After five Transformers films from the mind of director Michael Bay, each one less interesting than the last, we finally have the live action Transformers movie that we should have gotten from the start in the form of “Bumblebee”. It's a fun romp that's not laden with the ludicrous mythology and the wanton destruction that was so prevalent in the previous films. While it shares a lot of beats with the 2007 “Transformers” movie in the way the main character develops a relationship with Bumblebee this film, instead of turning into a mass of city destroying twisted metal and awful humour, is far more family friendly that feels far closer to other family favourites like “The Iron Giant” or “ET”.
Hailee Steinfeld stars, and is great, as Charlie Watson, a disaffected 18 year old still dealing with the death of a loved one when Bumblebee enters her life. Initially when the characters are thrown together, this produces a lot of charming, funny moments between the two mismatched misfits, and Bumblebee finally feels like a fully fleshed out character in his own right. The fact that he isn’t lost among a sea of other robotic characters means he really gets a chance to shine, and Steinfeld’s performance really helps in this department as well. Their fun is short lived, as a couple of rogue, evil Transformers have followed Bumblebee to Earth and are intent on calling in the cavalry with the intention of enslaving the human race.
With an all new creative team, we get a brand new look and setting for this film. The redesign of Bumblebee really suits the film, as all his harsh edges have been pared down to make him a lot more kid friendly, and much closer in look to the original cartoon design, that of a VW Beetle. Speaking of the original cartoon, in the early scenes set on the Transformers home planet of Cybertron, we see some of the original Transformers in their classic form which is a real treat for long standing fans of the franchise. The setting for the film has moved away from the present to the mid 80’s which means we get a really colourful movie with plenty of dodgy fashion, chunky technology, and buckets of nostalgia. For those of us of a certain vintage, it’ll probably raise a couple of questions from younger viewers in the house about tape decks, video cassettes, and why nobody in the film has a mobile phone.
To close this out, this is easily the best live action adaptation of this series, by a fair distance. It avoids all the awful aspects of the previous films such as the choppy editing and ridiculous run times (it clocks in at less than two hours). The character work is great, the jokes are funny, and the 1987 setting allows for a great soundtrack. By the same token it doesn’t go overboard with the 80s references, and the action is really well shot to the point where, unlike previous “Transformers” films, you can actually understand what's happening. A great, fun, action comedy for all the family, and one that requires no previous knowledge of anything “Transformers” related to enjoy.
These are the gifted and enthusiastic words of our man Kevin Dillon, @kevinwritestuff.
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