A Fun Adventure;
Whose Protagonist Has Depth;
Reclaims Its Franchise.
Full disclosure: I loathed the first two Transformers so much that I swore off the series after that point, so long as Michael Bay was in charge. Having not seen the remaining slew of sequels really helped to help me go into this without that baggage, and the experience was all the better for it, as this was a riot of a film to see with my son.
Watching these kinds of family-friendly action movies is different as an adult, but when they invoke the same sense of fun as the films of your youth, they can be just as rewarding. Hodson’s script, which immediately drops you into intergalactic warfare before moving into origin story territory, does very well to balance story with action and character development. It is well-rounded, giving the franchise the strong protagonist that it was lacking (back when I still watched, at least). Hailee Steinfeld handles the role of Charlie quite well, whether called upon for action heroics or to display range and hidden pain, and despite the title, it feels like the film belongs to her.
Travis Knight, having previously directed the phenomenal Kubo and the Two Strings, helms this with care, having a good feel for when to lean into emotion and when the pull back to allow for lighter fare. He gets a solid performance out of the charismatic, always-entertaining John Cena, avoids an overload of nostalgia for its own sake (save for the soundtrack, but a lot of that is gimmick related to Bumblebee’s communication) and paces the story well. Perhaps the biggest compliment I can pay the man relates to the visuals. Unlike some previous installments, it’s easy to see what’s going on in the action sequences, even when the robots are fighting each other. What a concept!
Bumblebee has a lot going for it, but the most important aspect is its heart. It never feels like a cheap, toy-pushing cash grab, and even if it follows a proven formula, it respects itself and its audience. This movie delivers while setting up a new franchise that I never expected to want to see.