The superhero universe has become cluttered. Be it Marvel, DC,Lego, Graphic Novels, etc , the branded family entertainment space is dominated and owned by them. So to make a new idea work, one has to think out of the box and target a new audience group with a new treatment. Bumblebee, from the Transformers universe is a refreshing take on the over convoluted superhero genre.
A coming of age story inspired by E.T. and numerous 'buddy pics' of the 1980's, Bumblebee is a film to relish with the family. It is a film which very intelligently builds on the Transformers universe by using what is relevant to its character. This post is aimed at reviewing "Bumblebee" and the re invention of the Transformers franchise.
Who are the Transformers and Who is Bumblebee ?
'Transformers' characters include the warring factions of called 'Autobots' and the 'Decepticons'. Both of them are inhabitants of the Cybertron planet. Their inner war gains momentum when Autobots and Decepticons reach Earth looking to hide the "Allspark" which is similar to the 'Kryptonite' featured in 'Superman'. When they fight each other on Earth, the human characters also get involved. Since 2007, ‘The Transformers’ stories talk of different versions of this war on Earth with new characters being introduced in every reboot.
'Transformers' are essentially a toy figure series owned by Hasbro Corporation and Takara Tomy Of Japan since 1993 which are basically robots which can camouflage by turning into cars, hence they can 'Transform'. The movie derives its inspiration from these iconic toys.
'Bumblebee' first appeared in the maiden Transformers film in 2007 as the dilapidated Volkswagen Beetle purchased by Samuel Witwicky (the lead hero played by the forgettable Shia Le Bouf). He is also the only Transformer who can’t communicate by voice and uses English songs through its car stereo to talk to friends. Ever since, Bumblebee unlike his fellow transformers such as Optimus Prime is the ultimate children’s buddy and largely loved by family audience for his affectionate overtures and supportive tendencies towards his human friends. The very fact that he has been chosen as the subject for the first solo Transformer movie tells a lot about his fan following.
This is a monumental feat for The Transformers as this film takes a totally new direction from the last 5 Transformer films which have created enough fatigue and headache with their repetitive storyline. According to reports, 90% of global movie reviewers have felt that the first Transformers was the best film as its story line tried to connect with the family audience in a genuine way to say the least. It had a Steven Spielberg style treatment to itself and Bumblebee who played buddy to the Witwicky family stole the show with his reluctance and sense of humour and had a striking resemblance to E.T.’s storytelling. Spielberg also served as Executive Producer for some of these films as well.
The Story Of Bumblebee
The film takes off once again at the planet Cybertron where Autobots are fighting The Decepticons. As the war nears its end, the planet faces extinction and Optimus Prime sends B-137 (BumbleBee’s original name) to find refuge on Earth where he can set up a separate base for the Autobots to re group.
Bumblebee crash lands into a small town in California and disrupts the military exercise of Sector-7, a covert government agency. He is seen by the army men led by Colonel Burns (John Cena) and is pursued heavily until he finds refuge in a used car garage. Here he is purchased by Charlie Watson (Hailee Stanfield), a regular teenager in a distress sale of sorts. The film then progresses where the Decepticons led by Dropkick and Shatter (Angela Bassett) pursue Bumblebee and nearly kill him. The climax shows Bumblebee becoming his own being rather than a trusted lieutenant. In the process, Charlie also overcomes her biggest fears in growing up and makes a true friend in Bumblebee.
Why watch it ?
If you like the 1980’s pop culture, if you like songs of “A-HA”, “Duran Duran”, “Steve Winwood”, “Tears For Fears” and most importantly like simple, uncluttered films about bonding, love and overcoming your biggest fears, Bumblebee is the film for you. In a much larger scheme of things, it is the non animated family movie of the year to come out of Hollywood in sometime. The film focuses on the rising of two parallel characters ie. Charlie and Bumblebee with similar problems and issues. The Director Travis Knight very cleverly omits about 70% less “Transformers type action sequences” from the film and lets it focus on just Bumblebee and Charlie. In fact, somewhere in the middle of the movie you will realise that it is not a “Transformers” movie as one sees lesser Robot mess.
There is a tonne of use of the 1980’s music in the film to build the tempo. I sense that has been done to get more family audience. One can see the frequent mention of the 1980’s classic “The Breakfast Club” which also talks about the growing up of a group of teenagers. These were the ‘buddy movies’ of the 1980’s. The inclusion of John Cena as the lead army man is a strategic plan to get more kids to come and watch the film.
One can rarely hear the ‘f’ word or any other cuss word in the film. It’s good, clean entertainment. This film is a shoe in for the Indian family audience and I won’t be surprised to see big numbers coming from India.
John Cena, Hailee Steinfield and Jorge Lendeborg Jr. do an excellent job as the most visible cast members along with Bumblebee. It’s a film with its heart in the right place. One does love the Peter Cullen voice behind Optimus Prime which also features in the film.
I give a 7 out of 10 for “Bumblebee”.