film & game reviews, the retro way.
Jorge Lendeborg Jr.
The sixth movie in the Transformers franchise, Bumblebee dropped Michael Bay as director and went back to the 1980's in an attempt to pay homage to the animated series' origins and stick closer to what fans were originally looking for from these live-action films.
With Bay still onboard as producer, it was unlikely that Bumblebee would be too much of a departure from the rest of the franchise and, seeing as it had to follow what was arguably the worst of the bunch, this movie could have easily been the final nail in the Transformers coffin. However, while Bumblebee takes a couple of pages from its predecessors, it's very clear from the get-go that this is a different take on things altogether.
The opening sequence, set on Cybertron, is a peek into what could have been: a Transformers movie actually about the Transformers led by the Autobots who look pretty much like they used to back in the day. Unfortunately, this is but a prologue and it doesn't last very long but the film that it leads to is still a cut above the rest of them. The plot sees a couple of Decepticons land on Earth in an attempt to use satellites to find Bumblebee and defeat the Autobots once and for all. Really, however, the film is about Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld), a young girl who mourns for her late father, listens to The Smiths, fixes cars and sells corn dogs.
Charlie discovers that the beat-up Volkswagen Beetle she was given is, in fact, none other than Bumblebee, who lost his voice and memory along the way. She is the heart and soul of this movie and, for the first time in this franchise, you actually care about the human characters. Bumblebee is just as cute and clumsy as you'd expect for most of the film but he is given a lot more personality and his relationship with Charlie is charming. The 80's setting lends itself to a lot of fun dated references, not to mention a killer soundtrack and it's hard to imagine that further instalments in that setting, in the same vein, with Travis Knight still onboard as director, could fail.
What the film lacks in Autobots it makes up for in charm and coherence. The Last Knight was an incomprehensible mess: it was way too long, no-one understood what was going on in it, you could barely make out anything in the action sequences, the writing was shockingly poor. Bumblebee fixes all of that and provides simple popcorn entertainment with a good heart and that's exactly what this franchise needed.
Though the film is somewhat tied down with being part of the same Transformers universe as the other movies, Bumblebee still manages to rise above that and it takes an obnoxious, seemingly unsalvageable franchise into the right direction with what is actually a decent film.