With “Bumblebee”, Michael Bay steps away from the director’s chair in this prequel to his “Transformers” franchise, but still stays on as a producer. Travis Knight steps in to helm this film only having directed 2016’s hit “Kubo and the Two Strings,” and this step away from animation (which he has also made a career doing with other films like “ParaNorman” and “The Boxtrolls”) is one in the right direction.
As the war of Cybertron starts to lean the way of the evil Decepticons, their nemeses in the Autobots must abandon the fight, and their leader, Optimus Prime (still voiced by Peter Cullen) sends them across the universe to find a new place to regroup. He sends B-127 (whom we know as the title character) to Earth, where it is 1987, and it is almost Charlie Watson’s (Hailee Stanfield) 18th birthday. After the death of her father, she keeps to herself and just wants a car so she can get around on something that is not her moped while dealing with the neighbor boy, Memo (Jorge Lendeborg, Jr. from “Love, Simon”), who is also crushing on her a bit. She winds up meeting Bumblebee, and the bond between human and machine begins. While this is going on, Bee is running from the military and Agent Burns (John Cena), who is a strong soldier that does not trust anything he doesn’t know as well as the Decepticons who find him.
This is the “Transformers” movie that I have been waiting for, and it just may save the franchise. With a great screenplay written by Christina Hodson, there is a better understanding of who Bumblebee is, and I love the character more than I ever have before. There are also a lot of great ‘80s references an Easter Eggs that those of us that love such things will appreciate without making those that did not feel left out, including a great soundtrack that even features The Smiths (in a great moment where Bee is introduced to them) and a song by Stanfield herself, “Back to Life”.
The cast here is also good, but if there is one thing I personally would have done differently, it is Cena. He is fine as Agent Burns, but there are some other actors that I would have liked to have seen in the role instead. Stanfield plays the kind of girl I wish I could have been at her age, with her teenage angst and strong spirit that I think a lot of girls can also identify with.
“Bumblebee” is the kind of action film that will be great for all types of audiences, and adding to that the extra special care taken with the time it takes place in, I recommend giving this film a watch.