In the year 1987, a galactic war on the planet Cybertron is unfolding between the heroic Autobots and villainous Decepticons. The Autobots alert on of their kind, Bumblebee, to travel to Earth to alert the citizens of the danger that could soon come to their world, and to hide. On this planet lives a teenage girl named Charlie Watson (Steinfeld) who has a deep passion for cars and repairing them. It’s not long until she finds out the true nature of this Volkswagen Beetle and goes on a journey to protect Bumblebee from the threats of the Decepticons and Agent Jack Burns (Cena).
This is the sixth instalment in the long-running Transformers film franchise, and without a doubt it’s the best yet. All but a few of the issues we had with the other entries have been addressed and erased here, director Travis Knight opting for a much more grounded and charming story, free of the absurd seriousness that plagued its predecessors. Charlie is also the franchise’s best protagonist, and one that actually makes you care for her plight. Early on, we learn that her father has passed away, and witness her struggle with loneliness. Her younger brother Otis (Drucker) seems to be getting all the attention around the house which makes her feel even less appreciated. Almost everything in her life is terrible for her, so when the bond between her and Bumblebee begins to blossom, it feels so natural you begin to cherish the moments the two spend together. Her character is layered, and as the story progresses the more we get to learn about her. It’s also quite a humorous film too, with many moments landing especially well. While most of these are good, clean fun, there are a couple of gags that feel out of place, occasionally steering into Michael Bay territory by being inappropriately sexualised.
Something to really appreciate with Bumblebee is the action sequences. With Bay’s five Transformers pictures, they all seemed to rely solely on those set-pieces to win audiences over in hopes they would forget about an actual story. This time around, the story comes first. Whenever we do see Transformers going head-to-head with one another, it feels remarkably visceral and intense.
Occasionally, the narrative can be a bit jumpy, especially in the first act. We transition from quite a few locations in a short space of time and it’s quite jarring for the audience. Sadly, Cena’s character Agent Burns isn’t a compelling villain here either, trope-ridden as he is.
Brimming with fun and charming scenes, a compelling story, and a great hero in Hailee Steinfeld, Bumblebee is a joyride of a film. Way more than meets the eye.
DIRECTOR: TRAVIS KNIGHT | SCREENPLAY: CHRISTINA HODSON | STARRING: HAILEE STEINFELD, JOHN CENA, JORGE LENDEBORG JR., JOHN ORTIZ, JASON DRUCKER, PAMELA ADLON | RELEASE DATE: DECEMBER 24TH (PREVIEWS DECEMBER 15TH + 16TH)