- Damien Francis
Bumblebee is the 6th film in an otherwise disappointing franchise. Despite making a ridiculous amount of money with each release and new installment, the transformers films have definitely been less than average movies when it comes to an actual semblance of a film or franchise.
Heading into Bumblebee I was excited, with a hint of trepidation. Could Bumblebee, a film centered around Optimus Prime’s young and loyal yellow recruit, succeed? In short answer, yes. Very much so.
Bumblebee is exactly the kind of transformers film I have been waiting for. The film has an honest dedication to making a good transformers movie without resorting to unnecessary explosions, poor characters and terrible scripts. Now, you might think,
Bumblebee is a good transformers film, so what? That’s not saying much.
And, honestly, you would usually be right. But I would say that Bumblebee is also just a darn good film by itself. But, as Bumblebee is both a movie in and of itself, and part of a franchise, its important that we view it through these 2 separate lens to understand it thoroughly.
For a prequel, spin-off that almost feels like a reboot of the franchise (it’s a bit confusing), Bumblebee takes us in a completely new direction in the Transformers franchise by doing the one thing no-one thought of, making it smaller.
It keeps its focus squarely on a couple of characters, Bumblebee and his human friend, Charlie. (Got a bit of a Horse and his Boy vibe for all you Narnia readers).
There is a lot of good things about Bumblebee that helps it stand out from the rest of the Transformers franchise, but there are 4 key points that I want to draw attention to which helps it outshine the previous installments.
Firstly, the story. Bumblebee’s premise is simple on the surface. It remains this way throughout the entirety of the film without resorting to unnecessary explanations or McGuffins. It then adds a solid story on top of the premise. The story revolves around the characters and the challenges they go through. It doesn’t expand too much in the way of the Transformers universe and lore, but after 5 other films that have been trying and failing, I think Bumblebee succeeds in keeping it grounded.
Unlike previous films, Bumblebee chooses to keep the primary attention on the two lead characters and shows us their growth as they work together and share their lives. Charlie is a far nicer character to like than previous human characters and her frustrations with her family and feelings of loss and loneliness feel much more genuine. Her experiences are common to many people and that’s what shines through (and not incessant screaming like other Transformers characters). The dedication and friendship that Charlie and Bumblebee share is endearing and is a highlight of the film for me personally. Even some secondary characters are given chances to grow or expand.
The action within the Transformers universe has often been big and loud and almost impossible to follow (classic Michael Bay). If you have seen any other Transformers film, you would be excused for feeling a little nauseous at times just trying to follow what is happening. But, the action in Bumblebee is slick, smooth and very easy to follow. Even though it does have explosions, shoot-outs and robot jujitsu, it shows everything to us clearly and without the unnecessary extra stuff.
In a similar vein, the transformation of the characters from vehicle to robot form is smoother and with less moving parts so its easier to follow.
The biggest improvement though is the direction. New director in the chair, Travis Knight, knows exactly how he wants to tell the story and especially what parts of the film he wants to show. It’s a smooth film with love and a passion for the medium poured into it. His camera work focuses on developing the story and characters as real and genuine and he doesn’t try to show you everything in every single frame of the film.
Now there are some lesser points about the film, but they don’t necessarily drag the film down. The explanation for the Decepticons and the humans joining forces towards the start seems thin on the ground, especially when we have been shown the truth of the situation.
The Decepticon villains also feel a little weak as characters, but their dedication to finding their target is unwavering.
There are a few predictable plot points, but these are minor and don’t severely detract from the overall film.
The ending of the film does feel like it starts to dive into the usual Transformers finale, but it holds it together just long enough for it to realign itself with what the rest of the film has been about.
Overall, Bumblebee reminds me a lot of the Iron Giant. It has such a big heart that you can’t help but feel emotions for a giant, yellow robot.
The best movie in the Transformers franchise and one that has captured a special place in my heart for making me love Transformers again. Well worth a watch.
8 ½ stars out of 10.