In 2007 it was a pretty scary point in time for the Transformers, seeing as Transformers: Cybertron ended its run the year prior, there was no major presence for the franchise. Then with the release of the 2007 movie, things changed overnight as the film was a success and led to various sequels and new animated series. However, over the course of following 11 years since the Transformers made their first live-action debut it has turned out to be a crazy ride. With the success of the first movie, each sequel that followed they attempted to deliver at the box-office. Whereas, storytelling they began to spiral down into a point of nonrecognition. It was sad to see that be the case, especially since I and others at Hero Club manage to enjoy several of films even though each film have their own flaws.
Yet, even with the disaster that is Transformers: The Last Knight, Hasbro thought to try again to cash-in on another live-action Transformers film. Thus, leading to the sixth and current film, as well as the film we are reviewing today, Bumblebee. Now, early reports on the film while in production, continued to bounce back-and-forth on whether this film would be a “prequel” or a “reboot.” Furthermore, Hasbro’s marketing began to play with the fans’ speculation through trailers, ads and concept art. It became so questionable as to how the film would end up that it led to possibly being the most talked about Transformers film since 2007! However, once seeing the film it is hard to say exactly what the film is, as it serves as a mid-ground between being a “prequel” and a “reboot.” Although, I am getting a head myself, so without further ado let us begin our look at the film in question, Bumblebee.
[Warning: The following review contains several spoilers]
The movie starts on Cybertron where the never-ending conflict between the Autobots and Decepticons ensue. The Autobots struggle to keep their ground as the Decepticons continue their onslaught, while Optimus Prime and a scout named B-127 fight their way to a loading platform. There Optimus tells Bumblebee to escape the planet and go to Earth to establish a base of operations. Yet, before they can escape the Decepticons ambush them, B-127 successfully enters an escape pod leaving Optimus Prime to fend off the attack alone.
B-127 crashes on Earth in California during 1987 and disrupts a training exercise being conducted by agents of Sector 7, a secret government agency who monitors extraterrestrial activities. Lieutenant Jack Burns (John Cena) and his team immediate see B-127 as a threat and begin to pursue him. B-127 runs through the forest, and attempts to make an escape into a mine, but is cut off by Sector 7. However, they are soon attacked by a Decepticon named Blitzwing, seeking to obtain information on the other Autobots, specifically Optimus Prime. B-127 refuses to give Blitzwing the information, so he decides to rip out B-127’s voice box and damages his memory core in the process. The fight continues, leading to B-127 killing Blitzwing in the process. Badly wounded, B-127 manages to escape and scan a nearby 1967 Volkswagen Beetle, while drifting into stasis.
Sometime later, a rebellious teenage girl named Charlie Watson (Hailee Steinfeld) manages to find B-127 in his beetle form in a scrapyard owned by her uncle, Hank. Seeing as it is her birthday, her uncle gives her the beetle as a birthday present. After taking the beetle home, Charlie begins to repair the beetle where see accidently re-activates B-127’s homing beacon. Whereas, on one of Saturn’s moons, two Decepticons known as Shatter and Dropkick interrogate the Autobot scout, Cliffjumper. However, Cliffjumper refuses to give them any details on Optimus Prime or B-127’s whereabouts, so they execute him for denying them what they desired. Yet, they soon notice a beacon matching B-127’s has been activated on Earth, so they proceed towards the planet.
Once the Decepticons arrive to Earth, they eventually meet with Sector 7 and masquerade themselves as peacekeepers looking for the “criminal” B-127. Sector 7 agrees to help them and allow the Decepticons to use “our” technology to help find B-127 to Burns dismay. Meanwhile, B-127 finally awakens and transforms in front of Charlie’s eyes. Charlie is surprised by the revelation, but not too afraid as she seeks to understand who or what B-127. Figuring out that B-127 cannot speak, nor seems to entirely remember who he is, Charlie decides to name him “Bumblebee.” Charlie then begins to fix Bumblebee’s radio, as she discovers he trying to use it as a form of communication. Working together they unlock a message left by Optimus Prime, which explains Bumblebee’s mission to protect Earth.
Days later, Charlie’s neighbor Memo (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) discovers the existence of Bumblebee while he sought to ask her out. Although shocked at first, Charlie convinces Memo to keep Bumblebee a secret for their own protection. Then the next day, Charlie tells Bumblebee he needs to stay home, but this causes problems as Bumblebee’s curiosity gets the better of him! Bumblebee proceeds to venture into Charlie’s home, and trashing it as he explores it. Bumblebee’s accidentally docks with an electrical socket causing him to receive a large Energon spike that attracts the attention of Sector 7. Meanwhile, Charlie and Memo try to clean up Bumblebee’s mess, before Charlie’s family gets home. However, upon returning home Charlie’s mother, Sally Watson (Pamela Adlon), sees the mess and blames Charlie for the damages without any explanation. This leads into one huge argument over her father’s death which causes Charlie to leave the house with Memo and Bumblebee.
