As a kid in the 80s, I loved the Transformers. Like many of my compatriots, I could not get enough of giant robots or things that morphed making it both the perfect cartoon and toy line for me. I wasn’t a diehard fan (I only know the names of a few of the Autobots and Decepticons) but it was a big part of my youth. I even have a Transformers sleeping bag that my son now uses!
So, I was pretty excited to watch the Transformers film in 2007. And you know what? I dug it! This was before coming to understand how problematic and awful certain aspects of that production and its director were, so I found myself enthralled with this tale of giant robots fighting each other with surprisingly durable humans running around. It certainly helped that they used the few Transformers I can name from memory AND some of the sound effects from the cartoon! With the second film in the series, I found myself no longer having fun and stayed away, that is until watching Bumblebee with my wife!
So, what drew me back into the fold? Great question! First of all, there’s no Michael Bay, a director I once enjoyed, but no more. Better yet, the new director, Travis Knight, worked on amazing stop motion films from Laika like Boxtrolls and Kubo (which he helmed). I wasn’t familiar with screenwriter Christina Hodson’s work, but I’m pretty excited to see that she did the Harley Quinn script and is working on the ones for Flash and Batgirl. The film also boasts an awesome lead in Hailee Steinfeld plus the increasingly charming John Cena. On top of all that, it’s set in the 80s, which I’m an easy mark for!
I was already in before the movie even began and then it hit me with a scene set on Cybertron (the Transformers’ home planet) with the Autobots fighting the Decepticons! It also had the sound effects from the cartoon and many of the characters I remembered. I was in nostalgia filled geek heaven! The squeal I made when Soundwave released Ravager could barely be registered by human ears, but my wife and cat both looked at me questioningly.
From there, you get Bumblebee traveling to Earth in the 80s, garnering the attention of the military, including John Cena’s Agent Burns before getting his vocal box and memories injured while fleeing a battle. He turned into a Volkswagen beetle and managed to hide in a junkyard until Steinfeld’s Charlie wound up taking him home. A gearhead still struggling with the loss of her father from a heart attack (that part hit home), Charlie’s doing her best to find her way in the world when she discovers this unexpected alien friend in her garage.
Charlie and Bumblebee’s problems get a whole lot crazier when a pair of Decepticons trick the U.S. military into working together so they can essentially create the internet in an attempt to track ‘Bee down. With that you’ve got not only Agent Burns and a small army of soldiers coming from our hero and her new friends, but also Dropkick and Shatter who have no qualms about tearing through some pesky humans to get Bumblebee (because they think he knows where the in-hiding Optimus Prime is). Cue the epic final battle.
You guys, I loved this movie. Yes, it definitely plucks and even beautifully plays those nostalgic heartstrings, but beyond that I was instantly pulled in by Steinfeld’s portrayal of Charlie. It’s not hard to get me interested in the less-than-popular kid attempting to navigate an increasingly complicated world, but she also perfectly encapsulates some of the feelings I had after losing my father, though I was much younger when it happened to me. And then you have a great deal of teen drama (her neighbor played by Jorge Lendeborg Jr. has a crush on her), plus all the action scenes, plus excellent doses of comedy coming from Cena (who hangs a lantern on Transformers with a dry wit that had me rolling)!
A big, crazy action film from smart creators with an excellent cast and special effects, plus nostalgia and heart? That’ll get me every time and Bumblee definitely got me.