Bumblebee 2018 movie

Bumblebee – The rebirth of the Transformers franchise?

I admit sometimes I start biased toward a certain kind of movie, as it was, for example, Bumblebee in 2018, since I surrendered and gave up on the Transformers saga, leaving the theater disappointed without even finishing watching the second chapter, Revenge of the Fallen.

While Bumblebee may not be a sci-fi masterpiece, it does offer a refreshing change with its cinematic dignity in direction and characters that are not just mechanical entities but individuals with a minimum of psychological depth.

Indeed, we start from scratch with a reboot where we follow the life of young Charlie Watson, a California girl struggling to accept the death of her father from a heart attack years earlier.

Equally problematic for her is accepting her mother Sally‘s new partner, Ron, although he is a good man who tries to bond with her.

Also, being passionate about and quite clever with motors, Charlie would love a car of her own as she continues to repair her father’s Corvette with little success.

So when she gets a chance to pick up an old yellow beetle wreck that no one wants for free, she accepts and takes it to her house, where she begins to work on it in the garage.

However, when she sneaks under the car to fix it, the vehicle immediately transforms into the robot B-127, one of the survivors of the millennia-old war between the Autobots and Decepticons factions.

Its commander, Optimus Prime, sent the robot long ago to be the vanguard of a new outpost where the resistance could rally and regroup.

Unfortunately, in trying to talk to B-127, which was damaged after the last battle, Charlie inadvertently sends out a signal that alerts two Decepticons, who immediately set out for Earth to track down and annihilate their enemies.

Old school always works best

After five chapters in the hands of Michael Bay, the Transformers directing finally goes to a smooth worker like Travis Knight, here at his second experience after his excellent animator work with Coraline or ParaNorman.

Once again, he’s not the supreme master of cinematic art, yet we must recognize his skill in handling mise-en-scene and narrative timing, something old Bay had no idea what they were.

Therefore, we have a slower and more reasonable introduction of human and robot characters, with some dialogue finally explaining what motivations drive them to action.

This is not to say that this introduction is boring: it is full of action on the fascinating planet Cybertron, where Autobots constantly battle untamed, although on the verge of defeat against the hated enemy Decepticons.

As for the character of the earthling Charlie, we have instead a more classic (but still enjoyable) teen comedy played by a fantastic young actress like Hailee Steinfeld, one of the most promising faces in cinema whom I had already admired in True Grit, an outstanding western by the Joel and Ethan Coen brothers.

The true gem of this 2018 movie lies in the beautifully depicted evolving relationship between Bumblebee and the girl, which transitions from initial curiosity and distrust to a sincere and even touching friendship.

Wisely, Travis Knight keeps the pace high with some fun action scenes — for example, watch the crazy police chase or how Bumblebee unintentionally devastates Charlie’s house.

However, he leaves the actual combat only to the last 20 minutes, which are practically a breathless chase until the finale.

The movie’s tribute to the 1980s is not just a nod to aesthetics and nostalgia but also a respectful acknowledgment of how movies worked during that era, with respect and belief in the intelligence of us viewers.

Fresh air in story and characters

Another merit to discuss is Christina Hodson’s screenplay, which finally brings Transformers into a smaller story with fewer characters and is set almost solely around the town where the main character lives.

Hailee Steinfeld performs well in an interesting role, far from the stereotypes of previous movies with brave soldiers, dumb politicians, sexy chicks, or a boring teenager parody like Shia LaBeouf.

Instead, we have a girl with a masculine attitude who still retains the sweet beauty, insecurities, and desire for freedom typical of any teenager.

Equally entertaining is the family unit that surrounds her, with Pamela Adlon being the apprehensive and intrusive mother (though not too much, after all), Stephen Schneider being the new stepfather who tries to gain her affection and trust, and finally, young Jason Drucker being the martial arts-enthusiast little brother, a character perhaps I would like to see more throughout the story.

The rest of the cast also defends itself with a convincing performance, such as the gigantic and muscular John Cena as the not-so-smart army officer, who understands almost nothing of what is going on until near the end of the story.

Finally, we could not miss the teenage romance and flirtation with the character of the new neighbor, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., who provides good comic relief to Steinfeld’s dramatic moments, especially in the scene where they want to play a prank on a school bully girl and end up with their robot friend wrecking her car.

Again, we certainly should not expect a revolution in the sci-fi genre with this 2018 movie, but Bumblebee succeeds in the miracle (which I thought impossible) of breathing new life into a brand that was dying of boredom.

As I look forward to watching the latest chapter, Rise of the Beasts, I’m hopeful that it will build upon the path set by this reboot, wishing this franchise continues to inject the cinematic spirit that has been somewhat lacking in our metallic friends for all these years.

Bumblebee 2018 movie
Amazon Prime Video
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