Franchise fatigue. This is what I felt after the third Transformers movie. The Bayhem can wear you down. So I wasn’t really keen on seeing another Transformers movie to be honest, especially since over the years, as each Transformers installment rolls out, the reviews seem to get more and more vicious each time. But I got curious because people started talking about how Bumblebee (2018) is different from Bay’s blow-em ups. Besides, I have always loved Hailee Steinfeld in all of the stuff she’s been in. So I thought sure, let’s give this a go.
First off, yes. Bumblebee (2018) is indeed different from Bay’s Transformers movies. The big explosions and bombastic action sequences have been reduced in quantity, in favor of lighthearted and sweet small moments of Bumblebee and his new human friend Charlie Watson (Hailee Steinfeld). Thank god. And the movie does shine the most during those particular small moments. They go on beach excursions, and forest walks, and road trips, and chill out in the garage. And I must say, I am a huge fan of the robot hugs. You might think, robot hugs?! Surely they must be cold and clammy! But no, Charlie and Bumblebee have the tenderest robot hugs that can make your heart grow 7 times bigger. There are a lot of fun physical comedy too, with Bee bumbling about like an adorable metal teddy bear. Those, for me, were the best parts.
Also I really love the old school look of the Autobots! It reminded me of the 80s cartoon! I went back to the Michael Bay movies and saw how busy (but quite detailed) the robot designs are. Their bodies are made of countless of gears. But with Bumblebee, you can see the VW Beetle’s headlights on his chest, and the tires on his back. So you can really see continuity from when he transforms from car to robot.
Now Bumblebee (2018), despite being a pretty good revamp of the franchise, features a a by the book story, and card board cutout characters. You have two beings coming together because they both feel out of place. Well, actually this one is fine, nothing wrong with a solid fish out of the water story when explored sufficiently. But I feel like they didn’t have time for this, and as a result, character development suffered. Charlie Watson in particular felt like a stereotypical misfit teen. A little nuance would have been welcome. Like say, how Hailee’s character was written in The Edge of Seventeen (2016). Okay, I know this movie is a Transformers movie and it is entitled Bumblebee. But people are saying how this is a good coming of age story, to which I disagree. Charlie’s story feels undercooked to me, hence I felt little empathy for her character. Her family feels like a sitcom family, and her love interest Memo (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) can be taken in and out of the story and it won’t matter one bit. He made for some great comic relief though, and he is a sweet lad. But yeah, he felt too much like an extra, dispensable appendage. I don’t mean that he be a male savior type, because we have had too much of those. But I wanted a more compelling and complimentary sidekick to Charlie Watson, that’s all. John Cena was being John Cena. I know he was trying to hold in his John Cenaness, but to me his hammy persona was still peeking through his portrayal of a villain. Besides where else can you go with dialogues like: “There is a door in my way!”
As for the Autobots and Decepticons story. It’s the usual, Decepticons thwarting Autobots, with humans getting entangled in the mess along the way. The fight scenes though are scaled down this time. Finally I can concentrate on the action sequences and appreciate it without the too loud sounds of clanging metal, and overblown pyrotechnics.
All in all it is a very wholesome, sweet, charming movie. Three adjectives that you would never thought would be associated with a Transformers film. It has taken inspiration from the 80’s Transformers animated series and offers a welcome respite from Michael Bay’s chaotic, carnage iterations. This is definitely a solid rebuilding of a franchise that has lost some steam over the years. Kids will love this (little niece was a happy camper) and the adults will find plenty of things to enjoy here.