The latest in the Transformers universe is “Bumblebee,” a coming of age tale featuring an 18-year old girl and her transforming robot car. While previous installments relied heavily on CGI and action packed sequences, the sixth movie in the franchise takes a step back and adapts to a more traditional style of storytelling. Bumblebee was the first live-action film for Travis Knight, replacing Michael Bay as director.
The film begins on Cyberton, the home planet of the Transformers, where Bumblebee is caught in the midst of a battle between the Autobots and Decepticons. While a brutal civil war rages on at his home planet, Bumblebee travels to Earth to find refuge for the fleeing Autobots.
Bumblebee ends up crashing down into Northern California in the year 1987, but is soon intercepted and heavily damaged causing him to lose his memory and voice. He transforms into a Volkswagen Beetle in his final moments to avoid detection, and is reawakened not long after by a teenage girl named Charlie (portrayed by Hailee Steinfeld).
The plot itself is relatively simple – girl finds giant robot, government kidnaps robot, and girl saves robot. But even with such a simplistic plot, there is a lot of good to be said about “Bumblebee”. It’s a stand alone feature that steps away from the dead horse of big explosions and robot battles that Transformers has been. Instead, it focuses on character development and emphasizes the friendship that develops between the pair. Charlie spends her summer in comedic mishaps with her new companion, and even develops a slightly romantic relationship with her next door neighbor. The film has slew of 80s pop culture references and nostalgic feels that give it a much warmer feel than the previous sequels. Hailee Steinfeld really delivers on her performance as well, and ties the film together with her portrayal of Charlie.
While it might not have be the face melting blockbuster that we have come to expect, it is definitely a refreshing take on an otherwise outdated franchise. Let’s see if other blockbusters will follow suit in the future with a similar approach.
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