‘Bumblebee’ Saves the ‘Transformers’ Franchise from Mediocrity

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Published December 11, 2018
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The Montclarion
"Bumblebee" is a prequel set in the '80s starring Hailee Steinfeld, who discovers the transformer Bumblebee who crash-lands on Earth. Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures

“Bumblebee” marks the sixth entry in the “Transformers” franchise. Last year’s “Transformers: The Last Knight” was a complete disaster, both critically and financially. The “Transformers” are in dire need of a miracle to re-establish the franchise and bring it back from the grave. “Bumblebee” just might be the shot of adrenaline the franchise needs.

“Bumblebee” takes audiences back to 1987, the first time the Transformers arrive on Earth. Bumblebee is sent to Earth to examine the planet’s condition for the Autobots to travel for safety. Right as Bumblebee arrives, two Decepticons, Shatter, played by Angela Bassett, and Dropkick, played by Justin Theroux, land as well. They are tasked with destroying him.

Bumblebee hides out as a Volkswagon Buggie and is picked up by the 18-year-old Charlie, played by Hailee Steinfeld, who quickly discovers the true identity of her new car. The human and Autobot quickly form a friendship and must stop the Decepticons from contacting their homeland before Earth is declared a battlefield for their war.

The storyline for “Bumblebee” is very similar to the first live-action “Transformers” movie, with a young teen getting a new car that turns out to be the hidden Bumblebee in disguise. Similar to another soft reboot with “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “Bumblebee” reuses similar beats and story elements from its original film to show audiences the filmmakers can make a quality “Transformers” movie again. Just like how “Star Wars” needed to redeem themselves from the prequels, “Bumblebee” had to restructure itself as a quality “Transformers” movie.

Director Travis Knight proves to be an amazing choice to take over the directing duties of Michael Bay. Knight brings so much heart and creativity to his work that really shows onscreen. He knows exactly how to translate what audiences loved about the original toys and cartoon to the big screen.

Everything from the designs to the storyline is respectfully simplified for anyone to easily follow. Gone are the complicated designs of the dozens of Transformers shoved onscreen that made them look like a pile of trash and the complex narrative that takes a notebook and two and a half hours in order to follow.

“Bumblebee” is a simple tale reminiscing the likes of “E.T.” and “The Iron Giant,” of a human discovering an alien/robot that has to be protected from the government trying to dissect it, along with trying to get the creature back to where it belongs. This streamlined narrative is a welcome change that is entertaining to follow and allows more time for the well-choreographed action and genuinely humorous, heartfelt moments.

Steinfeld is an amazing leading human character to interact with Bumblebee. She is a rebellious teen, but still respectful and relatable. All the human characters are well-written and humanized compared to the over-the-top characters from previous installments. Any scene that feels like it’s going to be cringey turns out to be a genuinely hilarious or heartfelt moment that will completely win you over.

The movie is disappointing though with its appearance of Optimus Prime, whose role comes off as being stiff and forgettable. While the “Transformers” brand has been redeemed with “Bumblebee,” Optimus Prime still has a way to go before he’s allowed back on top with the rest.

“Bumblebee” is a return to form for the franchise, with visually stunning effects, an entertaining storyline, genuinely humorous moments and plenty of heart to go around. It’s finally acceptable to be a “Transformers” fan again after so many mediocre movies over the past decade.

This is the direction the franchise needs to go, with Knight leading it all. This is a great movie to see this holiday season that will win you over with its emotional moments and exciting action.

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