Bumblebee Review: A Solid B!

I, like many, found the Michael Bay Transformers movies increasingly unbearable to watch. The first film started out as a so-so guilty pleasure.  The second dropped off completely and was boring and racist. The rest were history.

As fate would have it, another Transformers movie was produced less than a year after The Last Knight; a film that would act as a prequel to Bay’s entire franchise, titled Bumblebee. In actuality this film would go on to bear no resemblance to any of Michael Bay’s films, but it didn’t matter. The collective public groaned and rolled their eyes at the thought of another Transformers movie. They were already on a downward spiral in quality, with The Last Knight being an incoherent mess. How could Bumblebee be any better?

In a shocking twist of events, it can be better! Much better, actually.

Bumblebee takes the basic premise of the first Transformers movie, and shaves away all the fat that makes the plot bloated and boring. There’re bad robots (called Decepticons) chasing down the last of the good robots (called Autobots), who seek to regroup to retake their home planet Cybertron. One of the good robots (nicknamed Bumblebee) goes into hiding on Earth and eventually befriends an awkward, angsty kid named Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld). Together they build a unique friendship and cause mischief. It thankfully doesn’t get much more complicated than that.

From the minute the film starts, it’s evident that Bumblebee is doing its best to emulate the 80’s Transformers cartoon it’s originally based on. We’re immediately visually assaulted by an interplanetary war of robots, all of whom are fighting, shooting, calling for backup, the works. There’s little introduction to who, what, when, where, and why; and yet I found it easy to identify who was good and who was bad, just like any good kids show from the 80’s.

In the same vein I feel that these characters are easily identifiable with young kids/teens. Hailee Steinfeld is a likable actress who plays the part well, and Bumblebee’s antics play off her more temperamental personality in an amusing way.

And Bumblebee doesn’t just look like the Transformers show, because its style and feel are also similar. You can’t go five minutes without being reminded: This is a totally 80’s movie. Chock full of references to Elvis Costello, the Grenada conflict, and Ronald Reagan, Bumblebee lays on the pop culture quite heavily. The soundtrack is laced with songs from groups ranging from Tears for Fears to The Smiths, mostly songs that really exemplified the era.

Bumblebee goes so overboard in its 1980’s allusions that one can assume it was purposeful. The thought process being, make it so dated and cheesy that it inherently becomes charming. And for the most part, this method works! I found myself laughing a lot at the ridiculous teen stereotypes and cultural fads of the time (Remember Alf!).

It’s a shame that Bumblebee is even associated with the other Transformers films, because it’s really its own thing entirely. I’ve heard Bumblebee compared to The Iron Giant, which is a slight overexaggeration, but I think that mindset is on the right path.

Bumblebee is big blockbuster family fun with lots of adventure, action, and just a pinch of cleverness. Bumblebee‘s the kind of film you wish came out mid-summer and not in the middle of winter.

Yes, they play it safe in more ways than one (not to mention the numerous gaffs and other issues), but I found this excusable when looking at the broader scope of what this film is trying to accomplish. That is, making an entertaining Transformers movie that’s a little more thoughtful and faithful to the original show than previous attempts. That makes Bumblebee alright in my book.

The Verdict: B

-Zachary Flint

Transformers: The Last Knight Review

What else is there left to say about the Transformers series? The films are long, poorly written, and entirely too predictable. Yet, they continue to be made, profiting more and more money with each sequel. Despite this unfortunate truth, I will attempt to honestly review the film all the same.

The film takes place shortly after the events of the previous installment, where humans are at war with the Transformers. And with Optimus Prime now gone, it is up to Cade Yaeger (Mark Wahlberg) and a mysterious society led by an English lord (strangely played by Anthony Hopkins) to save the world. Our lead cast must now travel to the ends of the world to recover an ancient artifact with the power to end the war against Transformers.

To start, Transformers: The Last Knight is about as tired as a film can get. The story arch, action scenes, and overall sequence of events have become beyond predictable. I easily guessed what would happen next throughout most of the film, until the plot got so convoluted that I stopped caring.

There are so many characters shoved into this film that I found it hard to get invested in any number of them. We are never given enough time to get to know the protagonists, and the scenes dedicated to character development are written so terribly that it’s almost hard to watch.

To make matters even worse, instead of having the audience learn about the plot and story along the way, literally every detail of the film is spelled out in big chunks of exposition. At least forty-five minutes of the film’s runtime is solely made up of characters explaining things. It goes on for so long that I started getting confused with where the plot was going.

The story itself is needlessly long and bloated, with plenty of pointless characters and shoehorned action sequences. The filmmakers even attempt to throw in a lame, forced message about being a hero that is so ridiculously vague that it can’t be taken seriously.

The action is so nonstop, flashy, and on such an epic scale that, I’ve completely run out of awe for the effects. When you’ve seen the same flashy stunts and special effects time and time again, nothing is going to get you pumped up.

The climax of the film, in usual Transformers fashion, was filled with giant robots and soldiers fighting other giant robots. The visuals around this point became so cluttered and messy that I could hardly tell who was bad and who was good, everything just looked the same. A stunt here or there looked kind of cool, but most of the action in the climax was just more of the same from the rest of the film.

The ending of Transformers: The Last Knight is by far the most disappointing conclusion in the series. We get little to no payoffs for any of the characters, and are only left with that vague message about being a hero. Even for a Transformers film, this was a sloppy and rushed ending.

Transformers: the Last Knight was offensively bad on multiple levels, and was directed incredibly poorly. It’s an insult to the intelligence of audiences everywhere, who deserve a much better movie than this. One can only hope that Transformers: The Last Knight is tipping point for viewers, where the film series slowly starts to turn less of a profit for these dim-witted, asinine filmmakers.

The Verdict: D-

-Zachary Flint