'Bumblebee' brings Transformers franchise back to life



"Bumblebee" works seamlessly into the "Transformers" series, which stretches back to the original, in which Shia Labeouf and a (spoiler alert) yellow Camaro named Bumblebee had begun the crash-bang-destroy sci-fi extravaganza and absolute destruction of infrastructure in 2007.

It took 11 years, five movies, and the departure of director Michael Bay, but Transformers fans - the fans who grew up on the 1980s animated TV series/Hasbro commercials - finally get the live-action Transformers film, Bumblebee, they've always wanted and maybe even needed to help justify their decades-long love of the series. It is key that the Decepticons don't find out about earth, or all will be lost.

Naturally Bumblebee is also being pursued by a pair of big and nasty Decepticons, Shatter (voiced by Angela Bassett) and Dropkick (voiced by Justin Theroux), who con Burns and Sector 7 into thinking that they're the good guys. A couple of points before we move on: the film is set in 1987, so the soundtrack is practically wall-to-wall classic tracks, leaning heavily on The Smiths, Duran Duran, Howard Jones-basically anything that would have appeared in a John Hughes movie at the time.

Film and media critic Lindsay Ellis, who has seen the movie ahead of its release, picked up on some apparent sexual tension between Bumblebee and the film's teenage hero, Charlie Watson (Hailee Steinfeld).

We do find out why Bumblebee can't speak, though.

Bumblebee still has its fair share of action scenes and robot battles, but it is on a less grand scale than the previous films.

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What plays out for the most part in the remaining runtime is the extraordinary bond that develops between Charlie and Bumblebee-as she affectionately names him ("The color suits you" she gushes). This time around, Bay has retreated into a producer's role and director Travis Knight brings everything back to center in the prequel, which places the simple but sweet story of girl meets robot front and center. One of the key elements of their relationship is Charlie's music collection, which Bee discovers can be sampled and used to string together sentences in hopes of opening up real lines of communication (installing a working radio into Bee also really helps in this endeavor).

On a positive note, they do a good job at trying to maintain the look and feel of the original cartoon, though this is primarily seen through the design of the Autobots themselves. As those of you with small boys will know, Autobots can transform, and B-127 takes on the unassuming shape of a battered Volkswagen Beetle in the hopes of going unrecognised. While Bumblebee hasn't been dubbed as a "reboot" of the franchise, those tied to the Transformers films have already hinted that there are more stories in store for fans in the future.

While there are elements here that work, including Steinfeld's impressive performance as a formidably sullen teen, it's still, at heart, just another damn Transformers movie, which therefore means that eventually we get down to the biz of big animated robots smashing and blasting the crap out of each other, which, after six movies, gets really old. It is still a loud and campy action comedy, but at least it has got a heart. It's an endearing, amusing moment that uses effects subtly and to convey Bee's sense of confusion and growing panic. "I, on the other hand, let out a noise I didn't know was humanly possible".

The film, a prequel, is set in the 1980s, which is when the original Transformers cartoon was aired.

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