After the trainwreck that was Transformers: The Last Knight, the Transformers series has another go with Bumblebee. Does the film crash and burn, or does it surpass the series’s previous entries? Surprisingly, the film is very enjoyable, and rockets past the quality of the entries that came before it. It currently sits at a score of 93% on the website Rotten Tomatoes, with 188 good reviews and 15 bad ones. The film centers around a girl named Charlie, played by Hailee Steinfeld (Ender’s Game, Into The
On the other hand, we have the title character himself, Bumblebee, voiced by Dylan O’Brien (The Maze Runner Series), or at least for the parts where he does have a voice. Early on in the movie, Bee basically gets his vocal chords torn out in a fight that ends with an bunch of American soldiers dying. His mission on earth is to keep it secure so that the rest of the Autobots can set up base there later on. However, in the fight where he loses his voice, he also loses his memory, and disguises himself as a Beetle before falling into some sort of coma, until Charlie finds him. From there she teaches Bee how to hide from humans, and her neighbor, Memo, played by Jorge Lendeborg Jr., finds out about Bee. A pre-saved message that Bee didn’t know about ends up getting activated at some point, and Optimus Prime, the leader of the Autobots, shows Bee his mission.
Meanwhile, the Decepticons, his enemies, are trying to track him down. They trick the government into giving them access to satellites, however, Agent Burns, played by John Cena, is skeptical of them. They finally track Bee down and take him to a facility, where they torture him until accidentally, the pre-saved message plays, and the Decepticons find out the plan to set up a base on Earth. They try to send a message that would have had an army of Decepticons to come to Earth to stop the Autobots from setting up base, and that would have also resulted in the extinction of the human race, but luckily, Bee, Charlie, and Memo stop them. The film ends with Bee parting ways with Charlie, and turning into a Camaro. After the brief credits, Bee finds Optimus Prime, which is either a nod to the Shia LaBeouf film or is a tease to a sequel.
One of the first things that is in the film’s favor is Travis Knight (Kubo and The Two Strings). He’s the director, and he hits every point that the film needs. For one thing, he acquired and played with the toys back in the 80’s, so he has sort of a personal connection to this series, and he wants to see it succeed, while Michael Bay, who used to be at the helm of the series, didn't really care about it, and just wanted to get the biggest draw at the box office. Because of Knight, the film actually feels like it has care put into it, and not just robots fighting each other over and over again.
Another thing is the special effects. The film doesn’t go all out with special effects like in the previous entry, as Bumblebee can be replaced by a regular car a lot of the time, which saves a lot of money. But it doesn’t leave them out to dry either. The first scene of the movie is Cybertron, the home of the Autobots and Decepticons, and it looks absolutely beautiful, even though it is war torn. Every transformer in the film is well made and distinct, and a lot of the times, callbacks to the original toys were made. It’s literally an 80’s kid’s dream.
Speaking of special effects, one of the single bests effects created in the film are Bumblebee’s eyes. Director Travis Knight himself said that one of the goals he wanted to accomplish with Bumblebee’s eyes was to make them as expressive as possible. You can see what emotion Bumblebee is feeling at all times, whether it be fear, happiness, or sadness. This adds a really nice touch to the film, because it makes you feel that Bumblebee is a living, breathing, creature with a soul, which at most times, is very difficult because he doesn’t actually have a voice. Another way he expresses himself is through the radio. Whenever he needs to communicate, he just searches for a station and plays a line from a song that corresponds to what he wants to say, which leads to some pretty comical scenes.
Even though Bumblebee is the title character, he still shares the spotlight with Hailee Steinfeld’s Charlie. And Steinfeld by far gives the best performance in the film. She’s emotional, and every line she delivers feels genuine. John Cena’s character Agent Burnes isn’t as deep, but he still gets his moments here and there, and Jorge Lendeborg Jr. kind of get’s the same deal with his character. Each character gets an arc with a satisfying ending, with Charlie being able to get over the death of her father, Burns being able to stop blaming Bumblebee for the incident at the beginning of the film that killed his friends, and Memo loses his awkwardness.
Worldwide, Bumblebee has grossed almost 300 million dollars, and it isn’t done yet. Even if it doesn’t become the most successful Transformers film at the box office, it most likely is going to get a sequel because of it’s glowing reviews. Bumblebee is a showcase of what the rest of the Transformers franchise could have been if it was under better guidance and direction. It manages keep the series’s trademark action for the most part while adding compelling character arcs, simpler, yet better looking effects, and redeeming a franchise that many thought could not be redeemed.