On December 21, 2018, I had the great pleasure to watch the BumbleBee movie in theaters, the second movie in 2018 I saw on opening day. Unlike the last film I saw on opening day which left me extremely torn (Wreck It Ralph 2
), this film left me very happy, and for the first time in over a decade optimistic about the future of the Transformers live action franchise. Now, one may ask why it's taken me so long to put out my thoughts on this, especially since I enjoyed it so much? Well, I would simply say that I am not a blogger, or a reviewer, and I had other priorities over the holiday season. Fair enough?
Now, because this is part of a franchise, I feel I have to give my thoughts on the franchise in general before I can get into this movie, if nothing else, to put context to my words.
As a child of the 80's, I of course grew up with the original cartoon and toys, so I do have very deep nostalgia for this franchise. Back in the early 2000's there were rumblings of a live action rendition of The Transformers which made me both excited and worried.
Flash forward to 2007 and walking out of the theater after watching the Michael Bay film, I felt very conflicted. On one hand, it WAS really cool to see such quality CGI (the one real positive I can give to Bay) where various vehicles turned into giant robots. Even though the end result of that transition (vehicle to robot) was a massive eyesore, the effects were pretty cool, and the occasional sound effect from the old cartoons hit that nostalgia bone hard. Just about everything else however, was garbage.
First, the humans. I will let the following picture speak for itself:
Any human character not represented in the picture was pure and utter garbage, and an absolute pain to listen to and watch. I do not blame the actors either; if they are not in the picture above, while they were bad, I am sure it was completely both a writing and directing fail.
The humor (if you can even call it that) was so bad that in my heart of hearts, the average 12 year old boy should call it pathetically childish. The story/plot was something created by someone who obviously never heard of the Transformers beforehand and refused to even read a synopsis and the robot designs were atrocious. The movie was bad, plain and simple.
However, that small aspect, the transformation of vehicle into robot (the sequence itself), and like I said, that occasional sound effect, salvaged the experience slightly. Not enough to go back to the theater again (until now that is), but enough that I won't say I ultimately hate
the 2007 film (I didn't say I liked it either of course).
When the second movie came out, I waited for it to be at Redbox and we rented it. Everything bad about the 2007 movie was amped up to 11, and anything enjoyable about the 2007 movie was either gone or long since worn out. While the first movie featured masturbation jokes and robots 'lubricating' on people, this one had dogs FUCKING
and giant robot testicles. Do I really need to say more?
At this point, I was done. However, when the third movie came out, too many people were saying that it was actually good, and if you didn't like the second, but at least tolerated the first, this would be a great movie.
They were wrong. So wrong. Savagely wrong. So wrong in fact, that I still have not seen the fourth or fifth films, and when I heard that there would be a sixth movie, a spinoff featuring BumbleBee, I rolled my eyes and said whatever.
Then the first teaser came out, and for some reason I watched it. And something happened; I actually enjoyed what I saw! At least, I thought it had potential. Then some real trailers came out, and seeing the classic designs, I was fascinated!
And now we get to the movie itself (sorry that took so long, I just really wanted anyone reading to know just how much I HATE the 'Bay' directed films).
So the first question one might ask me here is, was BumbleBee everything you've been wanting in a live action Transformers film? No; but it was extremely close. And even though this wasn't exactly what I've been wanting in a live action Transformers film, it was beyond what I would have ever expected having seen the first three 'Bay' films, and it actually IS about what I would want in a spinoff that features only one character enough that the movie itself is named after that character.
This movie IS called 'BumbleBee', after all. Had it been called 'Transformers Begins' I would have expected more; much, much more. But being a movie about a single character, it delivers more than enough.
That said, I will admit that there is probably too much time spent on the human characters. In fact, large chunks are spent just following the human lead without even the vehicle form of BumbleBee, which did make it lag a bit at times. However, Hailee Steinfeld's "Charlie" was so good and fun to watch, it's hard to be too negative (even if she did kind of out stage the title character).
I'm not going to go into too much plot details; there are about a million places on the Internet where you can get a small or insanely detailed synopsis of any given movie. But I will point out what I thought was good and bad, hopefully without going into spoiler territory.
The movie opens up firing on all cylinders; we start out on Cybertron, with the classic G1 robots fighting an all out war between the Autobots and the Decepticons, and it looks right out of the old cartoons and/or comic books! Unfortunately, this only lasts about two minutes, with another minute or two later in a flashback. But what we get here IS exactly what I have always wanted, just 90 minutes short of perfection.
After that, we see BumbleBee get to Earth, and more action ensues! Action that is clear and fun to watch.
The relationship between BumbleBee and the previously mentioned Hailee Steinfeld's "Charlie" is sweet, fun and entertaining.
The humor, over all, is really good. Not all of the jokes hit, but even when they miss, it's not in a painful and/or eye rolling in an embarrassing way; it's simply not funny. And when they hit, they are good; not gut busting, but good solid humor.
The character design for the Transformers is beyond amazing! THIS is what I have always wanted, and one of the bigger things that the Bay films just did not understand (not that simple character design would have made those films good, but at least they would have been more enjoyable to the eye).
As I already said, there not quite enough 'robot' action. Too much time is spent on the humans, and it does get a little heavy handed with Charlie's situation; everything about her is setup rather quickly in the beginning, but instead of just leaving it there (where you already have all the information you need), they hit you over the head a little too much over and over to make sure you 'got it' (something about her character I do not wish to reveal in an initial post).
Former wrestling star John Cena plays a stereotypical military guy, and while he does have a few really good lines, he's mostly a cliché of epically eye rolling proportions.
An actor named Jorge Lendeborg Jr. plays a character named 'Memo', and while he's not bad, he's also not needed at all. His role is the standard boy likes girl but is too self-conscious to say so, which is not needed at all, and only serves to bloat some runtime that could have been devoted to more time on Cybertron. I also have to admit that I spent way too much time trying to figure out if I was hearing his name correctly; Memo? Really?
The 'Memo' character, in my opinion, would have been better severed to have been a pre-existing friend along for the ride when needed, instead of spending so much time on his self-conscious bumblings.
The Flat Out Weird
One confusing aspect of this movie is where it fits into the franchise. It's being advertised as a prequel to the Bay films, as in part of the cannon for those god-awful films. And watching the movie, there are many aspects and moments that show it IS a prequel. However, there is also a scene that completely contradicts the existing timeline. On top of that, the plot for this film, which you will get in the first two minutes, has NOTHING to do with the established point of traveling to Earth in the 2007 film; the Magoffin 'All Spark' has NOTHING to do with this film.
In closing I would like to say that this movie, while not perfect, IS closer to the live action Transformers film I have always wanted. When I walked out of the theater, I was happy and excited, and I could NOT wait to see it again (I still hope to go back soon). I was also very excited and optimistic about the future of the live action Transformers films.
Unfortunately, now that we are almost 3 weeks out, the box office results have been very poor. In fact, it seems that it could very well be the worst performing live action Transformers movie so far. Even though countless people have cried and cried about wanting a better Transformers film, now that we have one, no one is watching it.
If you are reading this, and you hated the Bay Transformers films, GO SEE THIS MOVIE NOW! And if you never had any interest in the Transformers franchise, you still may enjoy yourself if you just watch it for what it's worth; E.T. meets The Iron Giant melded with 80's movies in the form of an 80's version of the Transformers.