Saturday, December 22, 2018

Bumblebee - Movie Review

The Movie: Bumblebee

The Director: Travis Knight

The Cast: Hailee Steinfeld, John Cena, Dylan O'Brien, Megyn Price, Justin Theroux, Angela Bassett, Peter Cullen, Kenneth Choi, John Ortiz, Jorge Lendeborg Jr.

The Story: On the run in the year of 1987, Bumblebee finds refuge in a junkyard in a small Californian beach town. Charlie, on the cusp of turning 18 and trying to find her place in the world, discovers Bumblebee, battle-scarred and broken.

The Review:
So, gone are the days of Michael Bay's version of the Transformers franchise that always included excessively heroic camera angles, overly grand displays of military affection, story lines that at times made absolutely no sense, and dialog that was more often than not painful to listen to all wrapped in a middle school boy's sense of humor. No more fart jokes, testicle jokes, or Megan Fox cleavage shots. Bay is still a producer of the franchise, one of many including Steven Spielberg who has also been there from the start, but his creative stamp has at least been lessened if not removed entirely.

In it's place is a fresh look at the property that is filled with more nostalgia than you could shake 1980's pop tune at along with a sensibility and style that is more E.T. than Armageddon. Kids will love this movie because it is aimed squarely at them with a silly sense of humor and visual construction that is less flash than it's predecessors and easier for the eyes to follow along. Accentuating the PG vibe is Hailee Steinfeld as Charlie who is about as likable and relatable of a young hero as anyone could possibly and WWE superstar John Cena who brings to the big screen his propensity for making wacky one liners way more likable than they ever deserve to be.

One of the most notable changes in this film is how the transformers look on screen and I feel like this is one of the movie's biggest improvements as well. The creative team has done away with the highly complicated robot designs for a style that is very much in line with the "Gen One" version that fans first fell in love with while watching the 1980's cartoon. The nostalgia factor of seeing familiar versions of robots like Soundwave and Optimus Prime on the big screen was completely off the charts even if it was just for a few moments. Oh and no spoilers here as those characters kick off the action at the very beginning of the movie during a huge battle that sets up Bumblee heading off to earth and meeting his human counterpart.

The story is pretty simple and allows for a focus on the relationship between Charlie and Bumblebee as well as how each of them copes with the individual problems life has confronted them with. Their friendship is at the core of why the movie works so well and why I mentioned E.T. as a strong comparison. Charlie does everything she can to help Bumblebee carry out his mission while Bumblebee does everything he can to help Charlie with the family issues that have been preventing her coming of age story to be fully realized. Both are stuck and need to be fixed but in completely different ways and working together is of course the best solution.

If I am going to nit pick a little I would say that the music department tried way too hard to cram as many 80's pop songs into the movie as they could whether they fit the story or not. Some spots were genius and worked very well but it was just too much and too constant. There was already enough going on with the look and fashions of the time period, it just felt excessive to have a constant barrage of songs piled on top. Again, this is very minor but is something that stuck out to me. I did hear someone on the way out of the theater telling their friend they would buy the soundtrack because of all the 80's music so maybe it was just me.

Th Verdict:
Bumblebee is a super fun, family friendly movie that works on every level. While the previous films in the franchise had their time and have their place, director Travis Knight and writer Christina Hodson have successfully transformed this series into something that is much more than meets the eye. Here's hoping the Autobots will be allowed to continue protecting the galaxy from Decepticons for years to come.

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