I was not looking forward to Bumblebee, I just want to clear the air. How do you take a character who doesn’t speak, has little to no sense of a personality and is one of the most uninteresting characters and make him into a standalone film? Granted, Michael Bay’s treatment of Transformers focused more on action, sexual innuendos and teenage humor to entertain the audience instead of utilizing a smart script. With Bumblebee, this movie focuses on the relationship between the young girl that crosses paths with the unique VW Bug. It’s an interesting take and younger audiences may be excited to see our yellow robot again, but is it worth spending your money to see this Transformer on the big screen?
After the disastrous Transformers: The Last Knight from last year, which screwed up everything in the timeline from the previous entries, it was time to wipe the slate clean and start over. This time we begin in 1987 in sunny California. Charlie Watson (Hailee Steinfeld) is a young girl who works at a carnival and is hoping to own a car. It’s been her dream forever. She worked with her dad on cars and since his death, Charlie isn’t too happy with her life. She has a brother Otis (Jason Drucker) who likes karate. Her mother Sally (Pamela Adlon) is a nurse and she has a clueless stepfather named Ron (Stephen Schneider). We can tell this family is estranged and honestly, none of them are interesting.
Pretty soon, Charlie stumbles upon an old looking VW Bug that is yellow. She gets it for her birthday and is really excited about having her own car. As you may have guessed, Bumblebee makes himself known and surprises Charlie. At first frightened, Charlie and Bumblebee start to form a friendship. She teaches him things, talks to him and goes on drives together. Along for the adventure we have Charlie’s neighbor Memo (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) who has a crush on Charlie but is too shy to say anything.
The plot is fairly simple. Bumblebee flees from his home Cybertron to establish a base on Planet Earth upon orders from Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen). He crashes onto Earth, avoids the military led by Jack Burns (John Cena) and hides from the pesky Decepticons, which puts in danger his human friends. Sounds familiar, but one thing is missing, and that’s the action. There isn’t much in this movie but the good thing is that when it occurs it isn’t cut to the point that we can’t tell what’s going on. Personally, the like the action sequences from the first Transformers over this movie. I like the style and how it’s presented. Much of the action in Bumblebee takes place at night which can be frustrating to watch.
Director Travis Knight (known for his animation work) does good work and is an improvement over Michael Bay. The script by Christina Hodson (Unforgettable) is coherent and offers some fun, but there are many scenes in which the characters are thrown by explosions and walk away with hardly a scratch. At just under two hours, the movie drags and feels slow at times. I enjoyed returning to the 1980s and hearing the iconic tunes, and while there are some good moments, I still prefer Transformers as it was stupid, but was a lot of fun and certainly not boring.
Verdict 3 out of 5
Transformers stills has a long way to go to be truly successful as a whole package, but Bumblebee is a step in the right direction. Steinfeld has a lot of charm but isn’t as quirky as Witwicky. This is not an action picture, so don’t expect anything resembling Michael Bay at all, though he still serves as producer. Bumblebee has fun moments, and I’m sure the young kids will urge their parents to take them to see it, to which they will enjoy. It’s the first decent Transformers we’ve gotten since the first one and there will be sequels, but still something is lacking and that is more engaging of the robots instead of the humans. Bumblebee is similar to Short Circuit and is fun and hopefully the future of this franchise will not run out of gas. If you’re looking for action, seek something else. This movie is not your typical Transformers film, but it isn’t as bad as those bloated and bombastic sequels either.