailee Steinfeld, John Cena, Jorge Lendeborg Jr.
Review Author: Tony
While I could find merit in the first film, the Transformer’s film series was a concoction noisy, incoherent and often downright bizarre filmmaking which only became more vulgar and incomprehensible with each sequel. It was a far cry of the wonderful 80’s series that focused on the civil war between the Autobots and Decepticons and the humans who became embroiled in the conflict. It was an exciting cartoon series with memorable sound design and fantastic voice acting that spawned countless sequel series and crossed into other media such as comics and film. Somehow Michael Bay turned a much-loved series into a CGI horrorfest with odd moments of racism, over-sexualization, and an eyebrow-raising rundown of the Romeo and Juliet laws in America.
After evacuating his home planet of Cybertron, Autobot B-127 is tasked with establishing a base of operations on Earth for his fellow resistance fighters and to protect its inhabitants. B-127 crashes on earth in 1987 in the middle of a military training exercise and comes in conflict with the military who see him as hostile and a Decepticon, Starscream, who followed him to earth. After sustaining heavy damage B-127 transforms into a Volkswagon Beetle and hides in an old junkyard. It is there that a teenage girl named Charlie discovers him and the two build a friendship as they help each other out in their own way.
Travis Knight is the first director besides Bay to be given the reigns of this property and I couldn’t have been more excited after his work on the wonderful Kubo and the Two Strings. From the opening scene on a war-ravaged Cybertron I was filled with nostalgic giddiness as the old G1 designs of the original cartoon was used in its full glory and I could spot all these old characters I spent so many mornings with. The clarity of the action and the steadiness of the camerawork allowed for these bombastic actions scenes to actually be enjoyed and taken in unlike Bay’s strobe-like camerawork in his films. Gone is the uber-machoness of the previous films for a far more fun and campy tone similar to the series.
Aside from some truly spectacular set pieces is a heartfelt friendship between a teenage girl and a giant robot. Knight knows when to sprinkle fun with some great fish out of water gags and general teenage awkwardness but also hits the emotional beats with a well-defined story of loss and grief. Both these characters help one another in more than the physical sense and it brings a very human story that was completely devoid in the previous films. Steinfeld delivers yet another standout performance and is supported by a great cast including John Cena and Jorge Lendeborg Jr.
There is enough 80’s nostalgia and teenage angst to confuse this as a John Hughes Transformers film and while the film takes every chance it can get away with to show off it’s stacked soundtrack it’s hardly a problem when the songs are this good. Bumblebee feels like a film made by someone who cares for this series, who cares for the fans and wants to recapture that goofy tone all us transformer’s fans love. Hopefully, we can drop the pretense that this is a sequel and just move on from the Bayverse.
Rating: 4 / 5 Guinness