Review of 'Bumblebee'

bumblebee.jpeg In the year 1987 during the Great Cybertronian War between the Decepticons and Autobots on Cybertron as the Autobots are on the verge of losing Autobot B-127 (Bumblebee) is sent by their leader Optimus Prime to Earth to set up a base there and defend it if the Decepticons should attack. On arrival he is attacked by Sector 7, a secret branch of the military that monitors extraterrestrial activity, led by the comically ruthless Colonel Jack Burns (John Cena). A short time later two Decepticons arrive from Cybertron to attack both. Surviving the attack though severely injured Bumblebee enters stasis after first transforming into a Volkswagen Beetle. He is later discovered in a scrap yard by Charlie Watson (Hailee Steignfeld) an 18-year old young woman who is struggling to cope with the loss of her father. After waking the now recovered Bumblebee Charlie strikes up a relationship with the quirky and now voiceless Autobot however the two Decepticons have tricked Section 7 into letting them use their technology to find Bumblebee so they can force him to reveal the Autobot's plans…

Yes, it is another coming of age story much beloved of Hollywood with the troubled youth looking to come to terms with the world she finds herself in. It is through her relationship with Bumblebee she begins to understand who she is and who she can be. The film is certainly toned down quite a bit from the mass hi-tech orgy found in other Transformer outings with the focus squarely on Charlie and her relationship with Bumblebee and her family: Her mother Sally (Pamela Adlon), her brother Otis (Jason Drucker) and her mother's boyfriend Ron (Stephen Schneider). There are action scenes but they are much fewer than other films in the franchise perhaps attempting to bring back the personality that made the first film so popular (ironically featuring the relationship of Bumblebee with another human).

The focus on characters does this film credit and keeps the audience engaged though it often digresses into over-sentimentality, causing us to roll our eyes into the back of our heads. Steinfeld (as Charlie) puts on a convincing display of teenage angst that keeps us engaged throughout. On the other hand, the colonel of Sector 7 is a clear-cut “bad guy” who wants nothing more than to steal the Transformer technology for the US military, at any cost (“boo, hiss!”). It is this simplicity (and that of the “evil Decepticons”) combined with the complexity of Charlie that draws us into what is, effectively, her story.

Many are calling “Bumblebee” the best film of the series. I can see where this is coming from. It is fun and engaging but at the same time the story feels like it is two movies: A robot war and a coming of age story. Each story could easily be told without the other but by mixing them it becomes a bit jarring. Yes, the action of the war is a catalyst for Charlie understanding herself but there are other more aspects that play a bigger role in this happening including the relationship she has with co-worker, and comic relief element, “Memo” (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.). Perhaps it is precisely this mixture of these two aspects that will appeal to wider audiences (though I would still hesitate to bring young children, such as the 7-8 year olds we saw at the cinema, given some rather personal violence inflicted throughout)? It is certainly different than other Transformer movies with their non-stop and headache-inducing action. I think this is probably a good thing…


Review Date: 2018-12-28

Directed by: Travis Knight

Studio: Allspark Pictures

Year: 2018

Length: 114 minutes

Genre: Science Fiction