PARAMOUNT PICTURES (2018)
Director: Travis Knight
Starring: Hailee Steinfeld, John Cena, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., John Ortiz, Jason Drucker, Pamela Adlon, Dylan O'Brien, Peter Cullen, Justin Theroux, Angela Bassett
Time to forget about the…OTHER Transformers movies?
Apart from 1986’s The Transformers: The Movie – that’s some proper Transformers. Whilst the Michael Bay-directed movies may have been box-office juggernauts, they have never really been that well-received, let’s be fair – or to be honest, they’re just shiny sacks of shite. The mere thought of another movie sent shivers down my spine - I say that as a huge fan of the original cartoon series and someone whose hero as a kid was Optimus Prime (man, I loved those toys). So, to Bumblebee, another one of those movies that 'no one asked for'…
It’s 1987 (nice start) and Cybertron is falling into the hands of the Decepticons. B-127 – AKA Bumblebee – is sent to Earth by Optimus Prime to set up a refuge base and to protect the planet from any attack. After being beaten, battered and shattered by a Decepticon attack he was there to prevent, he takes the form of a yellow Volkswagen Beetle and goes into stasis. When he’s discovered by Charlie (Steinfeld), on the cusp of turning eighteen-years-old and struggling with the loss of her father, the two create a strong bond of friendship which may come in handy as the Decepticons are coming for Earth.
Bumblebee does that most wonderful and basic of things so well – it focuses on the characters, their interactions, development, and relationships. It’s an amazing thing that really can be effective! You know what else is good? Properly edited action scenes that aren’t bashing you in the face every five minutes. I could go on, I really could. But I shall start by stating that Bumblebee is a very good movie by itself, without comparisons to other. There’s something refreshing about the entire movie, it feels like it belongs in the decade it was set and the nostalgic feeling that swept through the movie was welcome. The opening salvo is a real treat for fans of the original series as well as looking surprisingly decent too. The relationship between Bumblebee and Steinfeld’s Charlie is heartfelt and really provides the heartbeat of the movie – Steinfeld providing another excellent performance and even John Cena having some fun as the macho-80s ‘villain’. The voicework is on point and it’s always great to hear Peter Cullen (even in movies that aren’t great). Also, get this, Hailee Steinfeld is a woman but…BUT THERE ARE NO FILTHY LEERING SHOTS OF HER BODY HERE! Crazy, huh?
With a new director comes new ideas, tones, and abilities. Travis Knight has managed to channel Spielberg and Amblin in terms of the visuals and overall spirit of Bumblebee, which is a huge positive and works in every aspect – especially the awesome collection of tunes that provide the soundtrack. Along with the more heartfelt aspects of the movie, there’s a charming levity throughout, the humour fits and, for once, the younger viewers can enjoy it too. The action is edited well and you can make out who is fighting who whilst the CGI on the ‘bots is so much better here. Gone is the OTT shine and sheen, instead replaced by dirt, oil and a genuine ‘worn’ look that harkens back to the good days. Whether Michael Bay is the greatest fan of the 1980’s series or not, Travis Knight just seems to ‘get it’. The narrative also feels like it was well thought out and feels cohesive and tight for a movie about alien robots and teenagers teaming up.
Of course, there are moments here that aren’t on the same level as other more successful aspects – in fact, the first half of the movie is marvellous whereas the second half is more of what you would expect from a Transformers movie, however, just done in a far better way. There are a few moments where it seemed the writers/Knight either forgot to tie up or just hoped no one would notice (i.e. extremely fast mopeds). However, the fun, bounding atmosphere that envelops the movie ensures that these are minor nitpicks rather than destructive derailing moments.
In Bumblebee, we finally get a Transformers movie that is just damn good. There’s heart, humour, action, and most importantly fun to be found throughout that really does work without being hampered by hideous editing, vulgar humour, lusting perverts behind the camera and generally being shit. I felt like I was watching something that genuinely felt connected to the original series and to the 80s and I have no shame in admitting I had a blast watching this – especially the relationship between woman and Autobot. Its happened, sound the sirens – “Autobots, roll out”…because Bumblebee is the best Transformers movie of them all.
December 16th 2018