Bumblebee: Movie Review (Spoiler Free)


Photo credit to IMDb

Promotional poster for Bumblebee.

Nicholas Silva, Layout Editor

Transformers have existed for decades, and every so often Hasbro decides to make a new movie or television show based around the normally successful franchise. Over the last decade, the IP has been dominated by Michael Bay’s explosion based films. However, after the blockbuster fail of “The Last Knight”, Hasbro decided to hand the mantel to a new director, award-winning Travis Knight. The decision was made to look back in the franchise’s history, and focus on narrative rather than action. As noble as this may be, it did raise issues of their own.

“Bumblebee” begins during the War for Cybertron, a massive part of the Transformers backstory that has only been granted a cursory series of mentions in the previous films. It follows Bumblebee as he is sent to earth, in an effort to establish a base to save fleeing Autobots (the good guys) from the Decepticons (the bad guys).

Fast forward to 1987, when we are reintroduced to Sector Seven, the secret alien fighting task force seen in 2007’s “Transformers”. This is where things get odd, and start to support the popular theory that “Bumblebee” is not a prequel -as it has been marketed- but a spin-off. In “The Last Knight”, a short scene focused around Bumblebee being present on earth during WWII, fighting with the allies. In “Bumblebee”, no one seems to know what the transformers are, and there is certainly no indication that Bumblebee has been hiding, in fact, he is seen rocketing from space to earth. Regardless, the modern Transformers universe is full of continuity errors, and this does not detract from this movie itself and helps it flow in a natural feeling way.

The movie largely follows the exploits of teenager Charlie Watson, a young girl mourning the loss of her father. Her wish: to fix the car that they always worked on together. Over the next lengthy segment of the movie, we see as she turns eighteen, and -like Sam Witwicky in “Transformers”- finds Bumblebee tucked away in an unassuming location, under the guise of a Volkswagen Beetle. Now begins the long road of humorous -but long-winded- adventures that mostly revolve around hiding Bumblebee from her parents, with the help of her neighbor, energetic and lovestruck Memo.

Along the way, the audience also sees snippets of the Sector Seven operative Agent Burns, played by John Cena. Burns is forced by his superiors to allow a pair of Decepticon enforcers -claiming to be galactic peacekeepers- full access to S7 files, and the ability to hunt down Bumblebee. This is pretty much all of the action for most of the movie after the first ten minutes.

With that in mind, a certain fact is clear. Some movies suffer from a lack of character development -possibly even the later Transformers movies. “Bumblebee”, however, suffers from a surplus of character development, many of the attempts becoming repetitive. The heavy exposition dulls the movie and traps it in a molasses-paced crawl.

However, within the last half hour or so, the movie picks up and finds Bumblebee and Charlie faced with a nefarious Decepticon plot to put an end to Optimus Prime, the Autobot leader. There is a far more elegant battle between Bumblebee and the two Decepticons he encounters, and focuses on brawn more than guns, with wrestling perhaps inspired by the career of John Cena.

The end, sort of mid-credit scene that pops up soon after the movie closes, however, raises some problems continuity-wise and is perhaps the most clear-cut indication that “Bumblebee” is not a prequel, but a reboot, seeing more Autobots arriving on earth, ahead of their previously established arrival in 2007.

Finally, Travis Knight decided to -despite Hasbro’s offerings- to stick to a more classic appearance for the transformers, and not the modern design made by Michael Bay. Almost all of the original transformers that appeared in the movie appeared in their Generation One -or original animated form- such as Soundwave, Optimus Prime, and of course Bumblebee. This nostalgic feel was very much welcome and helped to offset some of the shortcomings of the movie. There were also many other Easter eggs hidden throughout the film, but not as many as might be expected.

Regardless, “Bumblebee” was a rather good movie, and fulfilled its role fairly well, whether it turns out to simply be a prequel or the flagship of a new era of Transformers movies. Either way, hopefully, more movies are made based in this era, perhaps with just a touch less character development.