‘Bumblebee’ (Film)

‘BUMBLEBEE’

Please feel free to comment on my review.

Bumblebee and Charlie Watson

This is arguably the best ‘Transformers’ movie in the entire live-action film series so far. 🙂

‘Bumblebee’ is a movie that made me interested in the ‘Transformers’ film series again. Somehow, I didn’t think that would be possible. After seeing three underwhelming efforts and missing out on two likewise similar cases, I thought I was done with these ‘Transformers’ movies. How wrong I was!

To understand why I felt like that, I should give you a reminder on what my experiences of the ‘Transformers’ films were like in case this is your first time here. 😀 First of all, I had a big interest in ‘Transformers’ as a little kid. I first got into ‘Beast Wars Transformers’ as a TV series and via the toys.

That was in the 1990s! My ‘Transformers’ weren’t the Autobots and the Decepticons, as it was for many people in the 1980s. My ‘Transformers’ were the Maximals and the Predacons. However, I did take an interest in the G1 Transformers that were around in the 1980s by watching some of the cartoons.

The 1980s ‘Transformers’ cartoon TV series isn’t sophisticated for me as is the ‘Beast Wars’ CGI animation series. But I still liked the 1980s ‘Transformers’ and I enjoyed the episodes I saw when I purchased them on DVD in the early 2000s and learning a lot about the ‘Transformers’ history back then.

Actually, the first thing I saw in relation to the G1 ‘Transformers’ from the 1980s was the 1986 film. I recall being upset by Optimus’ death in the film, thinking it wouldn’t happen. I went back to watch the earlier cartoons from Season 1 afterwards. It was worthwhile me doing that after seeing the film.

I’ve not seen all of the 1980s ‘Transformers’ cartoons, but I’ve seen most of them. Watching them all in total would be a challenge to say the least. At this point, I hope that I will review more ‘Transformers’-related stuff on my blog including the 1980s cartoon series as well as the 1986 film. 🙂

I hoped there would be a live-action feature film of ‘Transformers’ around the time I was in my teens in the 2000s. Sadly, that happened when the first ‘Transformers’ movie directed by Michael Bay was released in 2007. Oh it was an impressive spectacle, but I had rather mixed feelings from watching it.

I hoped the ‘Transformers’ film series would get better by the time we got to the sequels. But then came ‘Revenge of the Fallen’ in 2009 and it was less than what I hoped for and on par with the first ‘Transformers’ film. Then ‘Dark of the Moon’ happened in 2011 and it was the same situation here. 😦

I decided after watching ‘Dark of the Moon’ that I would make that my last cinema experience of a ‘Transformers’ live-action film after feeling pretty disappointed with the efforts made in the first three movies. I did think that would be the end of it and no more ‘Transformers’ movies would be made. 🙂

But then ‘Age of Extinction’ happened in 2014. And do you know what? I didn’t see it at the cinema. I had considered going to see it, but I resisted. Then ‘The Last Knight’ happened in 2017 and I didn’t see that at the cinema either. Hence why I didn’t review the film on my blog when it was released in 2017!

In reviewing the ‘Transformers’ film series lately, I can see it being a critical and bloated film series, mixing from negative to mixed reviews. I concur with the critics, as director Michael Bay keeps on repeating things in his ‘Transformers’ films. That’s why I gave up on the film series by the third entry.

So, when it came to the release of ‘Bumblebee’ over Christmas 2018 at the cinema, I didn’t think much of the film. Oh to be sure, the trailers for the film looked impressive enough, but I was weary into thinking that the film would be like the previous ‘Transformers’ movies that had gone on before.

I picked up that the film wasn’t directed by Michael Bay this time. He was in one the producers’ chairs for a change. The film was now directed by Travis Knight, with a screenplay by Christina Hodson. The film is also a prequel to the first ‘Transformers’ film, focusing on Bumblebee’s character.

Before the ‘Transformers’ live-action film series came along, Bumblebee had proven to a popular character in the 1980s cartoon show, especially in being friends with Spike and all. So, I can see the potential of Bumblebee’s character having a central focus in this, even if he wasn’t well-developed. 🙂

Originally, I decided not to see the movie. I’d wait until the reviews came in. When the reviews did come in, I saw ‘Bumblebee’ got high praise. It received positive reviews from critics and fans alike. It’s claimed to the best instalment of the ‘Transformers’ film franchise so far. It got me really curious.

So, in January 2019, my best friend Stephen and I decided to see the film at the cinema and find out for ourselves whether it’s good or not. Before watching the film, I wondered if the film would be less like the previous Michael Bay-directed ‘Transformers’ films and do something different for a change.

