Directed by Travis Knight, this prequel / spin-off of the Transformers series revolves around our favourite yellow auto-bot in the late 1980s as he bonds with Charlie Watson (Hailee Steinfeld) while the military and two decepticons are hot on their tails.
Bumblebee was met with warm expectations as Michael Bay had stepped down from directing duties following the underperformance of Transformers: The Last Knight.
In some respects, Bumblebee manages to stylistically distance itself as there is more of an endearing optimism to this story and the way Knight directs it, namely how comprehensible the action looks. The distinguishable colour on each of the transformers does pop more against the backdrops than what Bay had in his movies where it seemed like constant grey was on display.
Hailee Steinfeld does a very good job as Charlie. I felt her plight, she had a relatable personality and she was an active protagonist whose relationship with ‘Bee’ really piqued in certain moments.
The first 10 minutes, which show ‘Cybertron’ and how ‘Bee’ lost his voice, I loved all of. It was exciting, it was fun and it was what I wanted to see more of.
But that’s the extent of my lauding of Bumblebee because this movie is plagued with pacing issues, questionable performances and a storyline that feels so derivative and recycled that the movie never really does anything interesting with it other than making the ‘alien’ an auto-bot from Transformers .
There was a solid hour of the movie where nothing of real merit was taking place and I found myself in a very languid and inattentive state. Steinfeld aside, the rest of the cast range from wooden to charmless to just down right woeful.
John Cena, who plays a military general looking for ‘Bee’, is horrendously bad here. This wasn’t an antagonist that I loved to hate, I hated him for all the wrong reasons. He feels so strangely miscast; the movie is set in the late 80s, and because Cena is such a solidified figure of 21st-century pop culture, his presence here makes the movie feel too current and too dated all at once because: a) he’s John Cena; and b) his arch, his dialogue and his performance – everything about him just did not click with me.
Bumblebee is by no means a bad movie. I did not hate it. But when I was asked recently regarding what the last movie I saw in the cinema was, I had genuinely forgotten that it was Bumblebee.
Being honest, that’s not what I wanted with this movie. I had high hopes for it. But the movie never really progresses with any convivial momentum and the characters aren’t that interesting.
If this was the first Transformers movie to be released instead of Bay’s 2007 movie, I would’ve enjoyed it and appreciated it more. But now, I’m sick of Transformers movies. I applaud the movie for the effort, but ultimately disappointing.
Written by Seán Mac G.