Now, while trying to blow off steam Charlie and company are intercepted by a Sector 7 roadblock. A pursuit soon ensues with Sector 7 and the Decepticons capturing Bumblebee, as well as returning an incapacitated Charlie and Memo to their homes. Mere hours later Charlie wakes up to find Lt. Burns explaining to her parents that Charlie stole government property, leading to her being grounded. However, Charlie manages to sneak out of the house and convinces her brother to cover-up her escape, as she and Memo go to rescue Bumblebee at a nearby military outpost. There at the outpost, Shatter and Dropkick torture Bumblebee to acquire information on Optimus Prime. They learn of Optimus’ plan to use Earth as a base of operations through Bee’s memory, then proceed to execute Bee’ and leave to summon a Decepticon army to Earth.
Charlie and Memo witnessing the act, quickly leap in action to revive Bumblebee, as Lt. Burns and troops move in on them. Luckily, Charlie successfully revives Bumblebee and restore his memory, allowing him to fight back against Sector 7. Memo then decides to stay back to act as a diversion, so Charlie and Bumblebee can pursue the Decepticons. In their pursuit to stop the Decepticons, Charlie’s family gets involved by slowing down Sector 7 too. This allows Charlie and Bumblebee to finally track Dropkick and Shatter to a radio tower they plan to use as a beacon in the nearby harbor. During the ensuing battle, Lt. Burns reappears to combat both Bumblebee and the Decepticons. However, Lt. Burns learns Bumblebee is an ally, having saved his helicopter from crashing. Bumblebee then quickly proceeds to kill Dropkick and engages Shatter in battle as Charlie deactivate the beacon.
Shatter notices Charlie succeeds during in her goal in stopping the beacon, so Shatter attempts to kill her for interfering. However, Shatter is stopped by Bumbleebee who decides to flood the resting bay in a last-ditch effort that could kill them both. she is soon stopped by Bumblebee. Luckily this is not the case, as Charlie dives into the locate Bumblebee, only to discover him safe at the bottom. As they make their way out the water, Burns appears to them to apologize for actions realizing Bumblebee is our ally and permits them to escape. Days later, Charlie finally realizes that Bumblebee has an important mission to accomplish, so she decides to let him go. After parting ways, Bumblebee scans a 1977 Chevorlet Camaro and drives away while Charlie returns home. Bumblebee soon meets up with Optimus Prime, who is disguised as a 1977 Freightliner semi-truck and informs Bumblebee that more Autobots will be arriving to Earth soon…
I must admit that I have not been as excited for a live-action Transformers movie before this point not since the 2007 movie and technically Revenge of the Fallen. Having seen all the trailers it was clear that this movie was going to be a hit, and I am glad it has turned out great. The “G1” designs seen in this film is a breath of fresh air, seeing as I was so accustomed to seeing the designs of the Bayverse. The opening scene is probably the best part of the film and it would be great to see more films set up like this in the future. Another great thing about this film is the small cast, as it helps to make it less bloated, and it allows more time for viewers to settle into the world.
Charlie is probably in my opinion the best human protagonist of all the live-action Transformers films since she is not only realistic, but someone many people her age can relate with. The other human characters are okay especially since they did not feel overbearing. Jack Burns is not too bad either especially since he does not act like most of the usual “human villains” within the films. The character is charismatic but shares the “I hate all Transformers” trope like Simmons (in 2007) or Attinger (in Age of Extinction). However, that mentally seemingly goes away once Burns was saved by Bumblebee. In addition, John Cena portrayal of the character is interesting, as he is both serious and cartoony, almost as if this was an actual 80’s film rather than just being set in the 80’s.
Now as for Bumblebee, he is an interesting character this time around. I heavily enjoy that he is shown to be trying his best to get accustomed to the world. Whereas, in the previous films outside of first film he became less likable, as the character took on a more rebellious teenager persona; one that often lead to stupid antics and cheap pops from moviegoers. The Decepticons in this film, while short lived, are quite enjoyable as they are given enough personality to make them memorable. However, this cannot be said for most of the other Decepticons seen in the previous films, as they usually were cannon fodder for Optimus Prime. Having Decepticons with actual personalities and more than the usual amount of dialog is awesome progression the films require if they seek to continue.
Yet, unfortunately with all good things about this film it also had its own fair share of problems. While it does not have the usual issues seen in the previous films such as stereotypical characters, or outright bad writing/ jokes, it does have some issues. Major issue is that the film has an identity crisis, as it juggles between being a “reboot” and a “prequel.” While most of the film can fit with the previously established lore of the live-action films (outside of the robot designs) it does have some major gaps that affect continuity. The first continuity issue is that Bumblebee in the 2007 film was not sent directly to Earth to establish an Autobot base, as he was merely sent out to look for the Allspark. The Allspark is the next continuity error, as the film never references the thing or as its code-name “the Cube,” while the Hoover Dam is still Sector 7’s base of operations. The other issue is the inclusion of Megatron, as director Travis Knight mentioned in an interview, he originally wanted the character either during the opening act, or frozen with the Hoover Dam before having to omit the character entirely. Finally, the live-action films inconsistently use the idea and concept of “first contact,” as several films mention humans and Transformers have encountered one another countless times before… It is just mind-boggling how many times the franchise does this, especially when Sector 7 allegedly monitors and covers up these events!
In conclusion, I agree with most people that this is the best live-action Transformers film we have ever gotten, and it is all around a good movie in general. Outside of continuity issues I feel that the film is well written, and the characters are relatable. I can easily say that for fans of the live-action Transformers movies, or for ones that have not seen any of them up to this point, then this the film I can highly recommend as a must watch!