Movie Review: “Bumblebee”
Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld) used to be a diver and she used to work on an old car in the garage with her dad. After her father died, she has given up diving, but is committed to finishing the car that they used to work on together. She desperately wants a car of her own but, no matter what she does, the car never seems to run. One day, she goes to the junkyard that she visits whenever she needs more parts, and she finds an old, rundown, yellow beetle. She gets the car to run, and takes the car home to fix it up, but that is when her life changes forever.
The old, rundown, yellow beetle transforms into a giant robot! The robot is a transformer that Charlie names Bumblebee, due to his color. Bumblebee has no memory of his life before, and Charlie hopes to repair him. She means Bumblebee no harm, but the United States military is looking for him, and he is not the only transformer who has made their way to Earth. Two Decepticons track down Bumblebee and plan to send a message back to Megatron. The message would inform Megatron of the Autobots’ plan to setup a base on Earth. If Bumblebee is unable to regain his memory and stop the Decepticons, it could bring their war to Earth and could mean the end of the Autobots.
The Pros & Cons
Charlie & Bumblebee (+8pts)
The Decepticons (-2pts)
John Cena & The Action (+4pts)
Diving & Charlie’s Father (-4pts)
Pro: Charlie & Bumblebee (+8pts)
I liked the relationship between these two characters. Bumblebee has lost his memory, but has taken a liking to Charlie. Charlie can fix him up, keeps him out of trouble, and has become a friend. She also has her own issues to get through. Charlie has still not recovered from her father’s death, and Bumblebee might be just what she needs to find her place in the world again.
Both characters benefit from being around the other. They both care about each other and are willing to risk everything to save one another. We have seen similar relationships to this one, and we have seen Bumblebee be the one to have similar relationships to this one. Out of all of the Transformer movies, it was this human-Transformer pairing that I thought worked the best. I bought this friendship fully, and it was super easy to get invested in.
Con: The Decepticons (-2pts)
I thought having the Decepticons in this movie felt inconsistent with previous movies in the franchise. In 2007, we got Transformers which saw the massive robots making contact on Earth for the first time. Yes, Bumblebee had already been on Earth at the beginning of that story, but humans were not familiar with Transformers at that point. It was just a little odd to see an Autobot fighting a bunch of Decepticons while knowing full well that humans do not know about Transformers in the first movie. I could forgive all of that, if the Decepticons did something noteworthy in this movie, but they did not.
We see them do “crazy” things like negotiate with the United States military. We also see them spend a ton of time setting up and searching the internet. It is riveting stuff (sarcasm severely intended). The Decepticons end up being very typical antagonists, when the filmmakers could have just as easily made this movie without them. Why not just make a story about Bumblebee trying to stay off the radar of the United States government? I am not saying that the filmmakers should have done that, I just do not get the point of putting Decepticons in this movie, and risk messing up the timeline, if they were not even going to do anything that would peak the audience’s interest. This does not significantly hurt the movie, but it felt like a wasted opportunity to do something different with these movies.
Pro: John Cena & The Action (+4pts)
The action in this movie was decent. There was nothing that really stood out about it, but it was the solid action that you would expect from a Transformers movie. This alone, made it worth mentioning, but it did not blow me away. I did enjoy John Cena’s role in the story.
The guy had a run in with Bumblebee in the beginning of the story. This sends him on a mission to catch the Autobot before anyone else gets hurt. He is kind of an antagonist, because he is hunting the titular protagonist, but you understand this guy’s side of the story. He encounters a massive, powerful, alien that hurt (even if inadvertently) good men. This makes Bumblebee a danger to society, and he got away. Naturally, that sends John Cena’s character on his mission. To put it simply, it was an interesting character, and I thought John Cena was entertaining in the role.
Con: Diving & Charlie’s Father (-4pts)
I understand why it was important to show this character with some issues. Part of what I liked about the movie was that both Charlie and Bumblebee were better off for having known each other. However, this story sets up two issues that Charlie was struggling with. One made complete sense. The other, not so much.
The death of Charlie’s father was effective because everyone has a parent or parental figure, so can understand why Charlie is so devastated. It is also effective because it gives Charlie a connection to cars that the audience will get behind. The issue that did not make any sense to me was the diving. Charlie used to be a diver, but associates that part of her life with her father as well. Due to this, she does not like diving. It felt like a pointless character point, got way too much focus, and had a pretty meaningless payoff. It just ended up wasting screen time that could have been spent on better parts of the story.
Pro: Memo (+3pts)
When I first saw this character, I was ready for him to be a very typical comedic relief. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised when I ended up liking this character. Memo has a crush on Charlie, but she does not notice him. This makes the character super relatable, as most of us (at some point in our lives) have experienced something like what he is going through. He then sees the whole situation as a way to connect with Charlie and he ends up going along with her on her crazy adventure. Memo is a silly, yet relatable, character that I ended up enjoying.
Con: Predictable (-4pts)
Another issue that was somewhat related to this being a prequel, was how predictable the movie ended up being. To start, Bumblebee is in the other Transformers movies, so we know he does not die in this one. Despite that fact, the filmmakers pretend that we do not know this. Additionally, the whole threat of the movie is that, if the Decepticons succeed, the Autobots will lose the war and Earth will quickly become a war zone. Based on how the first movie started, we know that the Decepticons obviously do not succeed in Bumblebee. Did I know how every moment would play out? No, but I knew a couple major plot details which took the steam out of some of the movies big moments.
Grade: B- (80pts)
This was a decent movie that was definitely hurt by being a prequel to an established franchise like Transformers. With the main character being a focal point in movies that occur later (chronologically) there is no concern over Bumblebee’s fate in this movie. That being said, the filmmakers leaned in to some attempted dramatic moments that pretend we do not know that Bumblebee survives. Additionally, based on the Decepticons’ mission and the potential outcome of that mission, we also know that Bumblebee succeeds. This just made it feel like the Decepticons were thrown in here for the sake of having them in here, and the filmmakers did not really know what to do with them.
What did Bumblebee have going for it? It had all the action that you would expect from a Transformers movie, and it had an interesting antagonist role, which was played by John Cena. The movie also had a very entertaining pairing with Charlie and Bumblebee. I was not able to get behind the diving aspect of Charlie‘s story, but everything else worked, and her friendship with Bumblebee was both believable and entertaining. The result is a movie that is very far from perfect, but kept me entertained from start to finish.