A much-needed reimagining for the Transformers franchise


The Last four Transformers films have been a mess of clashing metal, crashing sounds and little in the way of coherence. Bumblebee was conceived as a spin-off, but emerges as more of a reboot of sorts: a return to the kid-and-a-car conceit of the first film. In fact, director Travis Knight (Kubo and the Two Strings) takes the franchise further, back to ’80s Amblin movies like ET and The Goonies and the original Hasbro toy designs. The result is an entry in this franchise that thankfully won’t give you a headache.

Hailee Steinfeld plays Charlie, a tomboyish 18-year-old mourning her dad. Mechanically inclined and desperate for a car, she brings home a beaten-up VW Beetle that turns out to be a robot alien from the planet Cybertron. Cue an unlikely friendship threatened by John Cena’s uptight military man and two enemy Decepticons (voiced by Angela Bassett and Justin Theroux).

Many of the beats are familiar from ET and its legion of imitators. There are the shady government types, pop-culture bonding and some innocent destruction (half of Charlie’s family home bites the dust). But Steinfeld holds the attention even when acting opposite imaginary metal, and Knight builds her connection to Bumblebee via a shared sense of loss and some smart visual touches. She doesn’t quite land all of the cheesy jokes spread throughout the film, as she’s more suited for the more serious genre’s in the cinema industry. However, she’s still a delight onscreen. And for Transformers fans who (somehow) loved the CGI-heavy battles and countless explosions, there’s still plenty of action galore – this time touched up for the better so audiences can actually witness which robot is punching the other.

It’s a buzzy yet familiar spin-off that swaps the convoluted mythology of Transformers for simpler storytelling, all with bags of charm. It brings back that sense of connection we first saw when Shia LaBeouf first met Bumblebee. If Bumblebee doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel, sometimes a good heart is enough.

A much-needed reimagining for the Transformers franchise

For the ’80s cartoon nostalgia and robot-human relationship

Travis Knight

Dec 20


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