Bumblebee is the newest entry into the Transformers series, a prequel set in the year 1987 and focusing on the eponymous Autobot. In the film, Bumblebee is on the run and discovers an 18 year-old, Charlie, who is dealing with problems of her own. It is directed by Travis Knight, who was previously known for his animation work with Laika (Kubo and the Two Strings).
The best part of the movie is almost certainly the relationship that it develops between Bumblebee and his human companion, Charlie. Without a doubt, this is the most compelling of the storylines the film contains, and offers the most enjoyable scenes. The movie is at its best when we are watching the often humorous and always heartwarming antics of the two. The greatest scene in the film is likely one in which Charlie is trying to teach Bumblebee about music to humorous results.
That being said, the other storylines of the movie were somewhat underwhelming. The Michael Bay Transformers films have prepared us for bombastic, over-the-top robot action, and the action in this movie very much felt like an afterthought. It was very straightforward compared to the more convoluted mythology of the other films. The action itself was largely uninspired too. At this point, there are so many movies in the franchise that there needs to be something fresh and new to make the action stand out. That is just missing from this film.
Additionally, the movie contains an underdeveloped and cheesy coming-of-age story for Charlie. It seemed like another cheap attempt at pulling at the heartstrings. The family drama, largely rooted in Charlie’s dad being dead, is extremely generic. The rest of Charlie’s family is very thinly-written. Another element of the coming-of-age story, the teen romance, feels forced. The chemistry is there, but the way in which the relationship develops is inorganic and far too quick.
The final storyline in the film is perhaps the least sensical — the one involving John Cena’s commando. The character is introduced in a scene that shows a lot of promise, but this is quickly destroyed. Unfortunately, the movie simply doesn’t do a good enough job of developing the motivations that the character has. Furthermore, the film begins to establish him as a potential ally for the protagonist before taking a sharp turn and making him into the antagonist. It doesn’t work particularly well.
However, the movie is undeniably accomplished visually. The CGI in the film is definitely very good. There is a scene set completely on the Transformers’ home planet, and it looks quite impressive. The cinematography is very smooth and polished. It is all in a single aspect ratio too! (That wasn’t the case with the last Transformers movie, which switched between at least four different aspect ratios.)
The film also does a great job of having a retro feel. The production design is excellent at periodizing the movie. It was fun to see some of the retro cars featured throughout. The soundtrack is also quite strong, filled with plenty of great songs from the 80’s. This goes a long way in making the film feel more authentic. These songs also played a role in a few of the jokes, which worked well.
Overall, Bumblebee is definitely a step in the right direction for the franchise — it’s better than all but the first entry in the series — but it is still lacking in a few areas. Fans will likely be pleased.
Bumblebee is now playing in theaters.