‘Bumblebee’ breathes new life into ‘Transformers’ franchise

This image released by Paramount Pictures shows Hailee Steinfeld as Charlie in a scene from "Bumblebee." (Paramount Pictures via AP)

Who would have ever thought? A coming-of-age film with an overt saturation of 80’s nostalgia would be the solution to the struggling Transformers franchise. “Bumblebee” departs from the stupidity the previous films have associated with their name by delivering an exciting story with heart.

In 1987, Charlie Watson (Hailee Steinfeld) wants nothing more than a car for her eighteenth birthday. When she repairs a yellow Volkswagen, she gets a lot more than she bargained for. Her present is apparently a friendly transformer, named Bumblebee, who is seeking shelter in California after his home planet is attacked. As the two learn more about one another, Decepticons (not-so-friendly transformers) try to track down Bumblebee with intentions to destroy Earth.

There isn’t much originality in this film. Although a tale similar to the bond developed by a human and an alien has been told many times, it feels fresh for the franchise. With previous films making the alien-packed story paramount, “Bumblebee” switches things up. The considerable time spent on growing the bond between Charlie and her robot friend, allowed for character development, making the film feel more personal. It helped hide the cash-grabbing intention of the movie. The plot was extremely predictable, with one of the most obvious uses of Chekhov’s gun (when something is shown in a story it always has a purpose), but it was still very enjoyable, nonetheless.

Steinfeld was the best choice for this film. Her persona as an angsty teenager is spot-on, which is expected as that is all she has ever played; she is starting to become typecast. Her light-hearted acting was always fine, but when she had to give emotion in the more serious scenes, it seemed fake. Steinfeld is a good actor and she has proven that before. This just isn’t one of her better works. The rest of the supporting cast seemed to be the same, making me think this is a result of poor dialogue. I know that the former WWE star John Cena is no master of the acting craft, but I also know for a fact that he isn’t this bad. It’s hard to produce quality performances with little to go off of.

The movie had the right feel for sure. Choosing a wise time setting, the film could utilize countless 80’s references while still emulating the decade’s feel. A hit-filled soundtrack is the perfect accompaniment, but it also finds a way into the story; Bumblebee communicates with others by using his radio station to play snippets of various songs. Plenty of laughs is found within these references, with an exceptionally humorous nod to “The Breakfast Club.”

The once-tainted Transformers name is redeemed by “Bumblebee.” It’s a film that almost anyone can enjoy, while it just manages to deliver on nearly every component. With a thoroughly entertaining story, likeable characters, and jokes that always connect, I couldn’t ask for more. Frankly though, I wouldn’t expect anything more either.

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