The Official Blog of Author Tristan Vick
August 01st, 2019
Bumblebee Film Review (B-)
Bumblebee film review (Some Spoilers)
"Are you telling me you could've been a Camaro this whole time?!"
Bumblebee is definitely a kids movie. I'll say that.
My kids enjoyed the heck out of it. I found it entertaining and it held my attention but I don't think it will fair well on repeated viewings. At least, not for adults.
I still think I prefer the first Transformers film, even with all its tweensy angst, as it had Spielberg's fingerprints all over it (he visited the set regularly and oversaw a lot of it) and was genuinely fun and entertaining.
Michael Bay was definitely being cautious with the first film, making a solid studio movie with mass appeal and heeding all of Spielberg's advice before the franchise blew up and he was given carte blanch to ruin my childhood dreams.
I suppose Bumblebee could be interpreted as a soft reboot or a continuity ignoring reboot if they wish.
IMO, it would be nice to get a "live-action" remake of the original 80's animated Transformers feature in the vein of the Lion King's "live-action" remake. I'd watch the heck out of that.
That said, I think Bumblebee suffers from what all the rest of the Transformers films suffer from, they can't quite pin down who the main character is supposed to be (robot or person?) or what the focus of the plot should be (robot's story or person's?). Is the story supposed to be about Bumblebee or Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld)? In the end, it's sort of about both, but at the same time, nobody's story ever seems to take focus.
A lot of movies have been this way recently. The Predator being another example of a writer not having a character in mind so the film is just sort of about everybody.
Hint: It should have been about the Predator.
The same could be said of the previous Transformers movie, The Last Knight, with Mark Wahlberg and a ton of other characters.
Hint: that particular film should have been about the little orphan girl, Izabella, and Cade's relationship. And the villain should have been Anthony Hopkins working against Cade with the help of the Decepticons. But, it doesn't even seem that the film had a single competent writer, so, I digress.
I feel the same about this story. It should have been about Bumblebee learning about humans from humans. A lot of hilarious scenes could have been made ala Johnny 5 in Short Circuit.
Instead, our hero hides in a girl's garage for half the film and doesn't seem to learn anything because she off working the corndog stand all day. He sure makes a mess of the house though in the most painfully unfunny slapstick wreck-it-up scene I've ever watched.
Then, if this wasn't bad enough, they throw in a love interest for Charlie too. But the script doesn't know whether to treat him as one or keep him in the friend's zone the whole time.
With that in mind, the film Bumblebee does something I haven't seen in a while and ruins a potentially interesting character relationship (or growth) by demoting the love interest to the friend's zone the entire film and making Charlie seem rather daft about boys even though the kid is smoking hot.
Hey, don't get me wrong. I'm all for strong independent women, but the lack of any real development of their relationship seems to moot the whole point of them hanging out in the first place.
If the boy was never there--absolutely NOTHING about the main plot would have changed (Charlie wouldn't have come home early from school to find the house wrecked and that's the total sum of it).
And that's the thing...Charlie could have been an interesting character. She had a real trauma--was mourning the loss of her father--which forced her to retreat into the garage and work on cars all day while letting her childhood pass her by. She gave up swimming, something she was good at and didn't have any interest in going back. And they resolve all this in the stupidest way possible. She has to jump off a radio tower into the water to save Bee from drowning, thereby forcing her to grapple with her father's loss and her swearing off swimming.
Newsflash: He's a robot that can withstand the vacuum of space! He's not gonna drown anytime soon. *Sigh*
Hint: Instead of an off-screen generic heart attack, the dad should have died in the initial fallout of Bee's battle with the Decepticons. That way he'd be hiding a secret from Charlie and at the same time he'd feel obligated to protect her because he feels guilty about inadvertently getting her father killed.
This gives Bumblebee motivation to protect Charlie and her family. At the same time, the revelation can come toward the end that puts a rift between Charlie and Bee, because the truth could be revealed in such a way that she blames Bee for her father's death. She'd leave, the Decepticons would attack Bee, and the love interest kid could convince Charlie to go back and help Bee given the fact that Bee had always helped her. She could realize in that instant that Bee wasn't to blame and she was just projecting her rage over her father's loss unfairly onto him and then go back in time to help save him from the Decepticon's.
Did they do that though? No.
And I really wish Hollywood would start hiring script supervisors and script doctors who know about storytelling and not just formatting screenplays. There's a lot of wasted story potential in modern cinema and it's a constant headache, but I digress yet again.
And that's the rub. It begins as a Bumblebee story, then turns into a girl and her car story but mainly focussing on the girl, then turns back into a Bumblebee story and sort of forgets Charlie's story. But, the ending flashes back to Charlie chatting with the boy. Why? I don't know. Their story is already over, so it's not important.
