Movie Review: Bumblebee (2018)

The sixth entry in the Transformers film series, and the first to be directed by Travis Knight, Bumblebee is a 2018 sci-fi action film and a soft reboot of the Transformers franchise. Arriving on Earth in 1987, the Autobot B-127 (Dylan O’Brien) is on the run from the US Government, led by Agent Jack Burns (John Cena) when he is soon discovered by Charlie Watson (Hailee Steinfeld). Charlie and the newly christened Bumblebee try to coexist, alongside Charlie’s neighbour, Memo (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) as they are hunted down by the Decepticons Shatter (Angela Basset) and Dropkick (Justin Theroux).

+ best Transformer-on-Transformer action on film so far, with Bee’s movements in particular based on some top-tier judo takedowns (whether that makes sense is another issue altogether). The simple fact you can see what Bee or his various adversaries are doing clearly makes a huge difference to how the action looks and feels
+ having to act against, realistically and presumably, a big, fake Bumblebee placeholder, Steinfeld as Charlie really steals the show. I’m only familiar with Steinfeld from the Pitch Perfect sequels (the second was good, the third was horrendous) and her voice role in Into the Spider-Verse (which was good), so I am happy that I now have a live action, non-musical role to say that I have enjoyed her in
+ Agent Burns (John Cena) was the perfect foil to Charlie and her optimistic, friendly persona. I enjoy Cena as an actor (ironically enough, because I couldn’t stand him at the height of his wrestling career), but a few times here I was almost certain he was meant to be a parody of the tough-guy character, only for it to be played completely straight. All he was missing in those scenes was a sideways glance and wink to the camera, which was a bit weird
+ I loved the soundtrack, itself full of 80s throwbacks including such absolute bangers as Bon Jovi’s ‘Runaway’ and Tears for Fears’ ‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World’. The substantial lack of wub-wub from the Michael Bay quintet (outside of the opening minutes) was a very welcome change

bumblebee_2
Charlie Watson (Hailee Steinfeld) bonds with the Autobot B-127, aka Bumblebee.

– the entire character of Memo (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) was worthless, and could have instead been a place for Charlie to grow/show attachment to her (step-?)brother. I’m not sure if we as viewers were meant to root for Memo and Charlie to get together int he end or not, but I felt nothing positive for this character and instead found him to kill the mood more often than not
– frustratingly, this movie toes the line between prequel and reboot in just the wrong way for it to be unclear as to what the intent was. Characters, places and organisations from the (future) original series are referenced in a way that we are certainly meant to make that connection, but then just enough is done differently for it to not be a clear transition

Should you see this film: In what may sound like damning praise, this was easily the best of the Transformers film thus far, except maybe the first one, if you have a soft spot for it like I do. Steinfeld was great, and her chemistry with Bumblebee (if that makes any sense) were fun to watch, and seeing Cena in a more antagonist role was a welcome change.

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