Wait, is this getting that weird horror treatment, where somehow the prequel is a far superior film than the original, a la the Annabelle and Ouija movies?
The story looks like it’s about Bumblebee who is on the run from Decepticons, who manage to convince the human military that Bumblebee is the bad guy. While on the run, Bumblebee encounters a human girl and they strike up a friendship before they come to blows with the bad guys.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Hailee Steinfeld (SPIDER-MAN/SPIDER-VERSE , PITCH PERFECT 2  and 3 , EDGE/17 , and BEGIN AGAIN ), John Cena (BLOCKERS , THE WALL , SISTERS , and upcoming films PLAYING WITH FIRE  and PROJECT X-TRACTION ), John Ortiz (PEPPERMINT , KONG: SKULL ISLAND , FINEST HOURS , FAST & FURIOUS  and 6 , and upcoming films REPLICAS  and AD ASTRA ), Jorde Lendeborg (LOVE SIMON , BRIGSBY BEAR , and the upcoming ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL ), and Len Cariou (DEATH WISH  and SPOTLIGHT ).
Lending their voices, we have Dylan O’Brien (Maze Runners SCORCH TRIALS  and DEATH CURE , AMERICAN ASSASSIN , DEEPWATER HORIZON , and the upcoming THE EDUCATION OF FREDERICK FITZELL ), Justin Theroux (SPY/DUMPED ME , LEGO NINJAGO , GIRL/TRAIN , CHARLIE’S ANGELS: FULL THROTTLE , and the upcoming ON THE BASIS OF SEX ), Angela Bassett (MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT , OLYMPUS  and LONDON HAS FALLEN , and the upcoming OTHERHOOD ), Grey Griffin (BATMAN NINJA , STAR WARS: BATTLEFRONT II , and the upcoming video game MORTAL KOMBAT 11 ), and Peter Cullen (TRANSFORMERS 5 ).
Now for the crew. Directing, we have Travis Knight, known for KUBO/2 STRINGS (2016). Penning the screenplay is Christina Hodson, known for UNFORGETTABLE (2017). Two of the producers are Michael Bay (FIRST PURGE , OUIJA: ORIGIN , and the upcoming 6 UNDERGROUND ) and Steven Spielberg (FIRST MAN , JURASSIC WORLD , MEN IN BLACK , 2 , and 3 , and upcoming films THE TURNING  and MEN IN BLACK INTERNATIONAL ). Composing the score is Dario Marianelli, known for PADDINGTON 2 (2018), DARKEST HOUR (2017), KUBO/2-STRINGS, EVEREST (2015), and THE BOXTROLLS (2014). The cinematographer is Enrique Chediak, known for AMERICAN ASSASSIN, 5TH WAVE (2016), and the upcoming THE SWORD IN THE STONE (2019). Finally, the editor is Paul Rubell, known for FATE/FURIOUS (2017), 5TH WAVE, and THOR (2011).
Overall, I don’t want to have high hopes, but I do. It’s not Bay-directed, it stars Steinfeld, who is a treasure even in her worst movies, which she’s never done anything downright bad. I like the talent they’ve roped in, both in front of the camera and behind it, plus some stellar reviews from critics and audiences (aside from Angry Joe), but… man, a prequel Transformers movie is the best one? Why?! Whatever, so long as it’s good, I’ll take it.
This is my honest opinion of: BUMBLEBEE
The war on Cybertron between the Autobots and Decepticons has forced Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) and his Autobots to leave their planet. Prime has tasked Bumblebee (voiced by Dylan O’Brien) to travel to the planet Earth to establish a base there. However, he didn’t arrive alone, and was attacked by a Decepticon, resulting in his voice box’s destruction and his memory core damaged.
Set in 1987, Charlie Watson (Hailee Steinfeld) is an eighteen year old young woman, talented with repairing cars, who is struggling with the death of her father and growing increasingly bothered by how much her mother Sally (Pamela Adlon) has moved on in her new marriage with Ron (Stephen Schneider) and his son Otis (Jason Drucker). On her birthday, the owner of the mechanic shop where she works gives her the new yellow Volkswagen Beetle, not knowing that it’s Bumblebee in disguise until she brings him home and a friendship begins. At the same time, Decepticon agents Shatter (voiced by Angela Bassett) and Dropkick (voiced by Justin Theroux) arrive on Earth and begin hunting Bumblebee.
Hell yeah, this movie rocked. Finally, not just a good Transformers movie, but the best one made since the first one over ten years ago.
You wanna know what this franchise was missing? Characters. Real characters. Don’t get me wrong, Shia LeBeouf was entertaining enough in the first flick, but wore out his welcome in the sequels. The problem is that he was a character that was fairly one-note. He didn’t have a whole lot of emotional depth. Energetic and looked good in action, but hardly Shakespearean. Now don’t get me wrong, Charlie isn’t at that level either, but the difference is that she doesn’t feel like she’s that one entertaining character in a bad cartoon, Charlie feels like a character in a dramatic movie that we’re supposed to take seriously. The best part is that you do, in no small part to Steinfeld’s performance. Christ, this woman’s going to go places. but it’s true. Steinfeld is the most legit actor in this movie. Charlie, herself, isn’t exactly a new character who is acting out because her dad died, but in anyone else’s hands, the performance would come off as bratty and unlikable. But there’s a legit vulnerability that Steinfeld brings to Charlie that makes you empathize with her. Not necessarily agree with the way she reacts to everyone else’s happiness, but understand why she’s not on the band wagon. But as the story goes on, she does have an arc of acceptance and is willing to give herself a new chance at being happy.
