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MOVIE REVIEW: FTN reviews Bumblebee

December 16th, 2018 by Marc Comments

Bumblebee (PG)
Director: Travis Knight
Writers: Christina Hodson (screenplay by), Christina Hodson (story by)
Stars: Hailee Steinfeld, Dylan O’Brien, Justin Theroux | See full cast & crew »
Running Time: 1hr 53mins

On the run in the year of 1987, Bumblebee finds refuge in a junkyard in a small Californian beach town. Charlie, on the cusp of turning 18 and trying to find her place in the world, discovers Bumblebee, battle-scarred and broken.

I don’t think anyone will argue that, as the Michael Bay Transformers movies went on they become more senseless and bombastic until, with The Last Knight, the story was completely stupid and the movie was such a mess that almost endless battles between giant robots couldn’t save it from being utterly boring and forgettable.

Seriously, what was the plot of that movie!?

So, not before time, a change came.

Michael Bay – king of the big bang – was set to produce while Kubo And the Two Strings director Travis Knight was in. Out was Shia Labeouf and Mark Wahlberg (thank the maker!), in was Edge Of Seventeen’s Hailee Steinfeld and, it can’t be disputed, it’s a much better outing.

Although, far from perfect.

I’m going to keep it spoiler free here gang, but anyone who will have seen there trailer will know we’re in for some serious Generation One (the original) Transformers action and we do get it and, for the brief time it’s on screen, it’s beautiful – so beautiful that when the first scene ended I said out loud, “No! I want two hours of that!!!” and I never speak in the cinema! – but it’s brief and while entirely wonderful and nostalgic, it’s little more than fan service and does little to add to the plot anything that a line of dialogue couldn’t have done… but, fan service is what it is and it was totally worth the admission price alone.

As for the rest of the movie, there is a definite feel that the budget was greatly reduced as Bumblebee spends an awful lot of time as a car.

But…

We all know money isn’t the core of telling a good story and here, like a throwback to the days of Spielberg, the story is told through the eyes of Steinfeld’s Charlie, a young girl who has had a family tragedy and really just needs a friend and luckily a giant war robot from an alien planet arrives just as she needs him most.

And the heart of the movie is worn unashamedly on the arm of the movie. The performances from the core cast – even Cena’s screaming and sneering soldier – are really great, with Steinfeld giving an emotional, relatable and fun performance, similar in many ways to her role in Edge of Seventeen, but without the boy trouble.

Which takes us to Bumblebee himself. The emotion in this robot, compared to the decade of robots we’ve had in the lead-up to this movie, is phenomenal and is undoubtedly down to Knight’s experience on Kubo, giving puppets life and emotion has really rubbed off here and Bumblebee becomes a living, breathing character who is fun and we care for.

However, there’s an odd sense of emptiness to proceedings. The whole adventure is small and personal and there’s never really a sense of real danger to the whole thing. Sure, there’s a couple of Decepticons up to no good, manipulating the military and the likes, but – and we’re sure this is deliberate – the whole thing feels enjoyable but inconsequential.

Look, I want big fighting robots in my Transformers movie, but, well, there’s not too much of that happening.

There’s clearly a movement here to so blatantly NOT be a Michael Bay movie that it threads dangerously close to going too far in the opposite direction.

Thankfully, there’s enough to love to ensure it never teeters over the brink.

And while this outing gives the impression it’s in the same universe as the previous movies, well, it can’t be because this movie undoes a lot of things established before and, while the Bay movies have had several contradicting plot points, the contradictions here feel like they are deliberate and it actually is a full-blown reboot.

And that’s fine by us because this movie lifts much from classics such as ET and the Iron Giant and we all know that’s where Transformers belongs…

Not perfect, but definitely a lot of fun and a massive improvement over the recent efforts, this is a franchise I could fall in love with all over again.

Oh, and yes, it does have The Touch (you either know or you don’t).

4 out of 5 Nerds

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Marc is a self-confessed nerd. Ever since seeing Star Wars for the first time around 1979 he’s been an unapologetic fan of the Wars and still believes, with Clone Wars and now Underworld, we are yet to see the best Star Wars. He’s a dad of two who now doesn’t have the time (or money) to collect the amount of toys, comics, movies and books he once did, much to the relief of his long-suffering wife. In the real world he’s a graphic designer. He started Following the Nerd because he was tired of searching a million sites every day for all the best news that he loves and decided to create one place where you can go to get the whole lot. Secretly he longs to be sitting in the cockpit of his YT-1300 Corellian Transport ship with his co-pilot Chewie, roaming the universe, waiting for his next big adventure, but feels just at home watching cartoons with his kids….