Holy smokes. With Bumblebee, they’ve actually gone and made a decent Transformers flick. Granted, that’s a pretty low bar, so Bumblebee may sound like an achievement on par with, oh, say, someone’s having concocted an edible fruitcake, or someone’s rerecording and making something listenable out of Paul McCartney's “Wonderful Christmastime.”
In fact, this nostalgia-saturated prequel, set in 1987 and clearly in love with all things Transformers, is centered around a grief-stricken young mechanic and misfit Charlie (the excellent, entirely believable Hailee Steinfeld) and her need for a friend, in the "person" of the naive, childlike, genuinely touching Bee, whom she trains and with whom she deeply bonds. Think E.T. or Iron Giant. And that means the director, writer and cast inject a ton of heart and emotion into the big showpiece sequences involving giant robots and mass mayhem.
Virtually everything works in Bumblebee, which exposes the previous Transformer movies for the empty, disposable trash they were.
Virtually everything works in Bumblebee, including some smashing action sequences that have characters and relationships at their core, something that only exposes the previous Transformer movies for the empty, disposable trash they were. The Decepticon villains Shatter (Angela Bassett) and Dropkick (Justin Theroux) are diabolically, enjoyably nasty, but even they are overshadowed by the comedic chops of the scene-stealing John Cena, who is as transcendently '80s a macho, dim-witted, alien-hating soldier-hero as they come. If Bumblebee is the new direction in which future Transformer films are headed, then count me among the converts.
- We're abuzz about the franchise having transformed into a leaner, character-driven and altogether delightful one
- Either you're in the mood for a movie about robots causing chaos, or you're not