When Transformers was released in 2007, it was quite a spectacle to behold. From the lavish CGI of the metal robots to the stunning action and story centered around Shia LaBoef’s character, it worked. But in the decade that followed, the CGI and story got way out of hand and the films sounded like cutlery in a blender (even though the action was enjoyable – guilty!). And then comes Bumblebee, a film that breathes new life into a franchise that had lost its way.
Reminiscent of the 80s and nostalgic in the same way, Bumblebee does everything the previous installments failed to – it went back to its core and gives us a human storyline. The film starts off on Cybertron where the war between Autobots and Decepticons rages on, the defeated Autobots led by Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) fall back and he sends Bumblebee (Dylan O’Brien) on a mission to Earth where he is expected to set up an Autobot base so that the survivors can regroup and fight back.
The robots’ designs also stick true to the original 80’s versions, the simplicity a fresh change from the far too complex incarnations from T4 onwards. Bumblebee arrives on Earth, disrupting a training session conducted by Sector 7 Agent Burns (John Cena) and ends up on the run, not only from humans but also Decepticons who have discovered his whereabouts. The ensuing fight damages our favorite Transformer who also loses his voice.
Battered and broken, he takes on the form of an old Volkswagen beetle and ends up in a garage where he is stumbled upon by Hailee Steinfeld’s Charlie Watson, a misfit teenager with her own demons. It’s the tone of this film that sets it apart from all the others. While it does hit similar marks to the original Transformers film, teenager discovering a car, government agents chasing, Transformers arriving on Earth as meteors – there are no sexual jokes and the explosions (although present) are handled in a way that keeps it light years away from Bay’s work.
While the previous films looked at the robots as aliens, this one presents the Autobots as warriors on the run and the Decepticons as hunters. Bumblebee is portrayed like a puppy caught in the middle, with his memory lost and his ability to fight replaced with his willingness to help a teenage girl battle her demons, it’s no wonder that the audience will connect with this film and the box office numbers already prove it. The film does not hesitate to make the most of its 2+ hour runtime and takes us on a rollercoaster of emotions – something that no one would have expected from a Transformers movie.
At the end of the day, Travis Knight has worked his magic. Having created some of the most elaborate and nuanced animated films in recent times via Laika studios, he understands the core of what makes a story click. And he does it well, without straying too far away from what made Bay’s films popular – giving the younger audience CGI fights but taking more time to develop two misfit characters who find comfort in each other and come to accept their identities.
For a series that was close to being stripped down and sold for parts, Bumblebee has become its savior and gives the franchise hope for the future. I firmly believe that the credit should go to the writer Christina Hodson and more so to Knight – who makes his live action directorial debut. It was wise of the decision to hire a relatively new team and as Optimus would say, there’s more than meets the eye.
Courtesy of Akash SK