I’m a Transformers pleb. But I really shouldn’t be. I mean, I grew up with the cartoons, played with the toys and have sat through all the recent movies. And yet, somehow I haven’t absorbed very much beyond the fact that there are Autobots and Decepticons and for some reason, they just don’t get along. Maybe I’ve just not been very interested. Until now.
Enter Bumblebee, the main reason why a noob like me would ever rate a movie about kung fu-ing bots so highly. He’s yellow (my fave colour), transforms into a VW (a.k.a. the cutest car ever) and has the same awkward charm that caused the world to fall in love with smart garbage compactors like Wall-E. But before you start thinking that they’ve made a chick flick out of Transformers, let me assure you that there is plenty else to love.
If you’ve missed out on all Transformers know-how, fear not. Bumblebee stands pretty well by itself. Although the movie throws you straight into the action, there’s really not much you need to know. Let’s see, there’s a war going on on some far-flung planet. There are good bots (Autobots) and bad bots (Decepticons), the latter of which have nearly won. In a last ditch effort, Optimus Prime (leader of the Autobots) sends Bumblebee ahead to set up base on a foreign planet named Earth where the Autobots can join him later.
I have to question Optimus Prime’s choice of pioneer. I mean, you already know I’m a fan of our yellow-clad hero. But if you’re going to pin your last hopes on one person, I’d probably choose someone who was a little more…um…stable. Bumblebee swings a little wildly between bad-ass bot to being utterly vulnerable, especially on meeting mechanically-savvy Charlie Watson for the first time. But the good thing about these weak moments is that they serve to bring out Bumblebee’s charm. I don’t want to spoil anything so let’s just say that I might have teared. In a freaking Transformers movie of all things.
Bumblebee’s co-star isn’t just a backdrop for our beatboxing hero. While angsty teen Charlie starts off as quite a brat, she ends up holding her own pretty well on-screen. To be honest, the pairing of weird creature and young human is one we’ve all seen before. But I guess if you’re going to regurgitate it, it might as well be done well. And fortunately in this case, it is. It’s such a fun and enjoyable pairing that even if you can’t help but have flashbacks to Big Hero 6 and Herbie, I’d still say this iteration is worth experiencing.
But when it comes down to it, the cherry on top has got to be the deliberate 80s feels. Set in 1987, the film is rife with so many nostalgic references. I almost feel sorry for those who weren’t alive during this time and can’t understand the kitschiness of it all (Alf anyone?). It’s such a love letter to the time period that if you have any connection at all to the 80s, go enjoy this film even if you can’t tell Optimus Prime from Megatron.
I don’t really want you to expect the world from Bumblebee but I do think the applause that happened at the end of the screening was well-deserved. Be warned that there are a bunch of “convenient” happenings (e.g. blatant set-ups, characters not doing what they could do even though a solution is pretty obvious). But these times for me are pretty much washed out by the damned fun-ness of the whole thing: hilarious script writing, little details that pay great homage to the original cartoon series, and…oh man…let me tell you, there’s a lot of Transformers doing what they do best (transforming, in case you missed it) and every one of these moments is a freakin’ work of art.