Anyone who played the Transformers War or Fall of Cybertron games will be in for a treat in the opening act of Bumblebee the Movie. I heard about the buzz and still had a bit of trepidation with the designs. I’m glad I was wrong and when I found time to see this film, not only did it take on familiar tones from How to Train Your Dragon in the relationship of a troubled young girl and her “pet” car but also, the nostalgia play was bang on. Anyone who saw Transformers: The Movie (1984) will know what I am talking about.
This latest live-action installment starts at the said planet, and the cameos of each important Autobot and Decepticon look glorious in their generation one forms. The fight feels lifted from the games and has better wear and tear to them. Though I never finished playing these games, this movie is enough to re-ignite my interest in this live-action franchise and hope for more. Not only are the mecha designs simpler, but also there is a story I can relate to.
Since this film will eventually tie into Michael Bay‘s films, some ideas are kept consistent. To assume they pick up more plates to their shape is mildly disturbing. He is executive producing this work and is thankfully hands off. B-127 is the robot’s designation before getting his more familiar name of Bumblebee. This origin tale works far better than the earlier works since it’s focussed on one character than many. He’s on a mission to establish a base before the team heads there. But his entry has the locals shaken but not stirred. Colonel Jack Burns (John Cena) has an ax to grind because the alien landing was hardly smooth and he’s the type to shoot first and ask questions later.
There is a quick fight where the Decepticons traced B-127’s ship. How he lost his voice is revealed, and to see him adapt to Terran life shifts the focus of the film from the ‘bot to the human, Charlie Watson (Hailee Steinfeld). The later acts have an E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial feel to it. Speilberg may have had a closer hand to crafting the finished film than previous. Different though, is in how brutal some of the fight scenes get. To see any robot die keeps it close to Bay’s vision; whether they can come back depends if their Allspark is not fully distinguished. I feel sorry for Cliffjumper in this film; he gets no break. I still remember his death scenes from Transformers Prime, where he dies twice. May the Allspark preserve his soul.
Interestingly, Steve Blum (the voice of Starscream in the Prime series), gets credit as Wheeljack. This brief role is amusing, and should he get brought back in future live-action films, I would love to see him voice this jet over recasting or getting Charlie Adler (from the Bay films) to return. I intend no offense to this fine actor; he’s just not the version of Starscream I love. Blum is the true successor to the role Chris Latta made famous. His moment and the importance of this character needs an expansion!
Whether this Bumblebee the Movie acts as a soft reboot to this franchise or not, I enjoyed this film more than the past works. The studio has not announced how the series will go forward. Preserving the continuity will be difficult unless time travel or alternate timelines is part of the equation. The fifth film saw Bumblebee fighting in WW1 and the series did have both sides find themselves transported to the time of King Arthur (“A Decepticon Raider in King Arthur’s Court”). The Autobot Perceptor would have to become part of the live-action series or Wheeljack, the mechanical engineer. Either will do. Nearly every story involving hopping around time requires a loopy scientist to explain how jumping around time works, and either character fits the bill perfectly.
4 Stars out of 5