Look, I get it. There is a Transformers fatigue in the air. Even as someone who loved the trilogy with Shia LaBeouf, I couldn’t be bothered to go see the fourth and fifth movies starring Mark Wahlberg. I’ll get around to watching them one day, but they’re not a priority.
What was a priority was seeing the reboot, Bumblebee, as soon as possible. There were multiples reasons for this: Bumblebee is my favorite Transformer, Hailee Steinfeld is one of my favorite young actresses, and it’s set in the 1980s! It currently has the highest Rotten Tomatoes score of the franchise but its U.S. box office has been a bit lackluster.
Here’s why you should give it a chance:
While there is still the conflict between the Autobots and the Decepticons, the movie is really about a teenage girl in northern California, Charlie Watson (Steinfeld). Charlie is about to turn 18 and dealing with her father’s death while her mom and brother appear to have moved on. She is desperate for a car while she struggles to repair an old Camaro, an activity she shared with her late father. She’s a bit of an outsider but doesn’t seem to mind it, despite bullying from the rich kids. She’s focused on the car and her music, a bevy of 80s classics.
One day, while looking for spare parts, she comes across a yellow Volkswagon beetle, and makes a deal with it. She then discovers that the beetle is Bumblebee, who was sent to Earth by Optimus Prime, and things start to get hectic. But not in the normal Transformers movie way. They keep it pretty grounded while the normal Transformers stuff is going on in the background (that’s the John Cena storyline with the Decepticons looking for Bumblebee on Earth). It reminded me of E.T.; she’s keeping him safe from unknown threats and he tends to go a bit overboard when she and her friend, Memo (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.), include him in their pranks (egging a bully’s car goes awry as does a car chase with the police).
Her friendship with Bumblebee gives you more understanding to her relationship with Sam Witwicky twenty years later. They both manage to bring out the best in each other and their partnership is really strong. And her use of music to express how she feels inspires him to do the same and that’s one of her best qualities. She doesn’t lord her music knowledge over everyone and has quite the variety in her Walkman. It’s refreshing to see a female character in a big budget blockbuster who is really chill and okay with who she is, while also able to recognize her faults.
This is likely due to the fact that the film has a female screenwriter, Christina Hodson. She said in an interview with ComicBookMovie.com that Charlie is inspired by two of her nieces, one of whom lost her mother. She recognizes that girls don’t only fit into one box and can have multiple interests. Not only is Charlie written extremely well, Steinfeld is the queen of teen angst without making you roll your eyes. While watching Bumblebee, I kept being brought back to her underrated teen comedy, The Edge of Seventeen, which also includes the death of a parent.
With all this, I really hope you give Bumblebee a chance, either in theaters or when it becomes available on digital, Blu-ray/DVD, or streaming. It has all the normal Transformers action sequences but it comes from a more character-driven place. I wish more blockbusters would do this. It’s why I also think Spider-Man: Homecoming is the best live-action Spider-Man movie. By using teen drama to ground incredible supernatural/sci-fi/superhero stories, audiences can connect more to the characters, see themselves in these situations, and actually give a damn whether they succeed in the overall mission.