Going into the movie and first scene in, we’re on Cybertron, as the war between the Autobots and the Decepticons takes place! And we have Autobots like Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Ratchet and Wheeljack, and Decepticons like Soundwave, Shockwave and Starscream in their familiar G1 forms! 🙂

Those were the Transformers I knew! They’re the Transformers! They were faithful versions of the original G1 Transformers being shown to me on the big screen! I was thrilled to bits! The nostalgia of the 1980s Transformers that I wanted to see in the other ‘Transformers’ films was present in this one!

The film has Optimus Prime sending Bumblebee – originally named B-127 in the film – to the planet Earth in order to set up a base of operations where the Autobots can regroup in their war against the Decepticons. Thus, Bumblebee heads for the Earth and ends up somewhere in California in 1987.

Wow! The film even respects the nostalgia of the original ‘Transformers’ by setting the story in the 1980s where they were at their most popular. I was legitimately confused. It appears Travis Knight is adding more ‘Transformers’-related stuff in the movie ‘Bumblebee’ than Michael Bay did in his films.

There’s even the song ‘The Touch’ sung by Stan Bush in the film somewhere, which was one of the songs in the 1986 ‘Transformers’ film. Admittedly, the film isn’t set in 1984 where the ‘Transformers’ were officially created, but I’m happy they put in a 1980s setting for this film as opposed to modern times.

What I also noticed about this film is that the story and the characters are very well-handled and well-developed compared to the other ‘Transformers’ movies. The action sequences also don’t feel jarring, as I felt they were in previous films and the CGI effects of the Transformers are pretty good.

The film is also fortunate in being 109 minutes as opposed to being way over-length which I found frustrating in the ‘Transformers’ sequels by Michael Bay. The film sticks to the plot and characters like it should do. It doesn’t divert from any stupid moments which I often found annoying in other films.

In the film, Bumblebee comes across a young teenage girl – Hailee Steinfeld as Charlie Watson, who befriends him when he’s on the run from the Decepticons. Charlie takes Bumblebee, who is disguised as a yellow Volkswagen Beetle, from her Uncle Hank’s scrapyard, as he lets her have it for her birthday.

Again, I’m really pleased the film went with the approach of having Bumblebee as a yellow Volkswagen Beetle from the 1980s cartoon series, which I prefer compared to the Camaro in the Michael Bay films. It’s that call-back to the 1980s ‘Transformers’ nostalgia that does it so well for me.

Another thing I’m pleased with is how Charlie interacts with Bumbleebee. Hailee Stienfeld gives a superb performance and I actually prefer her character compared to Shia LaBeouf as Sam in the other ‘Transformers’ films. I found it a believable friendship between Charlie and Bumblebee in this.

The scenes where Charlie and Bumbleebee connect with each other and hug during emotional moments are very good. How come Michael Bay didn’t put moments like that in his ‘Transformers’ films? We needed more emotional moments like that. Not a lot of fight scenes and unfunny comedy.

I also had an impression that there’s an ‘E.T.’ element in this movie with how Charlie interacts with Bumblebee, even though I haven’t seen ‘E.T.’ at all in my life yet. Bumblebee has his voice box damaged of course and has to find ways to communicate with Charlie through music and radio here.

I admit, I wish the film didn’t do the thing where Bumblebee lost his voice, as that was often a frustrating thing with his character and lack of development in the Michael Bay films. It does work fine here and I can see how it links nicely to the first ‘Transformers’ film where we meet Bumblebee.

Hailee Steinfield has done well for herself lately in terms of being actress as well as a singer. As well as ‘Bumblebee’, Hailee has voiced Gwen Stacey in ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ and the upcoming ‘Across the Spider-Verse’ films as well as played Kate Bishop in the ‘MCU’ series ‘Hawkeye’.

A thing I’ve noticed about the characters Hailee plays in movies and web shows is that they often have dead fathers. Think about it, Gwen lost her father Captain Stacey, Kate Bishop lost her father in ‘Hawkeye’ and Charlie has lost her father in ‘Bumblebee’. I sense a pattern with Hailee Steinfield. 😀

The other cast members are pretty good in this film. There’s John Cena (‘The Marine’ – That’s where I’ve seen him. 😀 ) as Jack Burns, an army man and an agent of an earlier version of Sector 7. I found him pretty good in this film, especially in making observations about the ‘Transformers’ characters. 🙂

John Cena could’ve easily played the army type who’s an obnoxious jerk and loves guns blazing like in some of the Michael Bay ‘Transformers’ films. But I like how he’s divided over with the situation involving the Transformers in the film and he does across as a good guy and helps Bumblebee in the end.

