Cinematic Releases: A Girl and Her Robot: Bumblebee (2018) - Reviewed

It's unfortunate that the Transformers franchise has become synonymous with terrible quality, as the last several films have been disappointments. With each subsequent film Michael Bay has strayed further and further from what made these stories so captivating for many people. This is all changed with Bumblebee (2018) a prequel to the original Transformers (2007) film and the first one to not be be directed by Bay.

Bumblebee takes place during the '80s and it's the perfect setting for some good old fashioned Transformers hi-jinks! The story starts out on Cybertron during the civil war between the Autobots and the Decepticons. In desperation Optimus Prime sends Bumblebee (who is known as B-127 at this point) to Earth to set up a safe place for the Autobots to regroup in order to defeat the Decepticons. Bumblebee loses his memory upon getting to earth and is found by a young mechanically-inclined teenager named Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld) who befriends him.

The relationship between the humans and the Autobots has always been the linchpin of the Transformers stories and it is in the friendship between Bumblebee and Charlie that the movie finds its footing. They are absolutely adorable to watch and their interactions are funny and occasionally even touching. Bumblebee is incredibly expressive and well animated. It's obvious this was the main focus of the narrative and anytime these two are on screen together it shines. However, whenever the film shifts to the main conflict or any of the other characters the quality drops quite a bit. There is just no depth to any of the characterization and a lot of the plot relies on coincidence or feels contrived. That being said, it's not necessarily a deal-breaker, just slightly disappointing.

The fans can rejoice: the old G1 designs are back! One of my main quibbles with the Bay films were the hideous redesigns of the characters that looked like piles of scrap metal hastily put together. The Autobots and Decepticons have their old color schemes back which makes following fight scenes infinitely easier and more satisfying--which is the point of making the robots brightly colored with distinctive silhouettes in the first place. I do wish they would pull the camera back more so that the fight choreography would make more sense visually, but it's a step in the right direction.

Although Bumblebee isn't perfect and suffers from some of the side effects of being a blockbuster film (and a soft reboot of sorts) it has more heart than any of the previous films. Fans of the franchise will be delighted to see it taken in a new direction that feels both fresh and nostalgic.

--Michelle Kisner