It seems like only yesterday that so many of us ‘80s and ‘90s kids were getting hugely excited at the prospect of Michael Bay bringing the beloved Robots-in-Disguise to big-screen life. Only for Michael Bay to go full Michael Bay and centre the franchise on excessive explosions, monotonous paint-by-numbers plots, dire dialogue, soulless CGI battles, Transformers that were near-impossible to tell apart, and shot after shot of Megan Fox’s backside. After five movies that varied from passable to utter horseshit, it’s now down to the ‘80s-set Bumblebee to try and get this disappointing franchise moving in the right direction.
Straight from the off, Bumblebee will have long-time Transformers fans on side for the sheer fact that the opening sequence takes place on a war-torn Cybertron that houses a fight between Autobots and Decepticons that, y’know, actually look like the Autobots and Decepticons that we know and love. With the odds leaning in favour of the bad guys, Optimus Prime gives the order for B-127 – that’d be Bumblebee – to head to Earth and lay the foundations for a base of operations where the Autobots can assess their situation. Unfortunately for Bumblebee, he’s soon stranded on Earth with no voice and no memory but with a new BFF in tow. That BFF is troubled teen Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld), who nabs herself what she believes to be a regular Volkswagen Beetle. Little does she know the adventure that she’s about to become entangled in, as Decepticons loom large and the military is out to take down what they deem an alien threat.
In Bumblebee, those who grew up with the animated offerings of the 1980s have the Transformers movie that they’ve been longing for. Full of fun, feelings and fist-pumping adrenaline, this is a film that even the most hardened, miserable soul will find hard not to enjoy. Simply put, Bumblebee is a thrill-ride, an emotional roller-coaster, and a timely reminder that a film doesn’t have to be po-faced and chin-stroke-inducing to be a great movie. And trust us, Bumblebee is an utterly great popcorn picture that will appeal to a whole host of generations. That’s not to say it’s all-out action here, for part of the charm of Bumblebee is that it serves as a scaled-back character piece of sorts. The minimal amount of Transformers featured and the laser-pointed focus on so few characters works magically as the film conjures up a movie that is a complete joy. Many might lambast the film for wearing its plentiful influences so loud and proud, but the end result is a film that evokes memories of times when we were all a little less cynical, of times when hope was in the air, and of times when Bon Jovi, The Smiths and Simple Minds were running wild.
Where the performances on display are concerned, Hailee Steinfeld is an absolute delight as the anchor of the film. As the troubled teen who finds some solace in the unlikeliest of places – an alien robot who can transform into a car – Steinfeld nails a varied bag of emotions, and her performance here again highlights her out as somebody to seriously keep your eye on. Alongside her as Charlie’s burgeoning love interest, Jason Drucker brings a brilliant level of teenage awkwardness and heartfelt humour, while John Cena as the military man on their tail gets some fantastic one-liners that are ideal for the ‘80s landscape of Bumblebee. And, of course, Peter Cullen’s dulcet tones are always guaranteed to put a smile on audiences’ faces as Optimus Prime, not to mention some good work from Dylan O’Brien as the minimally-used voice of the titular ‘Bee.
For the 4K release of Bumblebee, the film gets given an even bigger wow factor, not least in the sharpness and detail on display in the movie’s stunning Cybertron-set opening. Simply put, this is the sort of film that the 4K format was made for; the vibrant and sunny Earth action popping from the screen, while the battle sequences are crisper and cleaner than anything seen in the Transformers franchise to date.
It may have taken a while to get here, but finally – finally! – fans have the Transformers movie that they deserve.
Special Features: The Story of Bumblebee / The Stars Align / Bumblebee Goes Back to G1
BUMBLEBEE – 4K / CERT: PG / DIRECTOR: TRAVIS KNIGHT / SCREENPLAY: CHRISTINA HODSON / STARRING: HAILEE STEINFELD, JORGE LENDEBORG JR., JOHN CENA, JASON DRUCKER, DYLAN O’BRIEN, PETER CULLEN / RELEASE DATE: MAY 13TH