See it just to hear John Cena say “saddle up b*tches, we’re going to Texas”.
Synopsis: On the run in the year of 1987, Bumblebee finds refuge in a junkyard in a small Californian beach town. Charlie, on the cusp of turning 18 and trying to find her place in the world, discovers Bumblebee, battle-scarred and broken. (Paramount Pictures)
Starring: Hailee Steinfeld, John Cena, and Jorge Lendeborg Jr.,
Writer: Christina Hodson
Director: Travis Knight
Rating: PG (Canada)/PG-13 (United States)
Running Time: 113mins
These days, it’s rare to see audiences completely turn on a franchise, but the Transformers franchise has that kind of notoriety, at least in North America. They’ve made Michael Bay a household name, perhaps for the wrong reasons, polarizing audiences along the way. With this film’s potential weekend box office earnings tracking at only a fraction of what the previous films have done on their opening weekends, some fans may not be exciting about its prospects. Thankfully, Bumblebee strays away from the norm, and sets itself out to be a unique and heartfelt throwback that gives audiences what they want out of this franchise – something fresh. There’s so much here that makes it feel fresh, unlike the usual schlock.
To begin, the cast does a great job of bringing a new, heartfelt angle to the series. Hailee Steinfeld is a great actress and she was no different here. Her character Charlie is a true emotional draw, and effectively becomes the center of attention – and a damn great one at that. The supporting characters were also great. Jorge Lendeborg Jr. in particular has been on a roll as of late, taking the role of Nemo, the familiar but well delivered awkward kid with the crush on the main character.
The 1980s setting only elevates the film as a whole – the music, sets, costumes and all are immaculate. Having this be a period piece wasn’t just for novelty’s sake as it adds a layer of atmosphere that simply wouldn’t be there otherwise. The references to all our favorite elements from 80s culture like The Breakfast Club and Rick Astley often feel obvious, but they still remain extremely difficult to resist.
Finally, and most notably, the big strong point here is the unique direction taken here. It’s not a traditional action film / Michael Bay firework fest, but instead a deeper story about friendship and being a fish out of water, in the vein of films like E.T and The Iron Giant. This was a really brave choice by the studio and thus should be saluted for bending genres in a way that we haven’t really seen before.
Just like in past Transformers films, there are still problems that arise from the film’s last 30ish minutes. This time is seemingly always reserved just for explosion after explosion and this headache provoking nonsense once again only proved to be fully uninteresting and felt incredibly out of place with the rest of the film. In addition, the dialogue also felt unnatural at times, but this can be forgivable since it was intended to be of a schlocky nature.
The last few Transformers films have been open to plenty of flack, but director Travis Knight is well aware of the audiences’ many issues and as a result, turns Bumblebee into an entertaining, heartfelt and different take on the norms that we’ve come to expect from this polarizing franchise.