Rewinding the story of the Transformers movie franchise, Bumblebee is the story of the first arrival of the beloved Bumblebee (hence the title Bumblebee). Evacuating the Transformer homeworld, Cybertron, during the final battles between the Autobots and the Decepticons, Bumblebee flees to Earth on a mission to secure our world as a rendezvous point for his Autobot comrades.
Evading and battling two other Decepticon agents seeking the location of Optimus Prime, Bumblebee fights to keep his secrets safe while eluding the grip of Agent Burns (John Cena) of “Sector 7” obsessed with finding and eliminating Bumblebee. But while Bumblebee is struggling to keep a low profile and stay hidden, he is discovered and befriended by Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld), a rebellious 17 year old, dealing with domestic adjustments of her own.
It’s a series of action and humor as we follow Bumblebee adapting to this new world and new friendships until he can be reunited with his team.
IS IT ANY GOOD? (Grade: B+)
With Michael Bay vacating the directors chair, making room for Travis Knight, we get a beautiful and refreshing take on this beloved franchise. In this combination Reboot/Prequel, the audience receives the Transformers film that we’ve been craving from the beginning. The opening sequence on Cybertron delivers enough excitement and fanservice to justify the price of admission alone!
The visuals are stunning in the colorful palate portraying sunny California, a fitting environment for a movie about a Transformer disguised as a classic Volkswagen Bug.
With the camera pulled back we can enjoy the detailed visuals of Robots transforming into vehicles with some perspective; unlike the previous Transformer movies, where the camera was pressed up so close it looked like footage from a Gopro thrown into a scrap metal compressor.
The cinematography is effective and the action was exciting and easy to follow with the use of longer shots and fewer edits in each scene. The “transforming” sequences were done from unique camera angles including from inside the vehicle or from and underneath perspective. I couldn’t praise this film enough for the creativity used in those moments of “transforming” and especially for having the clear “Krrckh Kuu kck KK kCH” sound that we all love from the 80’s cartoon.
The special effects were pretty good unless there was physical contact between the actors and the CGI Characters, then it broke the illusion. But there were very few of those moments.
It was a great soundtrack that contributed to the costumes, props, and sets just THROWING in your face that this was the 1980’s. It was a lot of fun watching for those little nods to the era and being surprised by the song choices that dropped into key scenes.
The main gripe I had was that the time budget wasn’t always best spent as this movie didn't establish some characters that needed to be, particularly Johns Cena’s character. He was an absolutely nonconsequential character and if you removed him completely, it’d not change the plot one bit. This was a waste of money from casting and a waste of his talent.
IS IT OKAY FOR YOUR FAMILY?
Bumblebee is rated PG-13
Several scenes with guys with their shirts off. Some revealing clothes on some of the girls including midriff showing and high shorts. Verbal Bullying of Charlie by the “Popular Girls” The main characters “toilet papering” a house and inadvertently destroying their car with no remorse.” Swimsuit model in a bikini in background of teenage boy’s room. Charlie’s little brother mentions that she’s “touching his buttocks” in a non sexual situation.
The “H word”, “Screwed”,“Oh S***”
Other things to consider…
There are a few brutal deaths of a couple of the Transformers as well as some humans being vaporized (or trans-mutated into clear liquid)
A white trash couple bickering about adultery and concluding in the man being crushed by a Transformer Crash Landing.
Charlie’s boss at encourages her to steal product from another restaurant.
There is a sequence showing Charlie’s Mother and Stepfather being appropriately romantic and her dealing with that. This could be awkward for some viewers dealing with similar situations.
ANY WORTHWHILE MESSAGES?
Bravery: Bumblebee clearly weaker and outnumbered by his foe but still fights for what he knows is right, even in risking his own life to protect his friends.
Vengeance: Agent Burns seeks revenge on Bumblebee early in the movie when his men are killed by accident in the wake of destruction of Decepticons battling Bumblebee. This leads Agent Burns and “Section Seven” to affiliate with the Decepticons in hunting down Bumblebee. He’s deceived because of his convictions that Bumblebee is to blame for the death of his men until later he realizes who the real enemies were.
Step/Blended families: There is a scene with Charlie outbursting about not being able to get over the loss of her father. She and her stepfather do become closer throughout the movie, but it’s a difficult balance for both of them as they are struggling to adapt to the family situation they find themselves in.
If you enjoyed Bumblebee's moving tale of teen befriends robot, you'll love The Iron Giant, from Incredibles' director Brad Bird. Rent or buy it here.
Tim Wilde is currently studying film at the Salt Lake Community College. As a single father who was a failure in bequeathing his love of movies onto his children, he has taken to the internet as co-creator and co-host of Saints on Cinema, a YouTube channel devoted to discussing and reviewing film from the perspective of Latter-day Saints and other various guests.