So after Antman and the Wasp, Black Panther, Blue Iguana, Peter Rabbit, Show Dogs, Spiderman, The Meg and The Seagull we round off the year with the final animal titled film, Bumblebee a spin off from the increasingly weary and tiresome Transformers franchise. So it’s with a certain degree of trepidation that we approached this as the transformers right from the start have been increasingly over long and frenetically hyper –edited to the point that would give even the most attention deficient fan a headache.
Bumblebee is an origin story starting off with a battle between two opposing army of robots that littered the Transformers films and its Bumblebee who is tasked by Big Boss Optimus Prime to go to Earth and find somewhere safe for the army of robots to hide in peace. So off he flies only to be found by a big bad robot as well as a numb nut military meat head John Cena on an army exercise. It’s all seems to be going the way of the transformers with huge robots battering each other senseless yet remarkably not sustain any noticeable damage except when big bad robot damages Bumblebee’s voice box rendering him speechless and goes into hiding in a scrap yard disguised as a car under a filthy tarpaulin.
This spin off though is as much aimed at teenage girls as it is the boys with Haile Steinfield as Charlie Watson living with her widowed mum and new partner who is no substitute for her much missed father. Irritated by her younger brother she works in a fun fair in a dorky uniform to earn enough money to buy a car. The film is keen to emphasize that women can do traditionally male jobs too as Charlie is something of a mechanic restoring cars in a local scrap yard where she first accidently uncovers the knackered yellow car that unbeknown to her is Bumblebee and its only when she takes it home and starts tinkering with his undercarriage (‘stop it!‘ – Ed) that he springs to life and she finds out who he really is. Conversing only through the radio the pair soon bond and what emerges is Bumblebee as a friend and almost a surrogate father as the big bad robot locks onto his location and come after him. Having befriended the military the big bad robots ulterior motive is to use Bumblebee to locate their nemesis Optimus Prime and see him off too.
The Transformers films were testosterone fuelled CGI fests orchestrated by master of often incomprehensible mayhem Michael Bay so it’s kind of a given that this would be the same but mercifully director Travis Knight has taken this by the scruff of the neck made a decent and highly enjoyable action film. Set in 1987 it embraces the retro driven feel which for parents who remember that decade will enjoy immensely as they spot all the 80’s throwback references……..and there are loads including everything from Tab soft drinks to posters for The Thing and Raiders of the Lost Ark to T-shorts and photos or Reagan. It’s all ramped up further with a fantastic 80’s soundtrack too taking in old school hip hop (DJ EZ Rock’s seminal, ‘It takes Two’ to Simple Minds, ‘Don’t you forget about me’ a track which momentarily tugs at the heart strings towards the end and for a US movie the soundtrack is awash with that most English of bands, The Smiths.
When Michael Bay’s directed Transformers films the screen sloshed with testosterone but Bumblebee has been toned down significantly from its parent and much of this is down to not only Knight but also the script written by Christina Hodson who has done a really good job here. Unlike the Transformers films which had a team of writers that came up with plot lines of incomprehensible nonsense this is simple straight forward good old fashioned fun and for once we look forward rather than dread the next film associated with the toys.
Here’s the Bumblebee trailer…….