There’s Jorge Lendeborg Jr. as Memo, who is Charlie’s neighbour and has a bit of crush on her in the film. Memo struggles to ask Charlie out on a date in the film, as they’ve hardly met. He soon enters her life when seeing Bumblebee in her garage and the two become good friends. I really liked that. 🙂

Incidentally, I saw a Tom Baker ‘Doctor Who’ poster in Memo’s bedroom in the movie, both on the big screen and on DVD. It’s amazing to think that Memo is a ‘Doctor Who’ fan and that a ‘Doctor Who’ reference is in passing in a ‘Transformers’ movie like ‘Bumblebee’. It just makes me happier. 🙂

There’s also John Ortiz as Dr. Powell, an agent of Sector 7, who’s quite taken by the Decepticons when they come looking for Bumblebee on the planet Earth. He gets more than he bargained for when the two Decepticons – Shatter and Dropkick – cause trouble. Interesting how Sector 7 is depicted here. 🙂

The film also features Pamela Adlon as Sally, Charlie’s mother; Stephen Schneider as Ron, Sally’s fiancée and Jason Drucker as Otis, Charlie’s brother. I liked the family dynamic in this film and I’m glad it wasn’t painfully annoying as Sam’s family were in the first three ‘Transformers’ films I’d seen.

It’s interesting how it’s revealed Charlie’s mother moved on in her life by meeting Ron, yet Charlie hasn’t got over the death of her father. If this sort-of storytelling and character development was featured in the Michael Bay ‘Transformers’ films, I would’ve liked and appreciated them even more.

I will admit; there are a few awkward moments in the film that I didn’t think were necessary to see. The one standout awkward moment in the film is when we see Charlie’s brother, Otis, spewing sick in a car after an amazing car stunt sequence. Seriously, did we need to see that moment in the film?

The film also features Len Carious as Uncle Hank; Glynn Turman as General Whalen, Jack Burns’ superior in the film; Gracie Dzienny as Tina Lark, Charlie’s mean-spirited classmate; Ricardo Hoyos as Tripp Summers, Tina’s boyfriend; Lenny Jacobson as Roy, and Megyn Price as Amber, Roy’s girlfriend.

Apparently, Nick Pillas plays a younger version of Seymour Simmons, who was played by John Turturro in the other ‘Transformers’ films. Honestly, I didn’t notice Simmons in the film and after not caring for him in the other ‘Transformers’ films, I’m happy he provides a small (if at all) contribution.

There’s also Fred Dryer as Sherriff Lock, who chases after Charlie and Memo in Bumblebee as a car in the film. There’s Edwin Hodge as Danny Bell, another agent of Sector 7 and Tim Martin Gleason, who plays Charlie’s deceased father in flashback sequences. Most of the characters are pretty likeable here.

What was especially good about ‘Bumblebee’ was that there was more focus on the ‘Transformers’ characters…as characters compared to the other movies. I felt there was more thought being put into how the ‘Transformers’ characters interacted with the humans and it was less on the humans too. 🙂

I really like the two Decepticon characters in Shatter and Dropkick, who come to the planet Earth. They lie to the humans when looking for Bumblebee before doing awful things. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Decepticon characters be so deceptive compared to the cartoon series and other films.

An astonishing thing I found when watching the film was that I found myself laughing at some genuinely funny moments. I didn’t get that when watching the other ‘Transformers’ movies. The comedy in those films felt rather off-putting and it made me feel uncomfortable in watching them. 😐

When watching ‘Bumblebee’, I felt like I was enjoying the humour between characters, as it was well-timed, especially when Bumblebee was with Charlie and Memo and when they were driving in him as a car. I wasn’t expecting to laugh during the film and it was a totally welcome surprise for me.

I also felt the emotional drama featured in the film between characters, especially during the climax where Charlie and Memo were rescuing Bumblebee from the Decepticons. The tension and the pacing were well-timed. Nothing felt forced or smacked into you while you were watching the film. 🙂

Talking more about the Transformers characters, Bumblebee is voiced by Dylan O’Brien in the earlier part of the film. There’s also Optimus Prime, voiced by Peter Cullen. I liked how Optimus looked more like his G1 self compared to the look in the Michael Bays films, which I found quite ugly to see.

It was great to see Arcee, voiced by Grey Griffin; Wheeljack, voiced by Steve Blum; Cliffjumper (a shame he got killed in the film), voiced by Andrew Morgado; Brawn, voiced by Kirk Baily; and Ratchet, voiced by Dennis Singletary. I do wish we saw more of these Autobots throughout this film.

