When the first live-action film from the Transformers franchise was announced, I was exceedingly excited about the prospect of seeing the animated series come to life on the big screen. Having been a fan of the animated franchise, seeing the giant robots transform into modern-day cars and back was nothing short of a childhood fantasy come to life.
The film itself wasn’t overly great, carried through by the excitement in the moment while becoming familiar with Michael Bay’s penchant for the excessive explosive and lighting flares. Subsequent films, then, were nothing short of a painful experience for me, with mind-numbing storylines and even worse dialogue that left me cringing at every turn. It all came to a head with the last film in the series, Transformers: The Last Knight, which seemed more like a series of really bad short films stitched together as an afterthought.
So, needless to say, my eagerness to see Bumblebee wasn’t matched with the same enthusiasm as it did some 11 years ago when the first film hit theatres. Having missed all the trailers leading up to the film, I had no idea what I’d be in for, but things looked up right off the bat, as I could tell the film wasn’t following the same plot.
There has been quite a lot of behind-the-scenes jostling taking place ever since the release and ultimate failing of the last Transformers film. At the start of the year, we were made aware of the cancellation of the seventh film in the franchise, Transformers 7. I was more than a little surprised, then, with the announcement of the Bumblebee film. Thankfully, we knew early on that there would be a new direction taken by the team, with the announcement of director Travis Knight – even while Michael Bay still receives a credit as part of the executive production team.
Another of the noticeable changes was the casting for the film, which included a mix of B-grade stars, not the standard Hollywood A-lister to try to bring some prestige to the film, as done with the inclusion of the likes of Anthony Hopkins. While the cast is relatively well-known for the most part, they aren’t part of the elite, which I felt allowed for a lot more acting to take place. There may have been one or two moments of awkward dialogue, mostly by John Cena’s character, Agent Burns, but, overall, this is nothing compared to the dialogue glitches from any of the previous six films.
The plot of Bumblebee isn’t world-changing and sticks closely to what we’ve come to expect from an original story. The year is 1987 and the Autobots’ home planet is in the middle of a global war with the Decepticons. After being outnumbered, Autobots leader Optimus Prime orders his last soldiers to evacuate to various planets in order to regroup and rebuild.
The plot itself distances itself from the other films in the series…
As you’re able to tell by now, Bumblebee, or B187 as his actual name, is sent to Earth where he is to await further instruction while also protecting the planet’s inhabitants. Things quickly unravel upon his arrival as he was followed by a Decepticon soldier and, while he ends up winning the battle, the damage he sustained during the fight left his systems in critical condition, causing him to lose his memory as well as his communications box (voice). After discovering him in a junkyard owned by her uncle, Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld) forms a bond with Bumblebee, not knowing his past or what lies ahead. The plot itself distances itself from the other films in the series, while still laying the groundwork for it.
Bumblebee was always the most lovable character of the Autobots and a lot of that appeal is transferred to the film. But, unlike most of the other films, Bumblebee starts off as a hardened soldier with great fighting capabilities that shows he’s no pushover. He only takes on the role of the timid VW Beetle as a result of his loss of memory, which allows him to quickly bond and learn alongside Charlie, whose also struggling to find her way through life.
It’s a classic tale of a youngster bonding with their first car, but it does so in a much better manner than what we saw between Sam Witwicky and Bumblebee in the original film.
It’s a classic tale of a youngster bonding with their first car, but it does so in a much better manner than what we saw between Sam Witwicky and Bumblebee in the original film. A lot of this I would attribute to Knight’s directorial style, who previously only directed one major film, Kubo and the Two Strings. The script isn’t bad either, which was written by Christina Hodson.
While there is a lot of action in the film, there aren’t nearly as many bombs and explosions been set off at every turn. Bumblebee is much more of a styled fighter as opposed to being blessed with heavy guns and he uses these fighting techniques to his advantage in close combat fights throughout the film. On the whole, it’s a lot more choreographed.
The film is emotional, light-hearted, and funny at times. It has a lot more charm than any of the films before it. This “reboot” of the Transformers franchise, with an original story for Bumblebee, is a must-see for fans of the original animated series, even if you’ve been worn out by the spate of failures from the live-action films. With the franchise gearing up, once again, to continue the story of the Autobots, I can only hope that we get the same level of thought put into the making of Bumblebee. Many would argue that the film is the best we’ve seen throughout the franchise and I wouldn’t disagree too much with the sentiment.
Bumblebee is a good change up from the original Transformers live-action franchise and definitely breathes new life into it. Gone are the generic characters and awkward dialogue, which is instead replaced by a heart-warming tale with loads of charm.