Dear Paramount, please make more Transformers movies that aren’t directed by Michael Bay. Sincerely, everyone.
Bumblebee was released in 2018 and was directed by Travis Knight. The film stars Hailee Steinfeld as Charlie and John Cena as Agent Burns. In 1987, gifted a VW Beetle for her 18th birthday, Charlie soon learns her new gift is actually a transforming robot, Bumblebee, who she must help regain his lost memory.
Steinfeld is great in the lead role, adding a lot of emotion and heart to the film. It’s refreshing to have a lead in a Transformers movie do more than just yell, “OPTIMUS!” over and over again. Although something to point out was that Charlie is written very similarly to another character Steinfeld played, Nadine, in Edge of Seventeen. At moments this takes you out of the film slightly, because that character doesn’t always work with the tone of the film, but only if you’ve seen the other flick.
Cena on paper is simply another generic bad guy but works for the overall corny tone. Something that is great about Cena’s character is how they use his relationship with Bumblebee to show the overall theme of the film, using purely visuals and one line of dialogue. The way his final interactions with Bumblebee are shot tells us the same thing Agent Burns does: there’s more to things we don’t understand than meets the eye.
There are only a few scenes in the film that don’t advance the overall plot, but the script makes sure, for the most part, to have every scene matter. The core of the script is the friendship between Charlie and Bumblebee, which the film takes time to develop and flesh out. The film isn’t necessarily a comedy, but the jokes that are there do work.
In screenwriting 101 it’s taught that you never introduce a character by having them wake up to an alarm clock in their room, which this movie does this three times. Definitely, the weakest part of the script comes in the form of the generic villains, they’re introduced not very early in the film. It seemed like they were an afterthought for the most part.
Knight’s directing is a breath of fresh air to the Transformers franchise. It’s nice to actually be able to see what’s going on in action scenes. A tracking shot where Charlie is running towards the camera, with Bumblebee is fighting another Transformer in the background, stands out. The clear attention to detail in not only the special effects but the set design as well is great. One of the best aspects of the film is the use of music, which brings the audience even more into the time period. One of its main purposes, aside from atmospheric, is that Bumblebee uses the radio as his method of speaking.
One of the weaker elements of the production side is the score. The use of ‘80s music again is good, but the score feels flat and devoid of character.
Bumblebee is a love letter to the ‘80s and core Transformers fans. It uses the world of Autobots and Decepticons to tell a human story and is exactly what this franchise needed.
[My Grade for Bumblebee is a B+]