At least they’re done justice compared to the Michael Bay films. The Decepticons include Shatter, voiced by Angela Bassett; and Dropkick, voiced by Justin Theroux. There’s also Blitzwing, voiced by David Sobolov, who comes to Earth to find Bumblebee and he damages his voice box in the process.

It was great to see Soundwave and Shockwave in their G1 forms, voiced by John Bailey in the film. Wait a minute! Jon Bailey? That epic voice-over guy who does the ‘Honest Trailers’ on YouTube? Huh! Fancy him doing voices for this ‘Transformers’ film. I wouldn’t have realised that he was in this.

There are also Transformers characters like Ironhide, Starscream and Ravage (one of Soundwave’s minions) as well as Skywarp, Thundercracker and Thrust. I’m surprised Megatron didn’t make an appearance in this film. It would’ve been amazing to have seen him in his G1 form in ‘Bumblebee’. 🙂

Incidentally, I’m currently wondering if ‘Bumblebee’ cancels out any continuity that happened in the four ‘Transformers’ sequels, including ‘Revenge of the Fallen’, ‘Dark of the Moon’, ‘Age of Extinction’ and ‘The Last Knight’. I hope so, since the continuity of those films are pretty baffling. 😐

The DVD special features are as follows. There’s a section on ‘Bringing Bumblebee to the Big Screen’, which includes ‘The Story of Bumblebee’, ‘The Stars Align’, ‘Bumblebee Goes Back to G1’ and ‘Back to the Beetle’. I think these special features are much more interesting than the ones in the DVD/Blu-ray editions of the other ‘Transformers’ films directed by Michael Bay.

On Blu-ray, there are special features like the ‘Sector 7 Archive’, deleted and extended scenes, outtakes, and ‘Bee Vision: The Transformers Robots of Cybertron’. The ‘Bringing Bumblebee to the Big Screen’ is also included, but it has an extra item called ‘California Cruisin’ Down Memory Lane’.

‘Bumblebee’ is definitely the ‘Transformers’ film I wanted to see at the cinema all those years ago as a teenager in the 2000s. The story and the characters are well-handled and the emotions and drama are all there. I felt like I was watching a proper good action-packed movie instead of an average one.

The direction by Travis Knight is superior and the performances of the cast including Hailee Stienfied are great compared to the other ‘Transformers’ films. I enjoyed the fight scenes and the transformation scenes. I wasn’t distracted by too many CGI effects and things going too fast for me.

I’m curious why ‘Bumblebee’ is the ‘Transformers’ movie that works well, especially with the previous five films being disappointments for me as well as for critics and fans alike. How come ‘Bumblebee’ gets the most praise? The other ‘Transformers’ films surely deserve better than that. 😐

I highly recommend ‘Bumblebee’ to check out as a film! You won’t be disappointed. This is the ‘Transformers’ film that will please you if you’re a true ‘Transformers’ fan. It works very well as a prequel to the first ‘Transformers’ film and the characters featured in this film are likeable to watch.

It would be nice to have more ‘Transformers’ films directed by Travis Knight in the series. I’m not sure if future ‘Transformers’ films will be like ‘Bumblebee’. I hope that the ‘Transformers’ film series will improve greatly in the future. And yes, we need more G1 Transformers like what we saw in ‘Bumblebee’.

I’m very curious about what ‘Transformers: Rise of the Beasts’ will be like next. I hope it’ll be good in featuring the ‘Beast Wars: Transformers’ characters like Optimus Primal, Cheetor, Airazor and Rhinox. A pity it isn’t being directed by Travis Knight. Hopefully, Steven Caple Jr. will do a good job. 🙂

‘Bumblebee’ rating – 9/10


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  • ‘Transformers: Rise of the Beasts’ (Film)
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2 thoughts on “‘Bumblebee’ (Film)

  1. Timelord 007

    Looks well that a spin off movie captures the heart and soul of the Transformers that the 5 live action films couldn’t do, the robots actually look like the G1 Aubobots & this is what i want from a live action Transformers movie the battle for Cybertron.

    I think this a great movie, good action scenes that arent fast cut or rapid edited & has heart & emotion.

    A fantastic review Tim of the best Traansformers movie we never got.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Tim Bradley Post author

      Hi Simon,

      I wish this was the first ‘Transformers’ movie instead of the first one in the five Michael Bay-directed film. I greatly enjoyed ‘Bumblebee’ when I saw it at the cinema and I enjoyed seeing it again on Blu-ray recently.

      Many thanks for your comments. Glad you enjoyed my review on the film.

      Tim 🙂

      Like

      Reply

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