Transformers started off as a visually impressive but cheesy animated television series, along with a feature animated film in the 80s, it then grew into five franchise films. It’s amazing that we finally get a live-action Transformers film, that’s not only technically efficient but also full of heart and sincerity.
This is after having to suffer through a bloated, dull and disenchanting live-action film franchise over the past eleven years. The prequel Bumblebee helps us to forget about the Michael Bay atrocity franchise that damaged the legacy of the Hasbro Toy line-up. Michael Bay’s approach introduced disappointed audiences to a world of cynicism, female characters that were there only to be on display for the sex appeal, and generally an all-out mean-spirited tone. Bumblebee instead gives us a world of likeable characters, well-orchestrated action set pieces and just an applaudable sense of respect for its audience.
The story takes place before the Michael Bay entries during the 1980s, when the Autobot’s home planet Cybertron is under attack by the malicious Decepticons, heir long-lasting rivals. Optimus Prime, the Autobot’s leader sets out a task for our protagonist B-127 to escape to Planet Earth and make base before they arrive there. He does so and whilst crash landing into California he is greeted with hostility by Sector 7 agent Jack Burns who is played by John Cena.
B-127 narrowly escapes but a technical injury causes his memory to escape him and is taken in by the film’s other protagonist Charlie Watson, played by Hailee Steinfeld. Charlie is a troubled youth who initiates an instant bond with B-127 whom she names Bumblebee. Whilst dealing with her troubled home life, she helps Bumblebee to regain his memory and to protect each other from the burdening Decepticons and Earth’s top paranoid agents.
Gone is Michael Bay’s unsubtle directorial hand and incomes director Travis Knight, whose previous credits have been primarily films of stop-motion animation at the Studio Laika. He has given us the absolutely wonderful Kubo and the Two Strings. Here Knight attempts to showcase his love of imaginative storytelling and bring a sense of fun and heart that wasn’t showcased in the p
The creative influences are no exception here as the unusual bond between Steinfeld’s character and Bumblebee feel very reminiscent of the works of Steven Spielberg and noticeably ET. The film also makes great use of its soundtrack deftly worked in and allowing the audience to feel there within the period. It doesn’t feel like a tribute act or an obvious riff of the period but just to simply place us within that time and guide us through.
Hailee Steinfeld is excellent in the role and her character not only manages to be funny but also relatable to younger audiences through a great sense of humility. The action sequences where the robots are fighting each other do not feel mind-numbing and feel the need to take up a huge part of the running time, they are sparse and dare I say it quite thrilling.
If I had any issue with the film at all it would be the characters on John Cena’s side of the story. The human antagonists don’t have much depth and only serve a purpose just to be either ignorant or move the plot forward. But this didn’t hinder my experience hugely with the film. With a great sense of fun and adventure, loveable central characters and without any smear of cynicism or ill-advised seg-ways. The film was a delight and proof that life and fun can be had with the Transformers saga.