Bumblebee (2018)

Review
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It’s happened you guys – they finally made a good Transformers movie! Whilst Michael Bay’s 2007 original had its charms, the series on a whole has been an arduous trek for fans of the Hasbro creations, with the most recent Transformers: The Last Knight truly jumping the shark in terms of bombastic excess.  Though the idea of a reboot – or more correctly an origin-story-come-prequel – wasn’t one that seemed overtly necessary, shuffling the series’ outlook and introducing Christina Hodson (the forthcoming Harley Quinn feature Birds of Prey) and Travis Knight (Kubo and the Two Strings) as writer and director respectively has done alarming wonders and resuscitated the brand to where it can be considered something of genuine entertainment value beyond the orgasmic bias of fanboys.

Set in 1987, which in turn allows plenty of nostalgic beats regarding music and aesthetic, Bumblebee (arguably the series’ most popular character) announces itself as a different being entirely from the Bay-produced films when its opening action sequence proves both coherent and void of the lens flare the aforementioned director had such an attraction to.  There’s also a lighter tone adopted which proves beneficial to both Bumblebee‘s audience reach – I assume younger children and the female demographic will be more susceptible – and its longevity as its own product.

Though there’s elements of other family-friendly titles such as The Iron Giant and E.T. evident in Bumblebee‘s story structure, it very much survives on its own accord, and the idea to have Bumblebee (initially voiced by Dylan O’Brien) form an adoring pet-like bond with sullen teen Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld, continuing to inject her vibrant personality into could-be grating characters) earns the film a sense of heart that was noticeably absent from the quintet of Transformers features that came prior.

Having lost her father not nearly a year before, Charlie needs Bumblebee just as desperately, and whilst the film offers up the usual comedic sequences involving her trying to keep Bumblebee at bay from those around her, the approach has been handled much smoother and not as obviously wacky as what you imagine Bay would’ve concocted had he been allowed creative control.  The relationship explored between Charlie and Bumblebee is sweet, and it’s well balanced by the more action-heavy mentality the film almost needs to adopt to keep in check with the Transformers brand.

Most of the action comes courtesy of John Cena’s secret government agent Jack Burns and his determination to hunt down Bumblebee and learn of his origins.  Most of Cena’s delivery is rooted in comic-book villainy with his dialogue reeking of archetypal cartoon writing, but he’s in on the joke and makes for a fine opponent-come-comrade for Charlie.

For Transformers fans Bumblebee will come as a breath of fresh air and a healthy reminder that the series potential is still ripe, and for the uninitiated this is simply a great entry point for a saga that can hopefully use this as its point of reference and continue on telling stories that can survive without the necessity of action exposition.

 

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