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Laramie Movie Scope: Bumblebee

A satisfying prequel to Transformers

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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December 27, 2018 – Most of the Transformers movies after the original 2007 film have been average to below average. The last one prior to this prequel/reboot, “Transformers: The Last Knight” (2017) was a loud, overlong mess. So I was surprised to hear that “Bumblebee” was actually good, and it is.

Hailee Steinfeld (“The Edge of Seventeen”) plays Charlie, an unhappy teen working at a beach concession stand, who is still emotionally scarred by the death of her father. She needs a car, and gets an old Volkswagen Beetle from a scrap yard for her birthday, only to discover that it is a Transformer (a kind of living machine that can turn itself into a variety of shapes). She names it Bumblebee (in part because it had a beehive in the chassis at the junkyard).

In a flashback, we see that Optimus Prime, rebel leader of the Autobot transformers fighting the evil rule of the Decepticon transformer faction, sends Bumblebee to earth during the final battle for Cybertron, the home planet of the Transformers. Earth is chosen because it is a remote, primitive planet, where the surviving Autobots can gather and regroup after their defeat at the hands of the Decepticons (if you want more detail on all things Transformers, volumes are available at Wikipedia and at a couple of specialized Transformer Wiki pages).

Bumblebee is badly damaged by a Decepticon and by humans in battle (he gets damaged a lot in this movie) but manages to survive on earth, where he turns himself into a yellow Volkswagen beetle, eventually driven by Charlie, who is a skilled mechanic. His vocal system is damaged, but Charlie repairs it, enabling Bumblebee to speak, after a fashion, by using radio voices.

A government agent, Burns (John Cena of “Blockers”) was involved in a battle with Bumblebee when he first landed on earth, and he becomes involved in the hunt for Bumblebee, wanting some revenge. He and his troops intercept two Decepticons who land on earth, looking for Bumblebee, Optimus Prime, and the last surviving Autobots. Burns is suspicious, but the Decepticons fool authorities into thinking that they are friendly aliens, wanting only to capture the outlaw, Bumblebee. There is a funny line in the movie in which Burns asks his commanding officer why he believes beings called Decepticons. He asks,“doesn't that raise a red flag?” Funny, but also a major hole in the plot.

When the Decepticons discover that earth is to be the rallying place for the surviving Autobots, they begin to build a transmitter to send a signal calling for an army to attack earth. Bumblebee, Charlie and her friend, Memo (Jorge Lendeborg Jr. of “Love, Simon”) join together to try to stop the signal from being transmitted.

All the Transformers movies have had some humor in the mix, while also trying to be serious. Personally, I think they'd be better if they weren't serious, because the whole concept is silly to begin with. “Bumblebee” works the comic/serious motif about as well as can be expected, given the subject matter.

The actors do a good job depicting these characters, and there is plenty of action and impressive computerized animation. In fact, the flashback scenes on Cybertron look more like cartoons than live action, unlike the scenes on earth, which are largely live action. The plot is unbelievable, especially the portions regarding the insane behavior of government officials dealing with the aliens, but in the context of Transformers, based-on-toys, universe, it works well enough. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2018 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]