Directed by: Travis Knight
Screenplay and Story by: Christina Hodson
Music by: Dario Marianelli
Cinematography by: Enrique Chediak
Produced by: Michael Bay, Tom DeSanto, Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Don Murphy, Mark Vahradian
Starring: Hailee Steinfeld, Justin Theroux, Dylan O’Brian, Angela Bassett, Peter Cullen,Pamela Adlon, John Cena, Jorge Lendeborg Jr, Jason Drucker, Stephen Schneider.
A spin-off from the Transformers series (1-5 directed by Michael Bay, here as producer), Bumblebee introduces new director Travis Knight (Kubo and the Two Strings (2016), The Boxtrolls (2014)) and writer Christina Hodson (Shut In (2016), Unforgettable 2017)). And the franchise just keeps getting better.
Bumblebee opens on the war raging on Cybertron.
When the Decepticons are on the brink of annihilating the Autobot resistance, Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) sends B-127 (Dylan O’Brian) to Earth in the hope to rebuild and fight again.
On Earth, circa 1987 (this is a prequel to the original Transformers (2007)), Charlie’s (Hailee Steinfeld) about to turn eighteen. She spends her days listening to music (The Smiths, of course) and fixing an old Corvette in memory of her deceased Dad.
It’s zits (Hailee Steinfeld has that teen-angst down to an art), her annoying martial-arts yellow-belt younger brother, Otis (Jason Drucker), and humiliation while working at the fair in what looks like a clown costume while serving divas who have number plates that read: UWish.
It’s painful to the extent new stepdad, Ron (Stephen Schneider) decides it’s a good idea to give Charlie a book about the magic of smiling… For her birthday.
Charlie doesn’t notice Memo (Jorge Lendeborg Jr) trying to get her attention. What Charlie does notice is a yellow VW Bug, just asking for some love, AKA Bumblebee.
With the army chasing an alien they don’t understand and the Decepticons fighting to extinguish the last of the resistance, human and transformer fight together while forming an unlikely friendship.
Even in the previous instalments of Transformers Bumblebee was a favourite. And writer Christina Hodson has built on a winning character, explaining quirks like his lost voice and how Charlie gives it back to him.
And the expression given to this Autobot, with pupils that dilate to show emotion, the kicking of legs while being examined like a kid who trusts a carer, all add to that adorable, bull-in-a-china-shop appeal.
We get funny and adorable from all the characters, really. Even the annoying younger brother gets his time to shine, all mixed with explosive action and sudden flash-forwards of focus to keep up the pace.
And director Travis Knight adds detail after detail to get the most out of the action and drama of the story, adding layers like a reflection of lights a shadow of the Decepticons onto the army men with evil intentions – a transference instead of a transformance. So, there’s more to the film if you’re looking for it.
Mostly, I was entertained by the antics of Bumblebee.
A lot of fun, Bumblebee was better than expected with good humour, explosive action and heart-warming moments that managed to humanise a mass of moving metal parts: like us, playing music makes a car feel better. Loved it.
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