Bumblebee injects new life into the Transformers series, finding its heart, humor, and sense of adventure along the way.
The Transformers series has long been a box office staple; it’s nostalgic for adults and fun for the kids. Despite the million dollar franchise’s success at the box office, however, it’s never really gotten acclaim until the arrival of Bumblebee.
What was expected to be a symptom of the franchise’s stagnation turned out to be a fun adventure for the family. The film is sincere when it needs to be and knows when to bring on the stunning fight sequences.
In the Beginning
The film takes place in 1987 where soon-to-be 18-year old Charlie meets a broken and battle-scarred Bumblebee disguised as a yellow VW bug at her favorite junkyard. The two start to develop a friendship but Bumblebee’s presence on earth and a forgotten mission from Optimus Prime get them into trouble with a few Decepticons, the military, and her family.
The film hits the refresh button and looks at the Transformers universe through a more humane lens. It’s a relatively grounded and contained story that anchors itself on the strength of its characters and their relationships with each other, therefore endearing the audience to its fully realized leads.
There’s a softness to their version of Bumblebee. He’s young and bright, and an amazing fighter as well, but there’s still a deep sense of vulnerability to him. It’s not the most groundbreaking but it’s the hint of nuance that Transformers characters sorely need. The film’s strongest character is Charlie, who is a living homage to beloved 80’s coming-of-age film leads; she’s angsty, determined, and fiercely loyal. Like her other teen predecessors, she has her own issues to deal with (i.e. uncaring parents, mean girls), but the film successfully walks the line between embodying classic tropes and narrowly avoiding them. John Cena and Jorge Lendeborg Jr., in particular, are delightful to watch on screen.
The director of the film, Travis Knight, is no stranger to action. The lead animator for Coraline and Paranorman made his directorial debut with Kubo and the Two Strings for Laika. It’s no surprise that Bumblebee’s action scenes are amazing to watch. Fight scenes are choreographed with proper flow and understanding of movement. It could have easily been a metallic CGI mess but the character work mixed with his eye for animation resulted in action scenes that are worthy of an IMAX viewing.
Fun For the Family
Bumblebee is the 6th entry into the Transformers franchise and is making leaps towards elevating the series. It laid the universe’s groundwork with coherent backstories and gave us a compelling story with charming leads. The character work and action scenes are standouts, as well as its delightful humor and right amount of self-awareness. Fans will look forward to the different easter eggs and nods to the franchise. The film is fun, energetic, full of heart and adventure. It’s the perfect treat for the entire family.