HOLLYWOOD—I have always been a fan of the “Transformers” films. It is actually bittersweet for me because it is a franchise that allowed me to bond with my nephew. I guess we both have a love for robots in disguise. Get it? The one thing that we all know about the “Transformers” films is the fact that none of them are perfect; I mean we’re not seeing Oscar caliber storytelling with any of these flicks, but the latest entry in the franchise is special.
I’m referring to “Bumblebee” which I immediately dismissed as being a movie that would not entertain the least bit. Man was I surprised by watching this movie. Why? It works on so many levels. Not just giving fans what they expect in action-packed sequences, visuals to die for, but characters we truly care about and seeing the relationship flourish between Bumblebee and his first protégé.
That protégé is Charlie Watson (Hailee Steinfeld). Steinfeld is an incredible actress; who first burst onto the scene in the riveting remake of “True Grit.” The actress hasn’t had a role as meaty as that one in a while, but she is the heart of this movie that makes it work on so many cylinders. She isn’t one-note, she is layered and the chemistry she has with a robot that isn’t quite a human being speaks wonders. That is a crucial selling point of the movie; the audience sees the evolution of this relationship between Charlie and Bumblebee as the robot aims to protect Earth from villainous fiends Shatter (voice of Angela Bassett) and Dropkick (voice of Justin Theroux).
Yes, those villains are no Megatron, but they work for this movie that centers on the relationship between a teen and her friend that is grander than life. That is another strong selling point for the movie; you don’t have to see the other movies in the franchise to enjoy this adventure. It stands alone and does a decent job at it, where the battle between the Autobots and Decepticons is explained. It’s simple in its delivery, but at the same time I found myself so sutured by it that it worked seamlessly.
I kept asking myself, why can’t all the other “Transformers” films click like this one after five movies in the franchise? The one issue with the movie has to be the presence of John Cena. His character seems lackluster and just not only miscast, but showcases that Cena is not delivering his best acting abilities for this flick. He is quite forgettable if you ask me.
Minus that one hiccup, the film’s ability to craft the trauma that Charlie endures as a result of her father’s passing, her angry towards her mother, the fractured relationship with her brother; it feels real, it feels authentic and that scores a ton of points for the viewer. You can sympathize with the character and that only strengthens our bond to her as she tackles this journey to save the planet from a threat they never saw coming.
I cannot believe I’m even saying this, but it’s true, “Bumblebee” is the best flick in the “Transformers” franchise and it’s all thanks to a witty script that shows the bond between a teen (a female at that) and a Volkswagen Beetle, that just happens to be an alien from another planet. Go figure.