A heartwarming and welcoming backstory to our favorite yellow Autobot, Bumblebee! One of the favorites anyway. As the title says the movie is all about Bumblebee and us as viewers get to learn a lot. We learn how he lost his voice and how he learned to use the radio to communicate which I always found interesting. Especially since I used to watch the cartoons on and off as a kid growing up.
Visually the movie was like any of the other recent Transformers film, but they kept most of the secondary Autobots and Decepticons looking like their 80’s cartoons. They looked much simpler and like giant toys. Even Optimus, in his short screen time, had the traditional look. He didn’t even have a moving mouth. Only Bumblebee and his two Decepticon hunters (Shatter & Dropkick) are more visually developed like we are used to. It doesn’t have any overly excessive battle scenes and feels a but more contained unlike the others which always ended in some sort of mass destruction.
Since the movie is set in the late 1980’s it does have that typical 80’s military reply of ‘destroy everything because communism is bad’ ideology. Which does lead me to my one major negative, John Cena’s character. Honestly, every time he was on the screen, I rolled my eyes. I don’t know if it was his acting or what, but it was just too military. I did smile when he got smacked down hard by Bee. I think Bee needs to smack him a bit harder, so he doesn’t get up. Stay in the ring Cena.
The rest of the acting wasn’t that bad, and the characters were inherently quirky, so I easily overlooked any flaws. You had the socially awkward neighbor, Memo, and the rebel car-girl gear head. Both are outcasts in the California social scene which is made apparent by the rich girl and her cronies who pick on our duo. They do get their revenge which is bittersweet. Although the story advances slowly it does get the point across. All the main characters: Bee, Charlie, and Memo are all rebels going against the grain of society and sometimes it pays to root for the underdogs.
The story is really about friendships and how you can meet unlikely allies. How friends and challenges can help us conquer our fears or help us move on during times of tragedy. Character development is slow, but they eventually grow into stronger versions of themselves. Bee regains his memory and still manages to destroy stuff without directly killing any humans. Charlie realizes no matter how much her mother nags she really does care. I mean her step dad who ‘just doesn’t get it’ risks the family’s life to help Charlie and Bee escape from the military. Nearly getting killed in the process.
As far as getting the emotions going, they did a decent job without any high CGI battle scenes or imagery. They opted for more of a nostalgic approach in terms of music and designs. I grew up watching the breakfast club and listening to 80’s classic rock. I always liked muscle cars and the styling on the Decepticons was delightful. Being that this was an 80’s era movie I did like how the Decepticons only really fought Bee while in an air vehicle mode. It wasn’t the traditional car to car combat we have seen before. A throwback to the old days to help reel in the nostalgia even though it could have easily been overlooked. I am all about the minor details. Details like when they flipped the truck as Shatter and Dropkick arrived, I noticed the canon the bottom used to help roll it over… just saying.
The ending really helped bring it all back and tie it in with the older but new reboots. Bee and Charlie parting ways and the return of the iconic Camaro. Even as Bee rides across the bridge he catches up with an old friend, a friend who might have just been there from the start. Hiding in plain sight. Again, small details give it away even if it wasn’t intentional. I always hoped another Autobot would have been nearby.
I would give the movie four stars. I originally wanted to give it three but to be fair I liked it. I was impressed. The acting was pretty good, and the imagery and nostalgic feelings really helped boost its score. Could it have been better, maybe? But I didn’t grow up in the 80’s so I can’t speak for the politics, they just seemed a bit typical, the family structure and dealing with ‘troubled teens’, and not to mention your typical American response to anything foreign. Another issue, it does feel as if it is stuck between being a serious movie or a comedy. With silly moments strategically stitched in. If you’re a Transformers fan and want to know more about Bumblebee, then I would recommend this movie. Seeing it in theaters helps but it will be fine off the silver screen.
I had some other gripes with this film, but they aren’t important. One being the scale of Bumblebee in certain shots. It is a more personal story, so I guess they needed to scale back the size of an Autobot to make it work. He just seems short… oh and he gets shot, stabbed, and impaled in the same left chest plate over and over. Always the left arm… ouch.