After the violent fall of his robot home-world to the Decepticons, robot Bumblebee (Dylan O’Brien) is sent to Earth to find refuge. Found in the form of a rusting, yellow VW Beetle, troubled teenager Charlie Watson (Hailee Steinfeld) brings him back to life. However in doing so, she inadvertently alerts the Decepticons to his hidden presence.
…these ARE the robots you’ve been looking for.
Eleven years in and after countless ‘Transformers’ movies, the abiding memory of their combined impact is of noisy, clanking fights which only made their scripts even more invisible. Together with Michael Bay’s swirling cameras and propensity for orange explosions, neither of these could be relied upon to continually hide the Transformers in plain sight.
So, with a franchise so plainly fatigued, director Travis Knight’s new Bumblebee origin story had to be different – and what a pleasure it is. Set squarely inside the same 80’s revisionist glow of ‘Stranger Things’, ‘Bumblebee’ is an open love letter to that decade and (in particular) UK indie band The Smiths.
Mercifully shorn of the eccentricities of the series’ previous films, this is a Transformers prequel that has firmly put the actors back on the same stage as the robots. Hailee Steinfeld’s Charlie is a rebellious teen whose music collection is as much an insight to her mood as it is a comic delight in the hands of our titular character. Acknowledging the sexual and racial misfires of the previous Transformers movies, ‘Bumblebee’ is a movie which addresses these deficiencies, whilst at the same time not overly highlighting their inclusion. This is a subtler popcorn pleaser. Whilst it is probably still contractually obliged to have robots fighting, Knight’s film manages to centre more on the human drama than the mechanical. Sly and fresh, if anything ‘Bumblebee’ is period homage masquerading as bombastic sci-fi.
Within a series previously reliant upon shattered glass and twisted metal, this film that centres on a female protagonist finding her feet, whilst not necessarily marching in time. As she herself commendably comments towards the end: “We’re not quite there yet”, and yet ‘Bumblebee is a movie that takes yard-like strides away from a stiflingly stylistic past to a surprisingly erudite future.
So, whilst you would be forgiven for being naturally apprehensive at the prospect ‘yet-another-Transformers’ movie, this is one genuine departure I can actually recommend and these ARE the robots you’ve been looking for.