December 5-6, 2020
Sydney Showground Olympic Park
A good live-action Transformers movie in 2018? It’s more likely than you think!
The opening scene of this film is written with nothing but love for fans of the G1 cartoon, or its video game cousins, War for/Fall of Cybertron. Old friends, new faces, locked in a battle for both their own survival and the survival of their home planet. This movie opens by sitting you down, patting you on the back, wrapping a warm nostalgia blanket around you, and saying, “Don’t worry, we’ve got this,” all within a handful of minutes.
If you thought this was going to be yet another explosion-fueled, angst-ridden love letter to the military involving the destruction of [insert your major city of choice] by incomprehensible grey CGI figures, prepare to be pleasantly surprised, and have your heartstrings tugged on significantly.
Director Travis Knight, writer Christina Hodson and the team, have managed to do something that the preceding five films (yes, there are five of them) haven’t been able to do in over a decade; deliver a movie that is mostly about the Transformers, but manages to introduce a human element that doesn’t detract from the film, but instead completes it.
We meet Charlie (played wonderfully by Hailee Steinfeld) on the eve of her 18th birthday in 1987, who, like most teenagers, hates her life, hates her job, and just wants a car and the freedom it brings. While harvesting parts from the local scrapyard to repair an old convertible, she stumbles across a dusty, beat-up yellow Volkswagen. After bringing it home, she is surprised to find that her new set of wheels is more than meets the eye, and the two embark on an amazing coming-of-age story; not just for her, but for our giant yellow robotic friend as well.
Proving he’s more than just everyone’s favourite invisible wrestling superstar, John Cena’s role as Agent Burns of Sector 7 (yes, that Sector 7 from the other films) allows him to not only flex his comedic muscles a little but also introduces a third-party to the film. Initially antagonistic to our heroes as the result of a Bumblebee v Blitzwing smack down, in which his squad is attacked and his character heavily injured, Cena and the rest of Sector 7 fall in-step with Decepticons Shatter (Angela Bassett) and Dropkick (Justin Theroux) who claim to be intergalactic peacekeepers after Bumblebee. They say Bumblebee is a dangerous criminal, and Sector 7 gives the duo access to all the resources at their disposal to hunt him down. Once things take a turn for the worse, Agent Burns and his men realise they’ve been deceived (by the Decepticons, no less) and use what they have left to assist our heroes in defeating them.
The visuals are what fans of the cartoon have been wanting since 2007, when greyish silver protoforms first crashed into movie theatres. Simple models, bright colours, are all designed to give off an amazing G1 aesthetic, but also really help sell the film’s many robot-on-robot fight scenes. The lack of shaky-cam accompanied by brilliant fight choreography means that when the Decepticons come after Bumblebee (oh, and they do), you can tell exactly what’s going on.
Ultimately, this movie manages to do two things, and do both of those things incredibly well. Not only are we drawn into the world of the Transformers through Bumblebee and care about his mission not only to save Earth, but prevent the Autobots from being entirely wiped out, we are also moved by Charlie’s story, as she tries to find herself in a world that appears to have left her behind. Here’s two characters pushing each other to become bigger and better people; their stories interweaving and culminating in a final act that puts fate in the hands of a kickass yellow Volkswagen, with some help from his human friends, and not the other way around.
To say much more would spoil many of the heartfelt moments, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it references, and delightful surprises throughout. Bumblebee is a charming film about a girl and her giant robot, that will delight young, old, and the young-at-heart, and sets the stage for what we can only hope is more of the same down the line.
Bumblebee opens in cinemas December 20