Film Review: Bumblebee – 7/10

‘They literally call themselves Decepticons. That doesn’t set off any red flags?’

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It’s very (very, very) easy to mock super director Michael Bay and his love of breasts, explosions and aerial tracking shots, but it is also true that Armageddon is a great film. Not to mention The Rock and Bad Boys. Basically, I have a soft spot for the Baymeister General and I don’t care who knows it. I have mostly enjoyed the Transformers franchise but I had kind of left it behind with my refusal to sit through nearly three hours of Transformers: Age of Extinction. Nobody needs a Transformers movie to go on that long.

I approached Bumblebee with some trepidation then, being as it is, the first movie in the franchise that doesn’t have Michael Bay behind the camera. Relative newcomer Travis Knight takes over directorial duties and the result is the most streamlined and enjoyable Transformers movie in years. Knight manages to take easily the most annoying character in the franchise in Bumblebee and turn him into a broken and nuanced martyr for the Autobots noble cause. Heck, there were moments in this movie that I got a bit teary. Just a reminder that we are talking about a CGI robot that can transform into a car…

Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld) is suffering from all the usual Hollywood teenage problems. Dead mum. Neglected sporting prowess. Massive chuffing alien robot living in her garage. Steinfeld does a great job in grounding the more outlandish moments within Bumblebee and Jorge Lendeborg Jr also excels as comic relief and potential love interest Memo. John Cena and Pamela Adlon have a lot of fun as a hard nosed FBI agent and a worrying mother respectively and as an ensemble everything clicks together nicely.

Freed from the restrictive timeline of the other endless Transformers sequels (Bumblebee is actually a prequel set in 1987 – something that is reflected ostentatiously in the films soundtrack), Travis Knight and writer Christina Hodson are able to produce something that works as a standalone movie or as canon for a massive franchise and, in doing so, they have crafted the best Transformers entry since the first one. More importantly, I’m now officially back on board for these movies. If I can only get through Age of Extinction

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