Bumblebee - 2018
Director(s): Travis Knight
Writer(s): Christina Hodson
Cinematography by: Enrique Chediak
Editor(s): Paul Rubell
Cast: Hailee Steinfeld, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., John Cena, Jason Drucker, Pamela Adlon and Stephen Hoyos
I audibly scoffed when I heard that a Bumblebee prequel project was in the works. Coming off the last Transformers "film", I could not see how in the world, or why in the world, they would think people wanted to see more from this franchise. However, when I learned that Michael Bay was stepping away from the director's chair, and staying on as a producer, my cynical heart grew. Once the reviews and reactions, all positive, started pouring in, said heart grew again. Let's talk about it.
The story takes place in 1987's California, and it follows Charlie (Steinfeld) on the eve of her eighteen birthday. After failing to fix her father's Corvette, she convinces her uncle, owner of a scrapyard, to gift her the old 1967 Beetle collecting dust in the yard, only to later find out that it is a Transformer in the middle of a civil war. What I loved about this script, penned by Christina Hodson, is that it took everything that worked for the first Transformers and elevated it with character moments, emotional weight, and action sequences that were short and sweet. The runtime is not bloated, 1 hr 54 mins, the characters while rooted in archetypes, do not feel hollow and unrealized and the comedy comes across natural and not forced. The lead is a self-confident protagonist that provides the voice and the strength a broken-down Bumblebee needed. Not an annoying human component that is stuck in the middle of an epic fight.
Quick note: It's weird how when you take away the racist stereotypes, overblown runtime, forty-minute long action sequences and the over indulgent male gaze, it leads to a fun and entertaining film. Weird.
Travis Knight (Kubo and the Two Strings) did an incredible job with his first live action movie. The tone of the movie never veers far from this quasi coming-of-age /sci-fi/action film, and it always found a way to engage with the audience effectively. Knight and cinematographer Chediak handled the CGI masterfully, giving us the best interpretation of the Transformers to date. The transformations, the fight sequences and their interactions with the real world where impressive. My favorite scene, regarding the creative use of the transformations, was watching Bumblebee trying to be inside the house without breaking anything. How they shifted, his body was fantastic and at times hilarious. It also kept the scope of the film big, the world was at risk and you understood the implications, but the focus felt personal as you are invested in Charlie and Bumblebee.
Quick note: I felt like a little kid watching all the "old-school" designs of the Autobots and the Decepticon up on the big screen. I hope they do Beast Wars
Hailee Steinfeld has been rocking it since her breakout role in True Grit. Ever since then she has come out with at least one film that reminds us just how talented she is as a lead performance, my favorite being The Edge of Seventeen. Here she creates a balance between being confident, and unsure, excited, and afraid, happy, and sad, you know being a teenager. Her character was a breath of fresh air for the Transformers’ franchise, as she is a strong female character that her physical beauty is secondary to the abilities and traits she brings to the fight. John Cena was fine as the military adversary to the Autobots, and Lendeborg Jr. wasn't annoying as the designated comedic relief. A feat not many can claim within that role. The rest of the cast was perfect for the roles that they fulfilled.
Bumblebee is the Transformers movie all the fans of the source material wanted from the start. With this being the sixth installment of a franchise that has depreciated poorly with each outing I can understand why it is the one that has made the least amount of money at the box office. It is hard to trust, yet somehow, they managed to crack the code, no Bay, on their sixth go around, and this is the one that deserves all the money the rest got. It is a funny, heartfelt, fun, action-packed ride that the entire family will enjoy. Go watch it! Travis Knight is why I love movies.
Bumblebee is currently playing in theaters. Go watch it.
If you like this review let me know in the comment section down below. Subscribe to my newsletter so you are always up to date with all my reviews. Also, follow me over at Twitter (@yILovemovies) or over on Facebook if you want to have a conversation about movies.