Let’s talk about Bumblebee.
This review is going to be written entirely in shock. Just sheer I’ve just seen whose getting killed in the next episode of Game of Thrones shock. I remember when they announced there was going to be a Transformers shared universe and I yelled out in pain. The core Transformers series is an aberration, some of the worst blockbusters ever created. They are dull, overly long and often offensive. So more of these films seemed like the worst thing in the world.
But then we get to Bumblebee, the first Transformers spin-off. Set around Bumblebee, the yellow one that talks in pop culture references because he has his voice box removed, he heads to Earth to make sure it's safe so that the Autobots can use it as a safe haven now that Cybertron has been destroyed. But he is being tracked by some evil Decepticons and has to team up with moody teenager Charlie in order to save Earth.
And the shock is that this film is not just not terrible but actually rather great. Instead of an overblown attempt at an epic, this is something much simpler. For the most part, we only have four transformers to deal with. So no massive multi-man robot fights. And the story instead of trying to be King Arthur, or drunk King Arthur like The Last Knight was, it’s basically a girl and her robot. This film is much closer to E.T than it is any of the other Transformers movies in terms of its themes and tone. While Bumblebee can definitely kick some ass if he wants to, he spends more of the film acting like Herbie than he does a transformer. And that’s great! Herbie remains the most likable car in movie history and any movie that is like that one has more points than the one that makes robot testicle jokes.
That’s a thing for all the characters if I’m honest. Hailee Steinfeld is very likable as Charlie, making a character archetype that often fails in over movies work through sheer charm. John Cena is the nearest we have to a human villain as Jack Burns, a soldier trained to deal with extraterrestrial threats, and you can’t hate become because one, he’s John Cena, and second, he’s the snarky one that makes all the best jokes. He’s the one who points out how ridiculous it is anyone can trust the Decepticons considering that the word decept is in their names and makes plenty of jokes along those lines. However, he does have some weird character moments in that he switches from pure villain to comic likable suppose he’s the villain from scene to scene. It seems like they changed up his character a lot during the making, hence the awkward shifts.
So what we get is a movie where a girl who's still going through trauma after her losing her father before the movie, man this film is nostalgic for the 80s, who bonds with a robot that she accidentally gets and then has to face an evil that threatens the world. It’s simple, we have seen it before but you can’t say that it doesn’t work. Unlike so many of the other Transformers movies, it doesn’t bother with a tonne of lore to pad the run time out, it has a basic story and gets on with it. It is fair to say that you’ve seen all of this before in another movie but you know something, if ripping off story elements means I get a Transformers movie which doesn’t require Paracetamol afterwards, I am very happy with that.
But what is most amazing is the action. It’s comprehensible. In just one movie, a guy who has only one movie to his name before that one, and that movie being a stop motion animation, has managed to do what Michael Bay was not able to do in five. Make Transformers fight scenes you can actually follow and enjoy. Yes, they are still massive CGI explosion fests and if you are not into that, you aren’t going to enjoy them. But now because the camera settles down and it doesn’t change shot every half second, you can actually follow the fight. You can see who’s doing what, you can see who has the upper hand and what each transformer is planning to do next. It sounds daft to be praising action that I can follow but having seen the other Transformers movies this is a massive milestone in the series.
I’m still in shock. Bumblebee is not just a cash grab designed to keep an ailing Transformers series alive. Well, it is that but this movie is not only good but the best one in the series. It has a lot of likable characters who you want the best for, an energetic script which has plenty of balance between the big action and more intimate moments and action you can actually follow. The fact I’m sitting here, writing a review which praises a Transformers movie still baffles me, but I would like to have more surprises like this please.