Action Adventure

Review: ‘Bumblebee’ is a ‘Transformers’ Film That’s Full of Heart

December 17, 2018Rattan Mutti

After five iterations of Transformers movies directed by Michael Bay, Paramount and Lorenzo Di Bonaventura assembled a writers room to spearhead the franchise in a new direction. From the writer's room came a story that would chronicle the origin of the fan favorite Bumblebee, with director Travis Knight and screenwriter Christina Hodson crafting this '80s-centric film in the form of the tale of a girl and her beloved dog.

Bumblebee tells the tale of the titular robot, who has fled his home planet of Cybertron in order to protect the planet he is assigned to — Earth. After crash-landing, he is forced into hiding before he is then taken in by Charlie Watson (Hailee Steinfeld), who quickly realizes that they both need each other more than they realize. As the pair are hunted by the government agency Sector 7, led by Agent Burns (John Cena), Bumblebee and Charlie soon learn that Bee isn't the only Transformer on Earth.

The combination of Knight, Hodson and Steinfeld makes for a group of creatives that have taken the movie into a different and interesting path. Knight strips down the pomp and circumstance that has been associated with previous Transformers films, and he and Hodson focus in on the character of Bumblebee himself, tackling it from an entirely unique vantage point compared to the earlier entries. They also choose to uphold the tradition of Bumblebee's voice, or lack thereof, for most of the movie, allowing him to learn how to communicate via his radio along the way, as he goes on a journey alongside Charlie.

Steinfeld's star has been rising for some time now, from True Grit to The Edge of Seventeen. Here, she plays a character that has experienced tragedy, which makes her off-putting to others and an outcast. But as she meets Bee, she slowly warms up and opens herself to the rest of the world. Steinfeld's ability to play off of nothing and make it seems plausible is remarkable, and the relationship that she and Knight are able to craft between Charlie and Bee is what makes the film tick. Another standout actor is Cena, for as much as it seems as if he is going to play the typical mustache-twirling villain, he does not. Instead, Knight is able to subvert the stereotypes while also recognizing those tropes, and Cena's delivery is impeccable, making him much more memorable than most villains.

Knight puts his own stamp on the film and breathes life into a franchise that was in dire need of it. Within the first seven minutes of the movie, he sucks you into his telling of the saga of the Transformers. His take on the destruction of Cybertron is breathtaking, vibrant and much-needed, and he also strips down the excess details of the robots' transformations, bringing a refreshing G1 aesthetic to the visual look of the film.

All in all, Bumblebee conjures up a new and exciting direction in which to take future Transformers movies. The film has ample heart and harkens back to the Amblin movies of the '80s, proving that there is still a place on the big screen for these robots in disguise.

Bumblebee releases December 21st, 2018 from Paramount Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action violence. Its runtime is 1 hr. 53 min.

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