Nostalgia Thrives, Originality Lacks in ‘Transformers’ Reboot ‘Bumblebee’


Based on an ‘80s animated TV series created to sell toys, Michael Bay’s Transformers big-screen series is nowhere near a collection of cinematic masterpieces. While the first few  installments were cheesy, they were always fun action flicks. Unfortunately, as time went on, the later additions declined greatly in not only quality but heart. With an absence of likable or relatable characters, the films just felt like a sloppy mess of robot fights, explosions, and hilariously terrible one liners – lacking the good old fun the first movies brought along.

Up and coming director Travis Knight sought out to refurbish the series’ name with Bumblebee, a prequel set in 1987, shining light on transformer Bumblebee’s origin.

The film opens on Cybertron, the home of the Transformers, as it is under attack from the Decepticons, their sworn rivals. Autobot B-127 is blasted into to California circa 1987, disturbing Army training led by typical macho, tough-guy portrayed by John Cena, and is pursued not only by the military, but by a determined Decepticon who destroys B-127’s voicebox, dislodges his memory, and strips him of his sense of purpose. In order to disguise himself, the Autobot transforms into a yellow Volkswagen Beetle.

Winding up in her uncle’s repair shop, the disguised Autobot is adopted by gearhead teenage Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld), who dubs him Bumblebee. The two make a cute pair; Charlie finding purpose in protecting Bumblebee after the loss of her father, and Bumblebee finding the same in a new friend. The duo is soon joined by quirky guy-next-door Memo – a comedic addition but ultimately someone whose entrance seems random and leaves little impact on the story. However, the interactions between the two high-schoolers, their robo car, and their peers – however corny – are a nice change of pace.

What really stands out about Bumblebee is that the military disappears for long stretches of the movie. However, every time John Cena’s smug face appears on screen, you end up pulling yourself out of the story and waiting to jump back into Charlie and Bee’s plotline. Succumbing to the simple and overused military-thinks-good-guys-are-really-bad-guys plot, the antagonists pairing up with the US government, and subsequently betraying them which leads to a huge final fight scene, is something audiences have seen over and over again in cheesy action movies.

This final fight scene, however predictable, was satisfying – even more so as the entire movie wasn’t littered with unnecessary robo-battle. Bumblebee and Charlie’s friendship is emphasized… and Memo is sorta there too.

Altogether, Bumblebee is a nostalgic movie for anyone who has followed the Transformers saga, and is an enjoyable enough choice for family movie night. It’s a new look on the series, and is undeniably better than recent installments, though lacks in originality in its plotline and many of its characters. In short: director Knight succeeds in raising the bar, but that’s not saying much when the bar is all but on the floor.

Final Rating: 3/5 Stars