Still lovestruck, he tries to hold her hand but she pulls it away and says it's too soon for that. But, I mean, come on!
Either you like him or you don't. But after a week of running around with a boy in an alien car/robot, she should have an inkling of whether she likes this boy or not. But she's still undecided. Really?
Young love is often merely about the crush of the week, and they could have represented this in a fun way while still pandering to their young audience. So why come back to a non-starter only to make the point that it's not going to go anywhere?
That's just a terrible way to end a character's story let alone a movie. Luckily, there's an ending to the ending. We cut back to Bee who's walking in the woods at night for some reason and then the camera pans across some trees and we find him talking with Optimus who congratulates him on saving the world.
What now? He was hiding in a girl's garage for the whole week until the Decepticons forced him out of hiding with the help of the U.S. military. And only with Charlie's help did they stop the Decepticons broadcast from calling down more Decepticons. So, I guess technically he did save the world, with Charlie's help, but here we are again, jumping between stories for no discernible reason.
They jump-cut between both stories four times as if neither character had anything to do with the other. It leaves the movie feeling anti-climactic. Each character gets a resolution, but each resolution is apart from the others. Why? This only adds to the confusion regarding the question of whose story this is.
I feel it would have been a heck of a lot nicer to see them come together, grow together, and find meaning in what they accomplished together. How would I have changed it? First of all, none of this cutting between separate stories. Make it all one cohesive narrative.
Hint: the ending should have been about Charlie and Bee saying goodbye to one another. The Camaro joke is nice, so keep it. But have her take a spin in the new Bee-Camaro and return to the park only to pull up next to a big red truck and, surprise, Optimus Prime transforms and thanks to her and Bee (both) for saving the world.
Recognize the heroine as the heroine, for Pete's sake! Then have Prime inform them that he must return to Cybertron to carry on the rebellion but, before he goes, he puts Bee in charge of being Earth's sentinel and defender against the Decepticon threat (this sets up a possible sequel set in the Charlie/Hailee timeline).
Did they do that, though? Nope.
I would have liked to have seen a robot and girl friendship blossom. Instead, it's all over the map and then just ends with...well...a third non-related ending. Charlie's voiceover literally says, "I almost forgot..." then she fixes her dad's classic Corvette and takes it for a joyride.
Fixing the corvette is fine, but once again we're cutting away from a shared story unnecessarily making any cohesive narrative hard to pin down.
Hint: Wouldn't it have been better if that joyride could have been joined by Bee -- the Camaro version -- on the open road? Both muscle cars racing along the winding country backroads together where, finally, they could have raced off into the sunset--the music swelling as Charlie laughed aloud, wind in her hair, and Bee blasting the soft rock above the rumble of their engines. Cue the end credits!
Did they do that, though? No. Again, more missed opportunities.
Overall, the action was decent, but the jokes could have been much funnier. Only a couple land and the others all fall flat or are painfully dull.
Is this a series that should be placed back on the shelf to age a bit or be completely revamped?
Well, we all know for a fact it will be revamped. It's Paramount's major cash cow and has pulled in over five billion dollars in box office receipts worldwide. That's no small chunk of change and one Paramount, which has been struggling to find a marketable IP other than Transformers and Mission Impossible (Hint: Paramount has Star Trek but doesn't know what to do with it as the last two films have underperformed -- maybe if Quentin Tarantino gets his way and makes his Trek film the franchise will get some much needed new blood).
Both Dark of the Moon and Age of Extinction grossed over a billion and the first and second films nearly did so as well grossing in the high 800 million dollar range.
The rest of the Transformers movies have all grossed over 600/700 million except for Bumblebee which only managed to pull in a meager 467 million worldwide.
But even as the lowest-grossing film in the series, it performed well enough to be considered a commercial success having a production budget of only 120 million, meaning it had a 340 million gain as compared to The Last Knight's estimated 220 million dollar production budget on 600 million giving it only a 380 gain. This means that Bumblebee was the stronger performer, pulling in approximately the same gross for half the production cost.
More Transformers may be a near-certain thing, but I really hope they find a top tier storyteller for the next film. Because, they need something that will awe movie audiences in a good way, and flashy effects and nostalgia alone won't be enough to salvage a broken-down franchise.
All in all, as hard as I'm being on it, I'd give it a solid B. It's watchable and has a simple story that is kid-friendly (The first live-action Transformers movie gets an A- from me just to put things into perspective, and the sequels all get Ds except for the third film, Dark of the Moon, which is surprisingly decent on repeat viewings and gets a B-) B-.) So, if your a fan of sci-fi, Transformers, or just robot battles, this offers that. But will it blow your socks off? Probably not.
By day I am an educator and a cultural ambassador. By night I entertain notions of being a literary master. In reality I am just a family man and ordinary guy who works hard and loves writing just about as much as I love my family. Just about.