10th Dec2018

‘Bumblebee’ Review

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: Hailee Steinfeld, Justin Theroux, Dylan O’Brien, Angela Bassett, Pamela Adlon, John Cena, Megyn Price, Kenneth Choi, Peter Cullen, Marcella Bragio, Gracie Dzienny, John Ortiz, Len Cariou | Written by Christina Hodson | Directed by Travis Knight


On the run in the year 1987, Bumblebee finds refuge in a junkyard in a small Californian beach town. Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld), on the cusp of turning 18 and trying to find her place in the world, discovers Bumblebee, battle-scarred and broken. When Charlie revives him, she quickly learns this is no ordinary, yellow VW bug.

After five incredibly financially successful, yet critical duds, of Michael Bay Transformer films, Paramount – or Hasbro for that matter – has finally come to their senses and injected new blood into a wailing and often entertainingly fleeting franchise. Of which comes in a burst of excitement and possibility with a new director of Travis Knight (Kubo and the Two Strings) and a prequel exploring one of their most beloved and let’s be honest, best-sold toys, in the form of character Bumblebee, who has been a staple of the franchise since its live-action cinematic conception in 2007. The end result is a refreshingly endearing, slick and stylish entry that is a somewhat ironic reminder of a franchise that could have been if it was left in the right hands.

Gone are all the stylish visual conventions of Bay’s unflattering, deeply uncomfortable flaunting and over-sexualisation of the female form, or the brain-numbing humour it conveyed. Replacing such is an endearing tale of a coming of age film that has Transformers as side characters. This story, with a decision to almost sideline the titular character, opens the film up for a more compelling narrative; limiting the often absurd action set pieces to a minimum three act beat. Resulting in a superiorly effective approach that hits harder with the sequences themselves creating a more enormously intense atmosphere with compelling stakes. With the space and time freed up from absurd action blur, the story gives way to creating a more apparent and equanimous narrative from writer Christina Hodson. Partly to the emotionally cohesive and jesting performance of lead actress Hailee Steinfeld, who is undoubtedly a star. The loveable approach and story of a character that has relatable and honest angst problems create a beautifully endearing character arc with the subjects at hand, that connects with its audience to compliment a tense narrative.

There are small issues that arise within Bumblebee, nothing particularly major but issues nonetheless. Villian of the piece Agent Burns, played by John Cena, has little to nothing to do – his screen presence maybe here in size but the writing and story do little to complement the character and actor. It’s clear why a human villain is implemented after each previous entry has CGI villain to contend with but ironically such a saturated convention would be well implemented and efficient here. Dylan O’Brien voicing the titular character sadly doesn’t work, it’s just simply not effective and feels drastically out of place. The same can be said for both Justin Theroux and Angela Bassett voicing Dropkick and Shatter respectively, both are underwhelming and hold very little weight in voice talent.

Bumblebee is released in UK cinemas on December 24th


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