The film follows Bumblebee’s (voiced by Dylan O’Brien) escape from his home planet of Cybertron as the Autobots are forced to retreat from the advancing Decepticons. Tasked with establishing a base on Earth by Optimus, Bumblebee arrives, only to be pursued by the Decepticon Blitzwing.
When he becomes critically damaged in a battle with Blitzwing and local military forces, Bumblebee goes into hiding in the form of a Volkswagen Beetle at a junkyard where Charlie Watson (Hailee Steinfeld), a teenage girl on the cusp of turning 18 who has just lost her father, finds him. The Autobot, damaged and his memory now lost, is befriended by Charlie as they both try to rebuild who they are and find their place in this world.
After five bombastic and loud films from Michael Bay, Bumblebee goes in a different direction with easily the franchise’s best entry to date. For the franchise’s first solo film, the job was handed to director Travis Knight, who had helmed the Oscar-nominated animated film Kubo and the Two Strings. He handles his live-action debut with aplomb. The decision to go with Bumblebee, already a fan favorite from Bay’s films, is a smart one as he is the one character that has easily identified and interacted with human characters the most. Despite his lack of a voice, he has always been depicted with the most personality and in this film Knight goes further.
While Bumblebee has always had charm, Knight and writer Christina Hodson are able to bring out greater nuance to the character by breaking him down and building him up again. By essentially hitting the reset button with him, audiences are able to grow with Bee as we follow his friendship with Charlie. It’s a transformative friendship that goes both ways, as not only does Charlie help Bee recover his memory and sense of self, but he does the same for her in dealing with the grief of losing her father and moving on with her life.
As she is on the cusp of transforming into an adult, the film is in a way, a coming-of-age story for both Charlie and Bee. That approach by Knight and Hodson gives the franchise a heart — or “spark” in the case of the Transformers — that hasn’t always been there in the face of explosions and action. As a result, the film is much smaller in scale and scope, befitting its titular character and allowing for greater intimacy with its main cast, making them all the more memorable.
Steinfeld shines as Charlie, even if the role is essentially the same one from her 2016 film Edge of Seventeen, while Jorge Lendeborg Jr. makes for an amusing foil as a hopeless nerd who has a crush on her. John Cena is fantastic as Agent Burns, as he is able to both play off his intimidating demeanor, while working in his comedic charm. However, the real star of the film is Bee and the folks at Industrial Light & Magic. As much as Knight’s direction and Hodson play a factor into Bee as a character, it is the visual effects artists that have to realize that vision and the emotion they are able to bring about with a machine is praiseworthy.
For a franchise that seemed to be on its last legs following the disappointing box office performance of Transformers: The Last Knight, Bumblebee gives it new life. Despite initially being worked in as a prequel to the Bay films with a lot of connective tissue to help fill in some gaps in those films, the movie also includes a scene that breaks continuity, allowing this to serve as a quasi-reboot in the same vein as Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
Whether that turns out to be the case or not, Bumblebee is an entertaining new high point for the Transformers films, filled with charm and heart, making it one of the most surprising films of 2018, and the Blu-ray is packed with tons of special features. ~Paolo Maquiraya
Sector 7 Archive
Outtakes – Humorous alternate versions of five scenes in the film
Bee Vision: The Transformers Robots of Cybertron – Featurette that takes a look at all the Transformers in the battle on Cybertron sequence early in the film, including Ratchet, Arcee, Cliffjumper, Wheeljack, Brawn, Starscream, Shockwave, Ironhide, Soundwave and Ravage.
Bringing Bumblebee to the big screen
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