What better way to jumpstart my 2019 than watching Bumbleblee as my first movie?Actually, I have been waiting for this movie since last year but there was a delay in the release because of the MMFF. The good news is that even though the anticipation was heightened among fans of the Transformers franchise, let me just allay some fears because Bumblebee could well be the best installment of the lot.
Synopsis: In the year 1987, a full-fledged war was raging in Cybertron where Autobot rebels and Decepticons were wrestling for control of their planet. However, because of the massive forces of the Decepticons, Autobots were forced to evacuate to regroup and find a new base. B-127 (Bumblebee) was given the task to set up the base on planet Earth. Unfortunately, he runs into some trouble upon arrival, wiping out his memory just as he is hunted down by Decepticons Shatter and Dropkick, who dupe the military led by Major Jack Burns (John Cena) into thinking that he was a dangerous fugitive. Meanwhile, Bumblebee lays low and makes friends with 18 year-old mechanic Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld) and her neighbor Memo (Jorge Lendeborg, Jr.)
From the first few minutes, Bumblebee was already able to establish key elements to the prequel that will immediately be familiar to fans of Michael Bay’s Transformers franchise. But the scenes will also be familiar with fans of the original franchise where Bumblebee was a VW beetle. This made my fangirl heart happy because when the live-action movies came out, I felt really sentimental about Bee being turned into a Camaro. Plus, the style adopted by the Transformers for this chapter of the franchise was faithful to the original animated version.
Plenty of action opened the movie and fans will immediately become invested in the Autobots’ struggle to save their planet as the film depicted their handicaps in terms of numbers and strength. Case in point, Bee was smaller than the rest and more vulnerable in his state than any of his fellow Autobots but he came out swinging. Make sure you check out his MMA moves, because they are amazing.
When Bumblebee reaches Earth, audiences will definitely root for him because while his size and strength (based on Earth standards) were seen as a threat by the soldiers, he never once used it to retaliate against their attacks, well, unless they threatened to hurt Charlie, that is.
Of all the Autobots, Bumblebee truly deserved to headline his own movie. He was the most popular Autobot after all because he had an endearing character and a goofy side that balanced well will his kickass nature. It makes the most sense because he is Optimus Prime’s most trusted lieutenant. He is also the most human of all his comrades, and this is the reason he connects the best with their human allies. This time around, Bee is able to establish a deep and meaningful friendship with his first human, Charlie.
The chemistry is really great between Charlie and Bee. Director Travis Knight, in his first foray into live action (He is lead animator of Laika Studios that produced Kubo and the Two Strings), did an impressive job in marrying the CGI aspect with the live action, creating a fluid and genuine connection between the two lead characters. It was also a good call to cast a female lead in contrast to Sam Witwicky (Shia LeBeouf), Bee’s best friend in the previous movies. Having a girl as Bee’s first friend gives the movie a softer feel (but at the same time, it was also able to show how badass Charlie was).
When Charlie hugs Bee, its like she is hugging a long lost friend and it was effective in establishing the parallels in their journey as well. As Charlie tries to find herself again after the loss of her father, Bee tries to recall his mission, his comrades and his love for his planet Cybertron.
While Bumblebee was consistent with the other Transformers movies, it had the most heart and it was the most perfect movie to enjoy with friends and family. I’m talking about feels that are reminiscent of Steven Spielberg’s ET, and Matthew Robbins’ Batteries Not Included. This is not a bad comparison especially since these movies were icons of the era.
The thing with the previous installments was that the pedal to the metal action and non-stop fighting between the Autobots and the Decepticons kind of got overwhelming at times. However, Bumblebee has its fair share of action but has a lot of fun moments as well where Bee channels his goofy childlike side. In doing so, it allots plenty of time to develop characters and relationships with lesser noise.
Growing up in the 80s, I was a big fan of the soundtrack in this movie, especially the homage to the decade with the iconic Judd Nelson move at the closing of the Breakfast Club. I also loved Charlie’s shirts. They rocked. The supporting cast was amazing as well. They brought their A-games and turned up solid performances. As for John Cena, I really prefer him in his comedy movies because as a soldier, he isn’t given much room to do anything else rather than clench his jaw, trail the Transformers and vow to crush them all.
All in all, Bumblebee was the ultimate underdog movie and a brilliant film about loyalty and friendship. Bumbleblee also set itself apart from the rest of the franchise for being more of a family movie than action adventure like its predecessors. Kudos to Christina Hodson for her excellent script and Travis Knight for his excellent direction. This installment was entertaining from start to finish and was a perfect prequel to jumpstart the rest of the franchise. Do yourself a favor and don’t miss it.