Directed by Travis Knight, the movie is about an Autobot named Bumblebee who arrives on Earth to evade the Decepticon threat happening on his homeworld of Cybertron. It is then that he forms a friendly attachment to a girl named Charlie.
For the first time in nearly 10 years, Michael Bay, finally, FINALLY, is not directing a Transformers movie. While Bay is the producer for this, director Travis Knight has come in to fix the franchise for the better. THANK GOD!
This movie respects the source material, by paying homage to the classic G1 Transformer look, the sounds, the atmosphere, the voices, etc. If you watched the original Transformer cartoon from the 80s, you’ll won’t be disappointed, especially in the first 5-10 minutes. One can easily recognize a transformer based on their classic designs, including Optimus Prime, Arcee, Shockwave, Soundwave, and yes, including the Decepticons. Who in this movie have, GASP, COLOR. The Decepticons have it for sure and they don’t have that grey, unappealing, disgusting, gun-metal look like the previous Bay movies. Now even though the main Decepticons are pretty cliche, at least I can remember what they look like due to the two of them having color and the two don’t look the same. But the two and Bumblebee himself, retain some of the Bayformer features, though these designs within this movie are recognizable enough where one can know where they all came from.
The next best thing that this movie has to offer is Hailee Steinfeld and her friendship with Bumblebee. Her performance here was pretty good and one can buy the connection she has with Bumblebee. There was heart in this relationship. You can feel the relationship that the two deliver and by the end, you may feel a bit sad when Bumblebee and Charlie separate.
It does pay homage to other popular movies with similar plots, including E.T and The Iron Giant. But for here in this movie, it is executed well. There are definitely some scenes in this that reminisce from those two movies. There is one scene where Bumblebee is exploring Charlie’s house, while at the same time her dog is there to witness the mishaps that Bumblebee is causing. Another scene is when Bumblebee sees Charlie being harassed by John Cena’s character and this causes him to go on a mini-rampage against the military until Charlie steps in to stop him. So there are definite nods to those two films.
Going back to the enemies of the film, once again they are generic in their plans and there is no way to distinguish who is who, personality-wise. Except maybe the blue one killing humans in such a funny, yet cruel sort of way. They blow up like bubbles turning into a white paste. But of course, there is no blood or anything gory when these scenes happen. The human villains, “the military,” are also not that interesting and is pretty tongue in cheek, especially in the dialogue. The mad scientist character was especially cliche in his role and it almost felt like a parody. John Cena does deliver a few funny moments, in particular where he states the obvious due to the name “Decepticon.”
The movie plays itself like a B-movie in a way because of this and it can sometimes make the film feel really cheesy at points. But the tone that this movie shows off, this more child-like and light-hearted approach, is something that I think Transformers needs. The Bayformers were tackling with SO many tones, it was chaotic.
The action in the movie was fine and I can for once see what is happening on screen. There was not a million things being thrown at the screen every minute. No firework explosions which is a plus. The fights in this were fairly simple, but it needed to be simple and not completely overblown. It was kind of cool seeing Bumblebee take out the Decepticons by using some Taekwondo and Judo moves.
Now with this movie taking place in the 80s, there, of course, needs to be some 80s throwback and nostalgia, to which this movie does nicely. I do believe it was a bit too on the nose at certain points, but for what was delivered here, it fits fine. If one is a fan of the 80s, they might very well enjoy all the references that are being thrown in here. Now there is a song at the end credits sung by Steinfeld herself. This modern sounding song felt out of place compared to the retro songs played throughout.
The pacing in the movie I thought was great. It was very good at establishing the main character of who he is and where he is from. It establishes Charlie for who she is and where she fits in the life she has. Each scene in the movie felt right in terms of their placement in the narrative and their run-time was right. There wasn’t a scene where I felt it dragged or went by too quickly. It was just enough time to establish some context of the situation that is happening on screen and it was enough to show really good development for Bumblebee/Charlie.
In terms of the other characters in this movie, they weren’t terrible or bad. They were fine and they do have some funny moments. But in the end, one doesn’t really care too much for them. The parents, mother, and step-father, are generic in the sense that they’re trying to make their rebellious daughter feel happy in life. Charlie’s younger brother is, well, the younger brother. There is the boy nerd next door who is trying to get to know Charlie and be friends. Which I’m glad that this movie did, having Charlie and the nerd be friends, nothing more.
One easter egg to take note of was during the scene where Charlie is looking around in the junkyard toward the beginning. There is a boat titled “Bayliner.” It was so good to see that boat toppled down by like a domino.
Bumblebee is a love letter to all, for all the Transformers fans who had to deal with up to a decade of complete shit. It is charming, funny, and delivers some heart to give something that is well worth your time. It’s not going to make as much money as its predecessors which is a real shame. But I hope that more Transformer films that do come in the future, come in the style that Bumblebee presents. This is how a Transformer movie should be.