‘Bumblebee’ review: Completely worth the buzz

A still from ‘Bumblebee’   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

A Transformer film is equivalent to robots smashing each other to pieces as we’ve seen in the last five instalments. It’s all about mayhem and madness with alien machines. It’s earth at peril and one mega battle that ups the ante on all others. A Transformer film does not channel Disney-esque wholesomeness. It simply cannot. It can’t possibly threaten (and succeed even) to burst your heart open with emotion. And yet the latest in the series, Bumblebee - the spin-off standalone film of a key character - has the audience wrapped around its massive alien metal pinky finger.

  • Director: Travis Knight
  • Cast: Hailee Steinfeld, John Cena, John Ortiz, Pamela Adlon, with voices of Angela Bassett, Justin Theroux, Peter Cullen.
  • Story line: Charlie, a teenage girl becomes friends with B-127 aka Bumblebee, an alien robot Autobot who must defeat the Decepticons to ensure the safety of his planet, Cybertron.

With Bumblebee,we go back to the beginning. Two decades before what we’ve seen director Michael Bay do with the alien robot species (in five films), there’s a civil war on planet Cybertron. Paving the path for the rest of the spin-off, director Travis Knight delivers an electrifying prologue mid-battle: the Autobots’ faction is losing against the Decepticons. To ensure the survival of their species, young B-127 of the Autobots - who will later be known as Bumblebee - is sent to earth to set up base for the resistance to regroup. On earth, Bumblebee meets Charlie, (Hailee Steinfeld) an angsty teenager, mourning the loss of her father, who feels alienated from the world. And hot on Bumblebee’s wheels is the government agency Sector 7 led by Jack Burns (John Cena).

Christina Hodson crafts a nifty screenplay that’s equal parts explanatory, hilarious and succinct. There’s a generous dose of levity peppered throughout, even in least expected situations. Of note is Cena’s performance that seamlessly transitions from silly to serious. Steinfeld is all heart as a damaged teenager. But of course, the star of the film is Bumblebee with his introduction to pop culture and finding a voice through music.

While Bay waxed elaborate with his fights and slick transformations, Knight relies on finer nuances to lasso in his viewers. He leans heavily on emotion: the origin of how Bumblebee became mute, making the robot alien eager to please like a pet who furrow his brows or drops his ears. Charlie and the Autobot’s friendship is the backbone of this prequel. And while it’s hard to be moved by metal, the director goes above and beyond the task.

A special hat tip to Knight for spectacularly transporting the audience to the ‘80s: from Charlie’s moped, to the spot-on fashion (replete with shoulder pads and blue eyeliner) and heavy doses of pop culture. Watch out for an endearing nod to John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club along with many 80s anthems including A-ha’s ‘Take on Me’, Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock’s ‘It Takes Two’, Tears for Fear’s ‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World’ and of course Simple Minds’ ‘Don’t You’. The nostalgia alone is giddying.

Bay may have anthropomorphised hunks of metal in five smash-bash Transformer films. But it’s Knight who has injected heart and soul into that robot body.

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Printable version | Jun 13, 2021 10:59:13 AM |

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