Movie Review: Bumblebee

Cole Bertelsen, News Reporter

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The Bumblebee movie was recently released this Christmas. Although it is an installment in the Transformers franchise, this latest movie is decidedly different from the others.

These movies have been known to be focused completely on action, with little story to back them up. They have been large fighting spectacles of robot versus robot. Although those scenes have been impressive, the characters and story were developed very little. Bumblebee breaks this pattern. While it does still have impressive action scenes, it also has an engaging story and relatable characters.

The movie begins with a battle on Cybertron, the robots home planet. Bumblebee (shortly voiced by Dylan O’Brien) and his fellow Autobot rebels are escaping a Decepticon attack. In the midst of the action, Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) commands Bumblebee to flee to Earth, and establish a safe haven for the Autobots. Bumblebee escapes, and arrives on Earth, nearly immediately running into Jack Burns (John Cena), a government agent, who believes Bumblebee is a threat. After a short chase, a Decepticon who followed Bumblbee to earth attacks. A battle ensues, in which Bumblebee wins, but sustains major damage, including losing his voice box and nearly all of his memory. In his last conscious moments, he is able to scan a Volkswagen Beetle as a disguise.

We are then introduced to Charlie Watson (Hailee Steinfeld). She is an eighteen year old on the hunt for a car. She convinces the mechanic who has come into possession of the transformed Bumblebee to give her the car. She soon discovers how truly special this car is, and she and Bumblebee form a fast friendship. This happiness is interrupted when a pair of Decepticons, Shatter (Angela Bassett) and Dropkick (Justin Theroux), discover that Bumblebee is on Earth. These Decepticons eventually form a very uneasy alliance with the agency Burns works for, creating even more danger for Charlie and Bumblebee.

Directed by Travis Knight, this movie is a welcome change to the Transformers franchise. As a prequel, this movie is able to avoid catering to the jumbled history of the past installments. It is able to be a good standalone film, as well as hopefully a starting point for similar stories. While it is no stranger to action filled battles, the Bumblebee movie is just as focused on the quality of characters. For example, Charlie is very relatable, having difficulty fitting in, and is still mourning the loss of her father. She is not just a transparent character, but a complex person. There is much drama related to her grief, but to her credit, she supports Bumblebee in his vulnerable state and demonstrates that she values his safety over her own.

Similarly, and perhaps surprisingly, Bumblebee is also quite relatable. Although he spends the majority of the movie unable to speak, his emotions show through very clearly. Once his memory is lost, he gains a childlike innocence. He views the world with wide eyes and contributes largely to the lightheartedness of the movie.

Even Agent Burns, who is somewhat of an antagonist for most of the story, has understandable motives. He simply wishes to protect his country. He does not trust the alien visitors, and rightly so in the case of the Decepticons. In addition, he acts as a connection to the audience, speaking the obvious, and is another source of comic relief as well as seriousness.

Bumblebee is a wonderful movie. It is a great blend of action, drama, nostalgia, and comedy. The action sequences leave nothing to be desired. At the same time, the story is able to grow beyond that action to tell a coherent story. Any die-hard fan of Transformers will enjoy the old-fashioned look of many of the robots. Personally I could talk all day about how much I enjoy the throwback to the Generation 1 series, as well as the subtle nods to the other films. In addition, this is a very lighthearted film, and you will most likely finish watching with a smile on your face. I certainly suggest that you watch this movie.