Movie Review Monday: Bumblebee
Despite the holiday bustle and so many films hitting theaters, we finally caught a showing of the latest Transformers film, Bumblebee. Directed by Travis Knight, it is the sixth installment in the film series but a prequel to all of the other films. It was written by Christina Hodson and follows the character of Bumblebee after he comes to Earth on the orders of Optimus Prime to escape the battle on Cybertron. The film stars Hailee Steinfeld as teenager Charlie Watson and Dylan O’Brien as the voice of B-127/Bumblebee. The film’s cast also features John Cena, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., and John Ortiz and the voices of Peter Cullen, Angela Bassett, and Justin Theroux.
The film opens with the civil war between the Autobot resistance and the Decepticons raging on Cybertron. Optimus Prime recognizes that they are losing the battle and plans to evacuate. However, when a Decepticon force engages them, he sends B-127 to Earth in order to set up a base of operations where the Autobots can regroup. B-127 lands on Earth in 1987 and unfortunately disrupts a military exercise in a Californian forest. He is followed by the Decepticon Blitzwing, who tears out B-127’s voice box and damages his memory cells in their struggle. B-127 prevails but is badly damaged and transforms into a 1967 Volkswagen Beetle before powering down. When he is later discovered by Charlie, he is renamed Bumblebee and soon finds himself hunted by more Decepticons.
I have not been a fan of the Transformers franchise for a long time, so I can honestly say that I was pleasantly surprised by Bumblebee. This is a movie that we admittedly mocked in concept until the first trailer dropped. The first trailer promised 80’s nostalgia and an actual character-driven story, which this film accomplished. This is the film that Transformers’ fans from the 80’s have been waiting for a long time, and it does not disappoint with its moving story, 80’s specific costuming, and numerous references to The Breakfast Club. Also, the music incorporated throughout the film is perfect and fits well with the time period in addition to helping Bumblebee find his voice.
The story for this film is far superb to any other in the franchise, and this one is successful thanks to the relationship that is established early on for Bumblebee and Charlie. Charlie’s personal journey is a tough one, and it positions her to meet Bumblebee with kindness instead of fear. The story allows for Bumblebee to fill a hole in her life, and there is a lot of fun in between that serious emotional undercurrent. Of course, the weight of this storyline would not be possible without the seriously talented Hailee Steinfeld, who carries this movie and makes Charlie a complicated yet compelling heroine. This film does not have to rely on crazy robot fights and huge explosions, and it is a nice change for the franchise.
Overall, I am surprised to say that Bumblebee is a fun movie that incorporates heart, action, and humor. It incorporates some wonderful aspects of the 1980’s not just in the story but even in its structure. I have heard it compared to films like E.T. and The Iron Giant, and I think that the relationship between Charlie and Bumblebee does give it similarities to those classics. It still has moments where characters don’t work or a plot point seems a little weak, but this film has a greater emotional impact than any other Transformers movie to date. It also has a simpler design for how Bumblebee and the rest transform, and for the first time in a long time, the audience can actually follow the giant robot fight scenes. I would say that Bumblebee is worth a watch in theaters and is actually a fun moviegoing experience for the whole family.
Mollie is a film enthusiast, aspiring writer/screenwriter, and a lover of all things Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Doctor Who. She is the co-founder of The Digital Shore (@thedigitalshore) and Above The Line (@atl_movies). You can follow her many adventures through Twitter and Instagram at @mcbeach.