If you are introducing your 18 year old cousin to the Transformers universe, you should start with the Bumblebee and probably show snippets of Optimus Prime fighting valiantly as Earth’s defender. The issue plaguing the Transformers movies have snowballed due to 2 main reasons. Michael Bay and his obsession with CGI antics and the faltering, stammering or hamming ‘human’ leads. Yes LaBeouf and Mark, we are looking at you! In hindsight, the movies would have been better served had they followed the Bumblebee or Optimus Prime storyline. And the latest movie is an attestation to this. Travis Knight interlaces both the human and the Transformers tumultuous journey in Bumblebee beautifully to make an 80s flick which is equal measures a galactical grapple as it is a journey of self-discovery of a few misfits.
Transformers is an example of how a lot of hype rings the box office cash register but disgruntles the ticket purchaser. Every few years a sequel comes screaming into the theatres with a promise of bewildering Robot fight sequences with humans sandwiched in them. But never did they realise that the central theme of two races interacting with each other can be explored into a study in emotions and collaboration, of inter-galactic proportions, instead of making it a jarring special effect extravaganza. Michael Bay is to be blamed for this. He is like a kid in a candy store (here, a CGI ‘store’) who just cannot get enough of the technology at his disposal and drops the character development and script in the dumpster.
However, I digress from the movie which salvages the franchise to some extend and plays like a homage to the cult classic ET with it’s story of a kid finding an extra-terrestrial being who has attracted the wrong attention, both on earth and from it’s own planet dwellers. The Autobot resistance is dwindling in Cybertron and Bumblebee is sent to earth to set up a temporary base for Optimus Prime and others before they can plan to regroup against the Decepticons. The above sequence plays out within a few minutes before the focus shifts to Bumblebee’s earth exploits and his relationship with a teenage girl named Charlie,and rightly so. Young Hailee Steinfeld as Charlie and Jorje Lendeborg Jr as Memo have more chemistry than any of the previous eye candies and the awkward male leads had. They are quintessential teenagers for the first act, but with odds stacking up against them, they play out as heroes. The rest of the movie is a buddy- rescue movie with the 80s vibe captured well by the Director and cinematographer through the cars, outfits and most importantly some awesome nostalgia inducing music.
I was singing along to ‘Everybody wants to rule the world’, the soulful ‘Unchained Melody’ (Sam Cooke’s version) and, for a few seconds, even Rick Astley’s ‘Never Gonna Give you Up’ and I refuse to be judged in poor light for the last one. Imagine getting transported to the 80s where Rick just released this catchy new tune! Now sing, ‘Never….’. The Music blends so well with the goings on that it heightens the emotional quotient. Like when ‘Unchained Melody’ plays, Charlie is talking about her dad to Bumblebee and they embrace. It was as if Travis Knight squeezed in all the missing emotions from the last few Transformers movies into one slow indulgent scene.
THE best thing about Bumblebee, apart from the 80s look, script and characters is the fact that Michael Bay steps away from the directorial duties. I may seem harsh here, but we need to concede, the franchise was going absolutely nowhere. Eventually it is a tiny, unassuming Autobot which resurrects it for good. I am excited for Bumblebee 2 and not Transformers 6? Or is it 7? I am sure no one is keeping count.