I saw Bumblebee yesterday in a regular theater (no 3D, no IMAX, etc.) which was mostly full (not bad for 3:30 in the afternoon). Short version; I loved it, and it gave me everything I’ve wanted in a live-action Transformers movie but haven’t had. Set in 1987, it serves as a prequel to the 2007 live-action film.
Let’s start with the characters. There are actual characters! With story arcs! And personalities and backstories and personal problems that you can actually identify with and get to care about. Chief among these is the lead, Charlie (played by Hailee Steinfeld). She’s a teenager, acutely feeling the loss of her father, feeling stifled and alienated and frustrated with her life as teenagers do. There’s her neighbor, Memo, an awkward geeky teen who pines for Charlie from afar, but is always too shy to act on it. Even one of the villains, agent Burns, is given a reason for acting the way he does, and is even given an arc that makes perfect sense and is very satisfying. But the best character arc is Bumblebee himself; we see him go from confident warrior to broken survivor, and his arc of redemption proceeds from there.
Everything about this film is satisfying. There’s an initial scene on Cybertron (no spoilers, because this was shown in one of the trailers) with a huge battle between the Decepticons and Autobots, and they actually look like they did in the 80’s cartoons! There was Shockwave, and Wheeljack, and a ton of others and you could tell one from another. The nostalgic call-backs to the original cartoon were many and deeply satisfying (there’s that word again). Honestly, I could watch a two-hour movie based entirely on that segment.
They even managed to slip in a musical call-back to the 1987 cartoon film, with a blast of “The Touch” by Stan Bush. Wonderful stuff.
And the plot, by the Allspark! The film actually had a plot that made sense! It was straightforward, and proceeded from point to point as it should, without any attempts to put in weird twists and turns that would ultimately have distracted from it. You knew what was going on, and why it was going on, and that’s all I demand from a Transformers movie.
My only fear is that this film’s wonderful potential will have been wasted because of the truly awful films that have proceeded it. It really deserves to have been the first in the series, but I’ll take a good film whenever it comes up. See it!