'BumbleBee' (2018) Movie Review
This. Took. Over. Eleven. Years. To. Get. Right. Why did this franchise take five bad installments before we could get just one right? We had to endure the obnoxious creations known as the Witwickys, idiotic government and army characters that constantly made dumb decision after dumb decision, racist stereotypes, a drunken Merlin the wizard played by Stanley Tucci, dog f*cking, gigantic robot testicles, and Ken Jeong as Deep Wang before we could finally get to this point? Why was this so damn difficult?! Give me likable and 3-Dimensional characters, give me humor that isn’t simply for toddlers and blitzed off their ass frat boys, give me a story that is coherent and wraps up tightly under two hours, give me action that is well shot and visually interesting… Give. Me. BumbleBee.
E.T. Meets Transformers
The story is simple and familiar, but effective. Bumblebee is a transforming robot that fights in a war raging between two different sets of robotic beings known as Autobots and Decepticons, he fights for the Autobots. After a battle gone wrong, Bumblebee flees to the planet Earth in order to find refuge for any surviving Autobots. Once he has arrived to Earth in the year 1987, he is forced into hiding until an eighteen year old girl by the name of Charlie discovers him. As Bumblebee hides from the threats that close in, Charlie and him start to form a bond as they find their own bit of trouble along the way.
The basic plot is Steven Spielberg’s E.T. There is no denying that. An alien creature of some kind finding its way into the home of a suburban kid that results in a bunch of shenanigans and the two slowly becoming emotionally close until the third act when the government attempts to kidnap and experiment on the creature and it’s up to the kid to save the alien/robot/etc. Oddly enough, this premise has been done to death recently as some sort of odd revival. Whether it be in A.X.L., Monster Trucks, or Max Steel, even Netflix’s Stranger Things took inspiration from that very premise. While some of those examples have unsuccessfully attempted to replicate the magic of the original E.T. At least they’re all better than Mac and Me or Nukie, but the theatrical releases I mentioned above still aren’t good. BumbleBee, on the other hand, delivers a bit of that magic. I was charmed by these characters. I was engrossed in this story. I was riveted by the action. I was saddened by the emotional moments. I was ecstatic in the silly antics Charlie and Bee found themselves in. I had a good time in the theater and that is all I ever wanted out of this series, that’s all any of us ever wanted. We didn’t need head-scratchingly juvenile gags or a narrative that refuses to resolve until my ass is thoroughly sore from the three hour sit. This film is the first to understand that with simplicity in story can come complexity in character. We don’t need to overstuff the story until my brain combusts, we can use our time wisely and have a direct focus on exactly where the characters need to go and get them there without the unnecessary detours in plot contrivances and terrible jokes. We don’t need countless scenes of the Witwicky family babbling about weed and jerking off in a poor attempt to create comedy, we can have a funny moment play out naturally within a scenario involving these characters and their genuine reactions can make us laugh. I don’t understand how all of this wasn’t apparent to do years ago, yet it took a talented animator to step in as director and say, “Hey, let’s make a good movie this time”.
All the Heart
I don’t want to get into much spoiler territory here so I’ll be keeping my review fairly vague. Apologies if it is hard to follow, but this is a really fun and charismatic movie.
Hailee Steinfeld is proving herself to be a phenomenal young actress; from her beautifully authentic performance in The Edge of Seventeen to a spunky turn in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and now her quirky and wildly sympathetic role here, I am really looking forward to anything she works on next. Steinfeld’s Charlie is a girl that is going through grief after the loss of her father a couple years prior, resulting in her becoming somewhat reclusive and not quite able to fit in with her family anymore as it seems to her that they have moved on from the tragedy. Meeting Bumblebee supplies her an arc that I personally found to be moving and engaging. I liked this girl a lot, even though she has some heavy themes introduced in her character’s backstory, she still manages to have a colorful personality. There’s no point where her character feels forcefully sappy or happy, it all flows relatively naturally within the story line and works very well for the character’s development. Charlie’s relationship that forms with Bumblebee is adorable to say the least, there are scenes that had me bust out laughing and there are times where I thought if they pushed it much further I’d start sobbing like a baby. That is how good and investing I found their chemistry to be. They are the heart and soul of every frame of this movie and I would truly love to see more of it back again.
The Negatives… I Guess?
If I really want to stretch to find negatives, I can. No movie is perfect, but I kind of hate myself for doing so since this is the first legitimate film in the Michael Bay affiliated Transformers franchise to actually be decent… but I don’t want to give the impression that this is completely flawless either.
Okay, I can do this. Here it goes.
While the majority of the effects work is extremely impressive and stunning, there are a couple of effects shots that did look a little questionable, I guess…
That’s it, John, you’ve got this.
The villains aren’t all that unique or intimidating, they are pretty standard ‘Saturday Morning Cartoon Show’ antagonists. Nothing all that special, but to be fair I feel as though that may have been the point; to recreate the spirit of the ‘80s animated show with the 2-Dimensionally evil bad guys… So I choose to let it pass!
Alright John, you’re faltering a little bit. Stay strong, critique as objectively as possible.
The army/government characters make some dumb decisions, granted it is justified as best as possible as to why they make their unintelligent choices, but it is still very dumb. Allying themselves with the Decepticons and offering resources that made no logical sense why they would ever do something like that, but there is a funny joke supplied by that scenario so there’s that… It was a very funny joke… It made me laugh.
You’re getting desperate buddy, reel it in now.
There is a ‘sort of’ love interest to Charlie’s character that got dangerously close to Witwicky levels of annoying. There were a number of times where he did make me laugh and I thought he was perfectly fine, but there were a few rare moments that I came close to disliking my time spent with him. He’s not in it much and in all honesty, with one quick re-write he could have been completely cut from the film and nothing would have changed for the story. Probably would have been all the stronger for it since he does slightly detract from the character arc that Charlie is going through. Without the love interest angle it would have been an even tighter and more focused script in my opinion.
Okay, you can stop it now. Leave this movie alone. It’s nice, don’t be mean to it.
The ending became somewhat messy after the main plot had concluded, there were just a couple of extra scenes that felt relatively awkwardly spliced in to end on and possibly set up future installments. They weren’t bad scenes, but they were pretty quick and clunkily included at the last minute as if the filmmakers only then remembered to provide certain conclusions or lead-up for later. Nothing terrible here, just kind of awkward is all.
That’s it you heartless bastard, you’re done.
Purely Fun and Likable!
This is a fun and terrifically likable movie. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, nor does it make everything into a bad joke. Every action sequence is well warranted and cool to watch, the two leads are cute and properly fleshed out, the story is simple and knows when to end, the humor feels natural to what is going on within the scenes, the effects work is mostly solid, the acting is particularly great from Steinfeld, and Bumblebee himself is bad-ass yet adorable. If this sounds like something that you would be interested in then I do hope that you check it out because I believe that it’s well worth the watch. Don’t let the previous films directed by Michael Bay deter you from seeing this if they’ve disappointed you, BumbleBee won’t. I don’t have the hatred for Michael Bay as a director like what most people do, I believe that he can make excellent films. His Transformers movies are not those excellent films. BumbleBee, is an excellent film. Check it out.
BumbleBee on Amazon Video Prime
Questions & Answers
© 2019 John Plocar