Movie Review: “Bumblebee” – Big Action, Bigger Heart

Written by Ethan Butler January 25, 2019

Wow, what a difference injecting some fresh blood into franchise can do. Two years ago following the release of Transformers: The Last Knight fans were left reeling. The film wasn’t received particularly well, though none of them sans the first were, and for the first time a Transformers film failed to gross more than the previous instalment. What hopes lay with them now…BOOM enter Director Travis Knight, and screenwriter Christina Hodson. This duo has delivered without question the finest, and most emotionally satisfying film of the live action film series to date. That film is Bumblebee, and it’s a joy to watch.

Starting off with the visually impressive fall of Cybertron where we see Optimus Prime in all his Gen 1 glory, fighting a losing battle against the devious Decepticons. Seeing the fight is lost, he sends Bumblebee and other Autobots out into the galaxy, with Bee ending up on earth in the year 1987. So ya, this movie is filled with a lot of 80’s goodness. With fan favourite pop culture icons such as The Breakfast Club and a swath of classic 80’s tunes to please the ears.

Upon landing on our humble home world, Bee has a quick but costly encounter with some humans led by John Cena’s Agent Burns and one particularly cruel Decepticon who takes away Bee’s vocal capabilities. The encounter ends with Bee injured, transforming into classic yellow Volkswagon Beetle, with his memory cells damaged and shutting down. Now while all that may seem dark and dreary, which as it may seem kina is, it leads to Bee being acquired by Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld) a young woman still mourning the untimely loss of her father and struggling to come back to the girl she used to be. This chance meeting leads to a tale of two individuals working with each other to overcome their respective losses and save each other and in turn the world.

The title of this review reads “Big Action, Bigger Heart”, which while somewhat self explanatory is meant to show that the greatest strength of this film comes not from the excellent big screen clashes between the giant robotic beings, but in the friendship between Bee and Charlie. These two are truly a winning pair, with the best parts of the film outside the awesome opening being just them in Charlie’s garage as she teaches him the way of her world. Through things like when to hide, watching movies, or repairing his radio so that he can communicate in more than just super adorable beeps and boops. Relishing in these little moments of friendship, joy and at times yes sadness give the film more depth than any of the previous films. Giving us a film where you leave having been cured of any woes that may have troubled you going in.

“That was radical.”

The film does feature some great action, impressing with great visuals and clarity that had been missing from the Bayhem of the previous films. Not to overly trash on Michael Bay, as he does have a flair for the explosion filmed mayhem that has brought joy to many bros, but after a while his Transformers films were all a blur of clanging metal without much coherence. Knight wisely avoids this issue by making the scale of Bumblebee’s action smaller, but no less enthralling. Showing Bee’s intelligence as a fighter as well has having cool moments like Bee being thrown, then turning into a car, then back into his Autobot form in time to deliver a kick-ass superman punch.

The humans are not annoying this time as well! In addition, almost all of them have believable arcs that show them growing and learning throughout the film. Charlie finding herself a more complete person at the end, rather than feeling broken like she was at the beginning. Steinfeld plays this wonderfully, giving her a rough edge that is endearing rather than irritating. John Cena plays almost the perfect 1980’s cartoon military character, bringing a much needed physical presence, and excellent comedic timing to the film. I mean he is the only character in the entire series to date I believe to ask “They call themselves DECEPTICONS… that doesn’t set off any red flags?”

“The darkest nights, produce the brightest stars.”

Essentially this film does everything that a live action Transformers film should do. It gives you a fully realized Cybertron war, however brief, along side actual characters both human and machine. The story shines brightest in its smallest moments, which like its title character will warm your heart. It entertains as much as it moves, which outside of the animated side where this decades old franchise has most thrived, is the best we can hope for.

My Rating: 8/10

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