The following is my review and represents my opinion. No matter if you agree or disagree, I would like to have a discussion about the film and promote this wonderful art form. All I ask: be nice about it. Art is subjective and no one’s opinion is right.
After his home-planet of Cybertron is captured by the Decepticons, Bumblebee – a resistance fighter and Autobot – is sent to Earth where he meets lonely car-enthusiast Charlie(Hailee Steinfeld) and must evade the hunting Decepticons.
Film is entirely subjective, and the phrase “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” quintessentially encapsulates it. Anyone can enjoy anything – and not be told they are wrong for it. That said, explosion maestro Michael Bay’s Transformers anthology is, put simply, damaging. People who enjoy them have every right to do so: but Bayformers are damaging not only to my soul but to the film industry at large(especially after Age of Extinction grossed a surplus of one billion dollars worldwide, somehow). So with great relief and joviality, I can say that Bumblebee – the latest entry, now helmed by Travis Knight as opposed to Michael Bay – is what we deserved from the beginning.
Knight – of Kubo and the Two Strings fame – reinvigorate a franchise which has, until now, not transformed itself into anything greater than a trash can(perhaps a ‘Trashformer’?). Unlike Bay‘s money-driven, vaguely racist and blatantly uncaring saga, Knight‘s new direction, one which I hope is taken forward, promised fun and freedom – hence the 1980s’ setting – and delivered it effortlessly. Not every joke lands with grace but the ones that do – Bumblebee’s introduction to ‘egging’ houses comes to mind – are incredibly funny and occasionally clever. Gone are the days of “the watch that killed Hitler” – we now have a Bumblebee with an affectionate taste for the Smiths.
Then with Knight comes the visual spoils. Knight’s 2016 stop-motion animated feature, the aforementioned Kubo and the Two Strings, was famously nominated for Best Visual Effects at the Academy Awards, becoming the second animated feature in the 90 years that the Oscars have operated to earn a nomination in that category. Though Knight himself was not nominated, his knack for the craft is apparent – and it translates to live-action flawlessly. Bumblebee‘s spectacle and visuals are one of its’ many triumphs. Gone are the days where Transformers‘ action sequences look like, to quote the internet show Honest Trailers, “two junkyards having sex” – now we have action scenes that are fun, aesthetically appealing and coherent, even if the climax overstays its welcome and sadly succumbs to being just noise; unlike the more grounded, character-driven first two acts.
Contrastingly, the Bayformers were nothing but noise – and overstayed their welcome by four and a half movies. Compared to the plot-heavy cluster-trucks of exposition and Shakespearean complexity(without the Shakespeare) of before, the Bumblebee plot is a simple ‘boy and his dog’ tale – only instead of a boy and his dog, it is a teenage girl and a robotic-car from outer-space. Surrounding this core centre is a lot of unnecessary fluff – including the impressively bland villain – but the heart of the story is omnipresent, and it stems from the undeniable chemistry between our two leads, Bumblebee and Charlie – played excellently and with a surprisingly emotional conviction by Hailee Steinfeld. Bumblebee never speaks after the opening 10-15 minutes, but the superb effects make him physically wear his emotions on his metal sleeve, ranging from simply adorable to admittedly heartbreaking. He may be ‘just pixels on a screen’, but he is twice the human any of the Transformers‘ ‘human’ cast ever were.
Of the fifty films I was able to see in cinemas in 2017, Transformers: The Last Knight was easily the magnum opus of atrocious. Nothing in it – from Mark Wahlberg being an inventor to making legendary Oscar-winner Anthony Hopkins debate his life choices – appealed to me in any way. I cannot say Transformers as a brand means as much to me as it does to many other people, but my time does: and so far I’ve wasted twelve miserable hours of my life in Bay‘s cinematic Saw trap. Thanks to Travis Knight, however, that number is not fourteen hours. If only to be defiant against media that is killing the film industry – watch Bumblebee: and prove you’ll no longer accept the Trashformers. Or if not for that, do it because it is a fun popcorn movie and well worth your time.