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After a decade of enduring two forgettable and three abysmal sequels, Bumblebee is finally here to salvage any of the remaining hopes of Transformers fans. Bumblebee successfully manifests everything a Generation One Transformers fan would want to see and removes the Michael Bay curse from the franchise by ousting the man himself and attaching a brilliant filmmaker to direct this new beginning.
Director Travis Knight delivers a vibrant piece of filmmaking that showcases everything a fan of the Transformers cartoon could ever want. Forget about the past five films, for this prequel is the reboot we needed for the series. The unique nature of this Transformers film is that it takes a much more character focused approach, leaving the needless action in the background. Knight impresses on many fronts, however most notably in the action, as he eliminates the tedious and sloppy action of Bay’s features for a brilliant spectacle that’s never hard to follow. Imagine the interaction between Elliott and E.T.; now transition that relationship into the Transformers series, and you’ve got yourself Bumblebee. Charming, fast paced, vibrant, and everything else great - for Knight’s live action debut, this is something to behold.
After fleeing the war of Cybertron, Bumblebee takes refuge on Earth where he must not only keep himself safe, but protect the human race from an eminent threat. While on Earth, certain circumstances transpire that leave Bumblebee transformed into a yellow VW Beetle in the hands of a teenage girl named Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld). After a bit of initial shock, Charlie and Bumblebee craft a companionship, and whether they like it or not, leaves one another entangled into a disarray of problems. The plot is incredibly charming and sets a new tone for the Transformers franchise as it expands upon the voiceless Bumblebee while stringing in a new human character to befriend the loner. As Charlie and Bumblebee’s relationship grows over time, their friendship must be tested by every aspect of Bee’s arrival, including military, Decepticons, and Charlie’s family issues. The story is riveting, charming, and wonderfully written; it gives hope for future installments if this is the level of creativity and love we’re going to be getting from now on.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Unlike any of the Bay Transformers, Knight creates immersive character development and presents us with humans that we can actually appreciate the presence of. Charlie and Bumblebee’s relationship is electric, even in the same ballpark of films like The Iron Giant or E.T. The family aspect of the film is there but slightly pushed aside for Charlie’s friendship to expand beyond where she could have ever imagined. Hailee Steinfeld is wonderful as Charlie, giving her human character some humanity in a series that’s extremely lacking in that aspect. Steinfeld’s performance in Bumblebee is one of the best of her career, apart from Edge of Seventeen, and she brings such incredible realism to her friendship with this CGI creature, which is something that can’t be said for Shia Labeouf’s Sam in the 2007 original. A nod should also be given to Jorge Lendeborg Jr. as Memo, a man who suffers from a crush on Charlie during this whole situation - a hopeless romantic trapped into the bigger picture. John Cena is the one flaw in the film, as his villain isn’t entirely clear on his motivations for wanting distraction for the Autobots, as well as his backstory easily getting drowned out by the inclusion of the Decepticons Shatter and Dropkick. Bumblebee is a near perfect example of great casting all around, even concealing some surprises and providing an impressive adventure story of emotional growth for our leads along the way.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
While Dario Marianelli hasn’t walked the straightest line with his live action scores, such as composing scores for Oscar caliber films and complete critical failures. However he has succeeded 100% of the time with his animation. The music is epic and emotional throughout, and it will bring you closer to the scenes on screen by making you feel the appropriate emotions at the right time. It’s difficult to hate anything about this film when everything that’s come before it has been littered with problem after problem. Especially coming off of a Bay feature in 2017, where the sound design was horrendous and cluttered, and the action just inspired ringing into your eardrums from the nonsense on screen; Bumblebee gets it right - just like everything else. Just the transformation of the Transformers into their vehicle versions and back to their decepticon/autobot selves easily sends chills down my spine - it’s just that cool.
The Transformers look amazing, they look like the way they are supposed to look, and they look like the animated cartoon that a child of the 80s would absolutely love. Comparatively to any of the Bay Transformer films, this film takes a much more simplistic approach, while letting the action transpire in the background and keeping the human characters front and center to successfully show the scope of it all to someone like us. Bumblebee's set design is out of this world, recreating the world of the 80s with such magnificent care and building up nostalgia where for a child of the 90s there shouldn’t be any. From a writing and direction perspective, Bumblebee hit everything right on the nose. Let’s not forget the transformation of the Autobots and Decepticons, which showcases Bumblebee’s remarkable digital effects and excellent design that makes me shiver with excitement at the very thought of it.
Travis Knight’s Bumblebee isn’t just a phenomenal live action debut for the acclaimed director, but a fantastic Transformers film that easily beats the rest of the franchise in capturing the true essence of the Transformers brand.