I don’t think it’s any secret of my, and many others, thoughts when it comes to a certain Michael Bay. Sure, you can look at the box office numbers, as he often does, but there’s still something fundamentally missing from his films.
With Bumblebee then, hopes where slightly higher as Bay has taken a producing role and passed directorial duties onto Travis Knight, the man behind the brilliant Kubo And The Two Strings and Laika studios.
What’s immediately obvious, after watching Bumblebee, is that Knight has managed to inject that missing something into this film, namely, heart. There’s a whole lotta love in Bumblebee, you actually feel something for the machine.
The interaction between Hailee Steinfeld (“True Grit”, “Ender’s Game”) and “Bee” is heart-warming, rampant with pure emotion and imagination. The character that Knight has injected into Bumblebee, the little looks, the subtleties, is what’s been missing previously too, here it’s apparent in spades. No doubt thanks to Knight’s work in stop-motion animation.
Don’t get me wrong, at the end of the day this is still part of the Transformers universe and it still has Bay’s sticky fingers all over it, evident in the action scenes which burst into your eyeballs the moment the usual million studio logos have played out.
The fighting shows us how the Transformers, fleeing from their home planet as the Decepticons rage war, send Bumblebee to Earth to await their arrival. Tasked with keeping the planet safe, it isn’t long before a Decepticon finds Bee and we learn how he loses his voice.
Battered and broken, Bumblebee transforms into a VW Beetle and finds refuge in a scrap-yard whereupon he is found by Steinfeld and brought back out into the world.
The Decepticons meanwhile, arrive back in town as Shatter, Angela Bassett (“Black Panther”, “Mission Impossible – Fallout“), and Dropkick, Justin Theroux (“The Last Jedi“, “The Spy Who Dumped Me“), try to find Optimus Prime and end the Autobots once and for all.
Battle ensues as Steinfeld and Bee try to stop Shatter and Dropkick from calling for reinforcements and destroying both the Autobots and Earth.
But not before we’re treated to a whole host of ‘fish out of water’ scenes involving Bee trying to get used to being in a human world and getting familiar with his eighty’s surroundings.
Bumblebee is the shortest of the Transformers movies and all the better for it, it’s also the cheapest which is probably down to a) the lack of inane, wanton destruction and b) outside of Steinfeld the only other main characters are former wrestler John Cena (“Ferdinand”, “Daddy’s Home”) as Agent Burns and Jorge Lendeborg Jr. (“Spider-Man: Homecoming“, “Brigsby Bear“) as the boy next door.
There’s a lot of heart, a lot of emotion in the film, missing from any of the previous movies. There’s also some nice humour and a lot of fanboy touches, whether from Knight or writer Christina Hodson (“Shut In”, “Unforgettable”), I’m not sure, but there are references to producer Steven Spielberg’s eighty’s back catalogue as well as plenty of Transformers cartoon references too.
Bumblebee is a step in the right direction for the Transformers world. Sadly, it can’t completely break the shackles of all that has gone before it which would, and does, taint anything, but it’s certainly an improvement and a good, entertaining film.