Transformers is an interesting franchise. It started off as one of many toy franchises of the 80s that eventually got a cartoon. For those who live under a rock, the basic premise of Transformers is this: alien robots who can transform into any vehicle (and other things) and there’s a war between the Autobots, led by Optimus Prime, and the Decepticons, led by Megatron. Out of a sea of toy commercials disguised as cartoons in the 80s, Transformers was one of the few that lasted beyond the decade with various cartoons, comics, toy lines, and even movies. The animated movie from 1986 serves a bridge to the third season and a showcase for new toys. Even with that, it’s easily the best Transformers movie with great animation, a kickass score/soundtrack that is drenched in the 80s (seriously, The Touch is untouchable), and a MASSIVE body count where beloved characters die.
I bet there was a lot of crying kids in the theaters when this came out. Two decades later, in 2007, Paramount released the first live-adaptation, directed by Michael Bay. To tell you the truth, I enjoyed 2007’s Transformers. In spite of the overly-complicated designs of the bots and having all of the Michael Bay-isms that’s present in a lot of his movies, it was a fun dumb popcorn flick that’s perfectly fine to shut your brain off to. Then there’s the sequels, which seems to get dumber, longer, and more boring with each new installment and it’s pretty clear that Michael Bay doesn’t give a shit anymore. By the release of The Last Knight (a.k.a. the worst Transformers movie), critics and audiences were burned out from seeing the same shit over and over. If Paramount and Hasbro wanted people to be invested in Transformers again, they needed to do something new. This brings us to today’s subject matter, which serves as a prequel/soft reboot to the Michael Bay films and is focused on the most popular Autobot not named Optimus Prime. This is Bumblebee.
On Cybertron, the war between the Autobots and the Decepticons rage on. Bumblebee is sent to Earth to establish a new base for the Autobots. But he loses his memory and his ability to speak and he crosses path with a young girl named Charlie, who he befriends and learn about Earth. But the Decepticons have found their way to Earth and threatens the planet. This is a plot we’ve seen before where a kid befriends an alien or creature from another world and they learn something from each other and their friendship is threatened by the government or some evil entity. This goes all the way back to E.T. and The Iron Giant, but Bumblebee does this plot well. Plus, I am so happy that there’s a Transformers movie that doesn’t involve a MacGuffin that wasn’t mentioned before. I like the fact that this story takes place in the 80s since Transformers was a franchise that was born from that decade.
We’ll start with human characters first. I’ve always been annoyed by the human characters in the previous Transformers movies, but they’re an improvement. But even with good performances aside, most of the human characters were okay. There’s two characters who I thought were good: Charlie, an 18 year old girl who’s into cars and is played excellently by Haile Steinfeld, and Jack Burns, an agent of Sector 7 who’s played by…
I apologize. I just couldn’t pass up an opportunity to do this gag. John Cena was pretty good. With the right marketing and the right films, he could be the next Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, a wrestling icon and action movie star. Yeah, those are the only two human characters I cared about. Everyone else, meh. Now for the bots, starting with the titular character. In the beginning of the film, Bumblebee is able to talk and was voiced by Dylan O’Brien. He’s just like the Bumblebee we know from the Bayformers films, being unable to talk and bonding with a human. I like the relationship between Bumblebee and Charlie as the latter helps the former when he can’t speak and doesn’t remember anything. In terms of villains, there’s two Decepticons, Shatter (Angela Bassett) and Dropkick (Justin Theroux). They exist, I guess. Why couldn’t they just use Starscream or Soundwave for those roles, I don’t know.
You’re gonna have to pardon me on this one because I am about to go into full geek mode. *clears throat* HOLY SHIT, THE FIRST SCENE OF THIS MOVIE IS SO FRIGGIN’ AWESOME!! YOU GOT THE AUTOBOTS AND DECEPTICONS FIGHTING ON CYBERTRON AND THEY ALL LOOK LIKE HOW THEY LOOKED IN THE 80S CARTOON!! OPTIMUS PRIME LOOKS LIKE OPTIMUS PRIME AND IS VOICED ONCE AGAIN BY PETER CULLEN!! WHY COULDN’T THE BAYFORMERS MOVIES LOOK MORE LIKE THIS?!
*clears throat* Yeah. That first scene alone makes watching the movie worth it. This was made as a wink to the old-school Transformers fans, featuring cameos from a lot of fan favorites and even giving them their old designs back. The action is pretty good. You can see what’s going on and it’s not constant shaky cam and firework explosions everywhere. Giving the Transformers simpler designs helps a lot so you could tell who’s who and who you’re supposed to root for. Since Michael Bay isn’t directing (he is one of the producers though), none of the Bay-isms are there, which is only a good thing.
I give Bumblebee a strong 7/10. Easily the best live-action Transformers movie with a decent story, more likable characters, good action and special effects, and an 80s-esque soundtrack. I wouldn’t call this one of my favorite movies of last year, but I enjoyed it for what it is and what I hope it’ll do for future Transformers movies. This is what a live-action Transformers movie should be like.