More Than Meets The Eye, Finally: A Review Of "Bumblebee"
It might be the sixth movie in the franchise but Bumblebee managed to do what all previous Transformers films couldn’t—it gave the tin men heart. Bumblebee might have fewer robots and explosions but for the first time, you could actually say a Transformers movie was good!
The film begins in typical Michael Bay-fashion, with explosions and CGI action aplenty. Serving as a reboot of sorts, the first few minutes set up the logic for why the Autobots and the Decepticons are fighting on a certain blue and green planet. Basically, the Autobots are losing their battle against the Decepticons for their planet Cybertron. So, Optimus Prime (the blue and red ten-wheeler truck everyone loves) sends B-127 (a.k.a. Bumblebee) alone to a distant planet so he can establish a base where all the Autobots can regroup. That’s Earth, by the way.
B-127 goes down in flames in a military camp of sorts in California, coming face-to-face with Colonel Jack Burns (John Cena). Their meeting does not go smoothly, partly due to Decepticon Blitzwing ambushing him and leaving his voice box and memory core damaged, with a bunch more explosions sprinkled in between for good measure. B-127 escapes and hibernates, transforming into a 1967 Volkswagen Beetle.
Now, if you’ve seen even just a couple of scenes from any of the five previous movies in the franchise, you would think that Bumblebee is just another Transformers movie. Enter teenage girl Charlie Watson (Hailee Steinfeld). Traumatized by the death of her father, Charlie alienates herself from her mom, stepdad, and stepbrother, focusing all her spare time on fixing a Corvette and/or getting a car so she can truly get away from her family. Somehow, someway, she is gifted a black and yellow Beetle by a grumpy but kind-hearted old man on her 18th birthday.
What follows next is a coming-of-age film focusing on the friendship of two broken individuals a la John Hughes and Steven Spielberg. Actually, you could replace Bumblebee with a friendly alien or a different friendly robot and you’d forget you were watching a reboot of Transformers. Seriously.
Writer Christina Hodson’s decision to set the film in the late 80s, gave Bumblebee the right mix of feel-good nostalgia and freedom to create an ambiguous but stable foundation for future Transformers movies. Director Travis Knight wanted to deliver a different type of movie experience and he did with touching scenes punctuated by familiar anthems from the likes of The Smiths and Tears for Fears while not forgetting about the requisite bombastic action.
But all these would be wasted without the emotional gravitas brought by Steinfeld’s portrayal of Charlie. Steinfeld proves herself a worthy successor to Molly Ringwald while acting alongside a giant yellow buzzing robot.
So, yes, this is the Transformers movie for people who don’t like Transformers movies. And while one film cannot make us completely forget about all the Michael Bay explosions forever etched into our brain, Bumblebee manages to give us hope for the future they’re about to roll out.
Catch Bumblebee on January 8 at IMAX theatres, Director’s Club and SM Cinema branches nationwide. Book your tickets through the website, www.smcinema.com or download the SM Cinema mobile app. You may also follow /SMCinema on Facebook and @SM_Cinema on Instagram for updates!