The sixth installment of the hate-it-or-love-it “Transformers” series, “Bumblebee” rolled into theaters at the tail end of last year, and I am just now getting around to seeing it.
Be that as it may, I was thoroughly impressed with the entire production. I have always been a fan of the “Transformers” movies, but when you go into one of these movies, you have to have somehow lower your expectations. You can’t really go into them thinking you’re going to see “Citizen Kane.”
I don’t know if my admiration is a result of these lowered expectations, but “Bumblebee” is just a genuinely good movie. It’s not just good for a Transformers movie, or an action movie, it’s a good movie. Full stop.
Set in 1987, “Bumblebee” follows Hailee Steinfeld as the main human protagonist, Charlie, an 18-year-old woman who is dealing with the recent loss of her father.
While rummaging for parts to fix up her dad’s old Corvette, she stumbles upon an old Volkswagen Beetle that just so happens to be the titular robot in disguise, Bumblebee.
“Bee,” as she affectionately calls him, has been sent by Optimus Prime on a mission to set up and protect an Autobot base on Earth, but there’s an issue. Bumblebee’s memory cells have been damaged, and he can’t remember who he is or what he is doing on Earth.
To make matters worse, two evil Decepticons are tracking him down, however, trying to stop him and crush the Autobots once and for all.
While on the surface, this seems like an average action movie, “Bumblebee” has a surprising amount of emotional depth. The relationship between Bee and Charlie is the main focus of the whole film, and a good amount of time is spent with the two just getting to know each other and helping each other with their issues.
Considering that both of them are pretty stereotypical outsiders, they have a lot in common and grow closer as the movie progresses. Since this is where a majority of this action movie spends its time, “Bumblebee” really sets itself apart from the rest of the series.
Steinfeld shines in her role as Charlie, which really comes as no surprise considering the impressive filmography the 22-year-old actress already has under her belt. The rest of the cast is fine as well, but nobody really stands out as much as Steinfeld.
John Cena does a respectable job playing the classic no- nonsense military man, but there is only so much that he could do with the role. I don’t really think he is to blame for his character being really one-dimensional, but more so the script. He does get a good amount of cheesy one-liners though, something that I really enjoyed in the theater, even if I was the only one.
The special effects in “Bumblebee” are amazing as always. Even when the first Transformers came out in 2007, the effects were pretty good by today’s standards, but now, over a decade removed, Industrial Light and Magic has absolutely perfected the formula.
The sheer amount of high-quality effect shots in “Bumblebee” is crazy. There were only a couple VFX shots in the entire 114-minute runtime that seemed maybe a little off, and it wasn’t the fault of the fake-looking CGI. Rather it was less-than-stellar green screen work.
But that is only a minor nitpick. Throughout the movie, Steinfeld interacts with Bumblebee over and over again, and just about every time she does, it genuinely looks like the giant robot is really in her presence.
While this has never really been an issue in previous movies, the amount of time, effort and money that went into making these special effects shots really shows. Overall, the CGI was the best I have seen in a while.
I would be remiss if I discussed a Transformers movie and didn’t discuss the action. While it wasn’t the centerpiece of the film as it has been in years past, the action of “Bumblebee” is just as enjoyable as ever.
Decent staging and cinematography help keep a consistent feel to each fight.
The geography of each fight is very well-laid out to begin with, and the aforementioned camera work makes sure that audience members always know where they are in space.
Being set in the late 1980s, “Bumblebee” features an excellent soundtrack with both popular and obscure songs from the era. As soon as I left the theater, I went right on to Spotify and downloaded it.
Now, granted, I am a sucker for ‘80s music, but nonetheless, I really enjoyed the eclectic song choices that the movie offered. The time period “Bumblebee” takes place in also made it easier for the filmmakers to throw in a decent amount of references to the classic cartoon series that eagle-eyed fans from the ‘80s will be able to spot from a mile away.
I really wasn’t expecting to like “Bumblebee” as much as I did, but when you look at the facts, it all makes sense. Action? Good! CGI? Good! Acting? Good! Story? Good!
All of these things combined made for a most enjoyable movie going experience. “Bumblebee” is just a fun movie that is good for all ages.
Nothing too scary for the little ones, just enough jokes and action to keep everyone else entertained. I can’t wait for this to come out on home video. I’m going to watch it as soon as it does.