If you're looking to scrub up on your Transformers knowledge you'll find the recent franchise located in your nearest junkyard. Bumblebee marks a new beginning to the Transformers saga - a series that has disgraced our screens for the past eleven years, epitomising everything wrong with the modern blockbuster. With racial stereotypes, objectified female characters, over the top explosions and clunky camera work Michael Bay threw everything at the screen with his marmite style of filmmaking.
Travis Knight, the creator of Kubo and the Two Strings and Coraline, transitions from stop motion to live action, giving the yellow bot a desperately needed fresh coat of paint. Rewinding the cassette thirty years back Bumblebee flees his home planet Cybertron to takes refuge in a small Californian beach town, only to be discovered by Charlie, a young teen struggling to find her place in the world.
Bumblebee is a remarkable gear shift for the Transformers franchise. Knight ably pays homage to the formula of exec producer Spielberg's iconic 80's adventures - re-fuelling the series with heart, subtlety and self-awareness. Taking influence from E.T. and The Iron Giant, this robots in disguise reboot is, more than anything, a coming of age story. The 1987 setting really gets the creative juices following - Bumblebee perfectly captures the aesthetic of the 80's cartoon, effortlessly blending Transformers nostalgia with an old-school teen tale. There are Breakfast Club references and action sequences in spades, but at the centre of this adventure isn't Bee - it's Charlie Watson.
Hailee Steinfeld is the best thing that's ever happened to this series - perfect as Charlie Watson, a washed out teen on the cusp of her eighteenth birthday. She discovers a battle scarred and broken down Bee, and as with all great coming of age stories the film is really about her finding herself. Her relationship with Bumblebee is the engine at the core of this cinematic vehicle - there's a spark between them which is just so pure and endearing. It has its fair share of rib tickling moments, particularly when Charlie introduces Bee to her music and he violently spits a Rick Astley tape out of his stereo. Charlie's character arc is well realised and authentic, she is worlds away from Shia LaBeouf's insufferable Sam Witwicky and Megan Fox's glossy supermodel Mikaela Banes.
All that being said - Bumblebee isn't a completely smooth ride. Since the film borrows heavily from the magic of Amblin Entertainment there are certain elements of the narrative that were innovative at the time but are now relatively standard. The tired idea of the army pursuing an other worldy being out of pure misunderstanding is well worn, as is John Cena's unfunny and purposeless Agent Burns. Additionally, Bumblebee is far more child-friendly flick than any of Bay's previous instalments but it sometimes slips into a twee, Nickelodeon style teen drama.
Though it's shy of being perfect, Bumblebee is everything a Transformers movie should be. Steinfeld is excellent as an alternative teen who rediscovers herself after the tragic loss of her father. Kicking it old-school, Bumblebee is a truck load of 80's nostalgia, referencing the original cartoon with a jaw dropping opening sequence on Cybertron. Set to the backdrop of a truly funky 80s soundtrack - Bumblebee is a joyous adventure that revitalises the Transformers series with a sprinkle of Spielberg magic.
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Hi I’m James - a huge welcome to my film blog! I started this site just after my 14th birthday and have been bringing you my own take on the hottest box office arrivals and many art house triumphs ever since.