I have mixed feelings when it comes to the Transformers movies. I enjoyed some, disliked others, and haven’t even bothered watching some of them. But with Bumblebee, we get something completely different to what we’ve had before. A stripped back, character driven story with real heart and less city-wide mass destruction. Michael Bay has now taken a step back into role of producer, and Bumblebee is all the better for it.
We kick things off with a pretty impressive, jaw dropping opener though, as we witness the dramatic fall of Cybertron. Sustaining heavy damage from the Decepticons, Autobot leader Optimus Prime sends one of his best soldiers B127 (who we know as Bumblebee) on a mission to Earth in order to begin setting up a new base for the remaining Autobots.
Bumblebee crash lands in America and we discover that the year is 1987, so before the events of the original Transformers movie. And Bumblebee has a voice! Although it’s not very long at all until he finds himself taking serious damage, losing that voice, along with his memory, and he shuts down into a state of hibernation to preserve himself.
We then meet Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld), about to turn 18 and living with her mum, brother and stepdad. She’s an unhappy teenager, still mourning the sudden death of her father and is generally struggling with life. While helping out at the local junkyard she uncovers a dusty old yellow VW Beetle and convinces the junkyard owner to let her have it as a birthday present. She manages to get it started, driving it home to begin working on, only to discover that her birthday present is something a little bit more impressive than just a car!
But Bumblebee is still clearly suffering from his recent damage. Cowering in the corner of the garage and flinching at the site of the spanner in Charlie’s hand. The pair set about slowly gaining each others trust learning more about each other and becoming friends. Meanwhile, a couple of stray Decepticons have picked up on a signal from the newly awakened Bumblebee and start heading to Earth. They convince the awaiting military team that they have come in peace, in search of dangerous fugitive Bumblebee and need our help, wanting to use Earths satellites to try and track him.
That character driven story that I mentioned earlier is where this movie really excels though. The scenes where it’s just Charlie and Bumblebee are wonderful, funny at times and totally believable, and it’s clear that they need each other in order to get their respective lives back on track. She even gives him back his voice, fitting him with the car stereo that we’re familiar with from previous movies. It’s a real Iron Giant or ET vibe, aided considerably by the eighties setting.
Things do come to an intense conclusion, as Bumblebee fights to prevent the Decepticons from transmitting a message to the others. But in a similar vein to the other outstanding action sequences throughout the movie, it’s all much more restrained and effective. Transformers just got fun again!