Review: Bumblebee

Left to right: Hailee Steinfeld as Charlie and Bumblebee in BUMBLEBEE, from Paramount Pictures.

Bumblebee is the sequel/reboot of the Transformers franchise that was birthed in 2007 and left for dead after 2017’s Transformers: The Last Knight. The franchise was starting to be known for its product placement and problematic characters more than its transformers.  Director Travis Knight (Kubo and the Two Strings) took the lead in resurrecting the Transformers franchise by telling a story focused on one of the franchises most profitable (and marketable) characters.

This Bumblebee story is somewhat connected to the previous films. In 1987, Autobot B-127 escapes Cybertron and heads to Earth, outside of San Francisco, to set up a new base for the Autobots. On the run, B-127 suffers memory loss and is wasting away at a scrap yard. Meanwhile, Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld) is hoping for a car on her 18th birthday and stumbles upon B-127. It’s not long before she learns he’s an extraterrestrial robotic life form and names him Bumblebee.

Charlie and her neighbor Memo (Jorge Lendenberg) help Bumblebee hide while he’s being hunted by Agent Burns (John Cena), and Decepticons Dropkick (voiced by Justin Theroux) and Shatter (voiced by Angela Bassett).

Bumblebee does a lot of things right and corrects a lot of wrongs from previous films. The opening scene on Cybertron looks like what fans of the 80’s cartoon would expect to see in a Transformers movie. The Cyberton war scenes show a few familiar faces, and there are a few iconic lines from the cartoon.

One of the most surprising things is the great music choices for the soundtrack. Thank God they didn’t play a Monster 80’s playlist as the soundtrack. “Bigmouth Strikes Again” by the Smiths plays as Charlie is introduced. “Save A Prayer” by Duran Duran, “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley, and Sammy Hagar’s “I Can’t Drive 55” all make an appearance. There’s another great 80’s song that Transformer fans will definitely enjoy.

Like many movies from the 80’s, Bumblebee is about a kid finding something and playing hide and seek from the government/evil aliens. Bumblebee is an 80’s movie that doesn’t pander too much tot he Reagan Decade, but gives enough nostalgia to make you remember why they love the decade so much. Kudos to Travis Knight for taking 80’s content and making an 80’s movie with it.

Knight ditched the chaotic CGI heavy battles of the past for coherent action sequences and fun car chases. He even cut back on the slow-motion and allowed his fight sequences to show how deadly the Decepticons are and what a formidable soldier Bumblebee is. Is the action predictable? Yes. Are the scenes a lot of fun? Hell yes!

Steinfeld is the perfect as an intelligent teenage girl that’s a little too mature for her age but still young enough to make dumb teenage decisions. Steinfeld is the most enjoyable human character in any of the Transformers movies.

Bumblebee is the best Transformers movie to date, and it’s not even close. Travis Knight knew exactly what it takes to make a fun Transformers film and he delivered. People fed up with the franchise will be pleasantly surprised with how enjoyable and fun Bumblebee is. If this is the direction the franchise is going, sign me up for another one.

Grade: B