Who would have figured that even one of the Transformers has some character to them? Any fan of the cartoons, actually, but based on the live-action movies, this is a huge step up. Bumblebee’s performance is strictly in the expressions. While I will always enjoy the notion that O’Brien was briefly the voice actor, I’m glad the movie went this route. He lends his way to some fun comedy when it comes to him and Charlie laying out the ground rules of who can know and who can’t about him. Sure, they do that thing where he pokes and prods at things that he’s curious about and causes pandemonium, but it’s still done in a charming enough way that it makes it humorous for his character. It doesn’t make him original, but it makes him fun. One of my favorite scenes is when Bee is instructed to throw eggs at Tina’s (Gracie Dzienny) car and as Charlie and Memo cheer him on, Bee gets so into it that he sporadically start smashing it. By God, I couldn’t stop laughing.
Even the villains, Shatter and Dropkick, aren’t slouches in the “good villains” department. Again they’re not anything in depth or overly three-dimensional, but there is an intimidation factor to them. Upon arrival to Earth, they straight murder a pair of innocent humans. Well, okay, they were white-trash cheaters and not very likeable people, but it was still pretty callous. Even before arriving to Earth, they tortured an Autobot and killed him via a clean vertical slice down the head. Dude, that was brutal, even for a movie like this. I loved it.
John Cena gets a laugh out of me. During that training exercise with that soldier who gets caught in that trap and Burns sarcastically shoots him several times with his paintball gun on “accident,” claiming it’s a malfunction in the trigger. The timing is so great. I also appreciate that he’s not completely one-dimensional. Unlike previous bad guy soldiers who are just assholes because… assholes, Agent Burns at least watched his men get killed by the Transformers. I mean, I think it’s still an outdated character trait to not acknowledge context, as it’s not like Bee had a whole lot of control when he came crashing to Earth. I get that a lot of commanding officers with men under their command aren’t thrilled to see any of them die, especially in a noncombative situation. But to make the matter worse by pursuing a completely unknown threat that overpowers him, further risking the lives of the men still alive, additional deaths are your responsibility, especially without expressed commands from his own C.O’s to attack. But at least he has his own arc and I appreciate that.
Here’s a small list of smaller positives.
- An actual battle on Cybertron? Hell yeah!
- The soundtrack is awesome.
- Wait, the Transformers can transform just parts of them? Like, so they can fit through doorways and stuff? I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but I kind of am. And I like it.
But, as previously stated, this movie isn’t great, so let’s tackle the reasons why.
What is with these movies and annoying parents? Man, this movie had me for so long and then it started losing me when we’re introduced to Charlie’s mom and step-dad. The guy gives her a self-help book about smiling and goes on a painfully unfunny tangent about it. Even when they start contributing to the plot, it’s not until the final act, and even then the step-dad isn’t funny. And if he wasn’t bad enough, there’s a random-ass romantic interest for Charlie that doesn’t fully come into the film until the halfway point. This would be fine if Memo (yes, that’s really his name) was an interesting, or well-written character, but… nope, he’s a recycled Sam Witwicky without Shia’s charm from the original. He’s a nerd, but not an assertive or sarcastic one. He ogles Charlie more like a creeper than a dude who’s smitten. Most of his dialog is him trying to be funny, but it just doesn’t work out. Again, why does there need to be socially awkward people in these movies? Why can’t people just talk and act like normal people? I don’t blame Lendeborg Jr. for this, of course, but the material is horrendously outdated.
Please tell me I’m not the only one who disliked Memo. Don’t get me wrong I think Jorge Lendeborg Jr. is a pretty good actor, as I’m familiar with him from BRIGSBY BEAR, but his socially awkward geeky character was not charming. Granted, as far as annoying characters in the Transformers movies go, he might as well be Hamlet, but he still wasn’t fun as Charlie’s romantic interest, especially since he only appears full-time halfway into the movie with little cameos here and there.
Can we all agree that there are still some dumb-ass moments in this movie? I love John Ortiz as an actor, but his character, Dr. Powell, is so God-damned stupid. Hey, anyone who encounters intelligent alien life would be excited, but being excited about giving them access to satellites, weapons, and a staggering amount of our technological resources is extremely unwise, especially since the Transformers are LIVING TECHNOLOGY WHO ARE CENTURIES MORE ADVANCED!!! Even though General Whalen (Glynn Turman) is only appeasing the Decepticons to learn of Bee’s location like they are and just biding his time to destroy them, this is still dumb.
And a small list of smaller negatives.
- Why do Transformers need keyes in their ignitions?
- I really disliked how the movie is put on hold to showcase some one-dimensional bullies. This movie was doing a great job without that detour. Why start now?
Overall, this is a breath of fresh air for this franchise that it’s needed since the first installment. It’s got solid characters, great comedy and drama, action that I can actually follow, and opens itself up to a reboot that I am totally behind. By no means a perfect film, as there’s definitely room for improvement. I can do away with annoying parents, stupid military, and unearned romances. Still, for all of its flaws it’s still an immensely enjoyable film, and so long as the writing is on par with what we got here, then bring on more movies like this. As a recommendation, I think this is a must-see for anyone who’s wanted a true Transformers movie.
My honest rating for BUMBLEBEE: 4/5
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