In the early 80s, the Japanese toy company Takara produced a line of transforming robot toys, namely Diaclone and Microman. Fresh off the success of the G.I. Joe toyline, the American toy company Hasbro purchased the rights to the toyline. Along with the new toyline, which they dubbed Transformers, there was a Marvel comics series and a cartoon show. The toys became insanely popular thanks in part to the animated series, which even spawned a theatrical film in 1986. Overtime, new toy lines were introduced and various tie-in animated series were created, but there never was another movie. Then, in 2007, Paramount hired director Michael Bay to helm the first live-action Transformers movie, which became a massive success. This led to four sequels, each one costing more than the last and making millions at the box office. However, with the franchise losing steam, we’ve been given a new spin-off, Bumblebee.
On the planet Cybertron, the evil Decepticons have all but won as the heroic Autobots lead a resistance force. During a particularly intense battle, Autobot leader Optimus Prime orders his fellow Autobots to escape and establish an off-world base. One of these Autobots, dubbed B-127, is sent to the planet Earth, where he first meets Agent Burns (John Cena). Burns’ men start firing on B-127, believing him to be a threat, leading to a fight with the Decepticon Blitzwing. B-127 manages to defeat him, but loses his speaking ability in the process, and he soon collapses, his memory fading. We soon meet teenager Charlie Watson (Hailee Steinfeld), a car enthusiast who is recovering from her dad’s death. For her 18th birthday, she gets an old VW Bug from a junkyard, only to find it’s B-127. Dubbing him Bumblebee, she must protect him from the military and two Decepticons hunting him.
When the first live-action movie came out in 2007, I enjoyed it for what is was, despite some dumb moments. As the sequels came one after another, the series just got worse and worse, and hope seemed lost. They were too long, the Transformers took a backseat to the worst human characters ever, and the humor was cringe-inducing. I had all but given up all hope on there being a decent live-action Transformers movie, until this came out. After several loud, bombastic, and confusing failures, this is the breath of fresh air the series so desperately needed. Instead of over-complicating things and having so many characters that look so similar, this one drastically simplifies things. Plus, the robots have a very distinctive look, are distinguishable from one another, and have their own unique personalities. From the opening scenes on Cybertron, it felt like the live-action Transformers movie everybody wanted.
What also helps is that the human characters are both likable and better acted than the previous films. Hailee Steinfeld does a great job in the lead, and her scenes with Bumblebee are both fun and touching. John Cena, while a villain, is still understandable in his actions and eventually realizes the error of his ways. The two main Decepticons, Shatter (Angela Bassett) and Dropkick (Justin Theroux), make for great villains and are insanely ruthless. Unless the previous films, the action sequences are pulled back enough to where you can see what’s happening. But as good as the action sequences, what really makes this movie so special is how much heart it has. The only major flaw here is that it borrows probably too much like ET and has almost the same plot. Aside from that, Bumblebee is easily the best Transformers movie since the ’86 original.