When it comes to the live action movies I’m not like a lot of other Transformers fans. I saw the first in the cinema when it was released. I went with Sven Harvey and a couple of his children and to be frank I wasn’t impressed. From that point onwards I had no interest in seeing any on the big screen and waited for the home video release. Even when I bought them I was in no rush to see them. The Bumblebee movie was the first to change that for over a decade.
In the end, circumstances meant that I had to wait until the blu ray release anyway before seeing Bumblebee. Having managed to avoid spoilers completely I sat down for what I was genuinely looking forward to. The first movie without Michael Bay at the helm and one whose trailer I thoroughly enjoyed. Could the film live up to its early promise or was I going to be in for another disappointment? In all honesty I was hoping for great things this time around and certainly a film that would provide more entertainment than a Mayan Gods slots game unlike its predecessor.
Back To Where It All Began
Instead of picking up where The Last Knight left off, Bumblebee takes the movie franchise in a new direction. This is very much an origin story for the franchise. Starting off on Cybertron, it’s set right in the middle of the war between the Autobots and Decepticons. Right from the beginning we’re introduced to plenty of familiar faces including Bumblebee himself, Optimus Prime, Shockwave, Soundwave and a host of others. It’s at this point where it’s clear that the war isn’t going well and Prime orders ‘Bee to flee to safety to a small planet to await the arrival of the other Autobots and to establish a presence there… Earth.
Bumblebee’s escape pod crash lands but is discovered by a military patrol on exercises. It’s 1987 and inexperienced in dealing with alien encounters, Bee is seen as an immediate threat. Not helped with the subsequent arrival on the scene of a Decepticon who engages in combat, the humans first impression of the Cybertronian race isn’t a good one. Bumblebee is hunted down. Critically damaged, he winds up on a beach eventually shutting down all of his systems to protect himself.
No More Spoilers
For those of you have haven’t see the movie yet, I won’t go into any more of the plot. However, Bumblebee soon encounters Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld) and the two quickly form an inseparable bond. While Bumblebee awaits the arrival of his fellow Autobots, Decepticons track him down instead and it’s a battle between them for survival. At the same time, our little heroic VW is trying to avoid the military who still see him as nothing but a threat. As for Charlie? She just wants what every 18 year old does – some semblance of a normal life.
The Post Michael Bay Era
This is the first film in the franchise that has been produced without Michael Bay at the helm… and it shows. While he is still credited in a production role, the directorial duties have been handled by Travis Knight. While there’s plenty of action in the film, none of it seems excessively cluttered and confusing. Instead it’s gripping and exciting and genuinely keeps you on the edge of your seat. At the same time, all of the character driven scenes are handled with just as much care and attention. Just from a directorial point of view it’s the most polished of all of the movies so far and it was the easiest to watch.
The most important part was the story itself though. No matter how good a film looks, how strong it’s visual effects are, they can’t compensate for an awful script. There’s no need to worry about Bumblebee. Christina Hodson has done an incredible job of not only capturing the spirit of G1 with the story, but also produced a tightly paced story, while still featuring a superb balance of character, action, humour and drama. Thankfully there’s none of the juvenile toilet humour from the movies that came before it and there are plenty of G1 references to keep even the most die-hard of old school fans happy.
The reality is that it made the movie a joy to watch. There were no cringeworthy moments that made the Bay films unwatchable. The action always felt as if there was a purpose to what was going on. Comedy was used sparingly but felt so naturally placed that it didn’t stand out. It often came from awkward situations of natural human interaction, or scenes where Bumblebee found himself adjusting to life on Earth. But it was never done in a way that the previous films did and mocked the characters.