by Ian Morton
The best part about Bumblebee is the sheer distance it puts between itself and the Michael Bay led franchise. Gone are the high octane, impossible to make out action set pieces. Thrown away are the humourless jokes about robot genitals. This is a film that takes it back to basics, understands the mistakes the previous films made and stuffs it with so much heart, it will make you feel like you’ve been on the offal diet for years.
Set in 1987, the story follows the humble origins of Bumblebee. After fleeing Cybertron, the plucky robot in yellow (at this stage voiced by Dylan O’Brien) is tasked by Megatron to establish a hidden colony on planet Earth. By the time the titles scroll across the screen, it’s clear that this is a film heading in a different direction. The opening action sequence is a pleasure to watch, as the Autobots and Decepticons fight for the future of their home planet. The camera is steady and battle scenes tight. Its quick, to the point and gives you all the backstory you need.
Upon landing to earth however, Bee (as he comes to be known) finds himself in a spot of bother, whereby our hero gets caught between a rock – the military – and a hard place – Blitzwing, an angry Decepticon. After a merciless battle, Bumblebee is left without a voice box and on the brink of shut down – his only hope, to mimic a Volkswagen Beetle and go into a state of hi-bot-nation.
From this point however is where Bumblebee really starts to move away from its louder kin. Stripping things back, director Travis Knight grounds the story by introducing our female protagonist, Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld), a young girl in need of a friend and who happens to stumble across the time-withered vehicle. The tone shifts from benign blockbuster to 80’s fantasy quicker than you can shake Steven Spielberg at it; showcasing the talent of the Kubo and the Two Strings helmsman as well as soften a world we only know as being rather brash.
Injected with this new sense of purpose, the movie then very quickly makes itself at home balancing a series of hilarious set pieces on the back of pure nostalgia. Hailee Steinfeld is the perfect 80’s protagonist, echoing her performances in Edge of Seventeen and giving a real authentic teenager for the audience to follow – very much akin to E.T. or more recently, the kids from Stranger Things. Bumblebee is given a fresh coat of paint, simplifying and ultimately hooking the audience through cute gestures and adorable behaviours. The results for both main characters is a film that both finally does justice to the much loved robots in disguise but also one that can, nay, should be watched by the whole family.
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