Director: Travis Knight
Release Date: December 21, 2018
The first Transformers movie not directed by Michael Bay, Travis Knights’ Bumblebee is a refreshing change of pace that sparks life back into a bloated irrelevant franchise.
It’s Forth of July 2007. There’s a line wrapped around the theater lobby waiting to get into the next showing of the highly anticipated first ever Transformers movie. Explosions expert Michael Bay delivered with special effects we had never seen before, a story-line with comedy throughout to appeal to all audiences and of course the introduction of Megan Fox that every middle school boy will never forget. Eleven years and four movies later Bay ran the franchise into the ground. Parting ways with original stars Megan Fox and Shia LaBeouf and lazy story telling was overcompensated with more incoherent robot action scenes, the Transformers franchise took a backseat to more successful action hero franchises such as Marvel and D.C.
Just two movies into his career as a director, Travis Knight looks to jump start the stale franchise. Knight provides a smaller-scale story that is more than just a bunch of giant robots smashing into buildings. The film starts off with an action-packed battle sequence on the Transformers’ home planet of Cybertron. This gives us some background about how the Transformers ended up on Earth in the first place. In the first 20 minutes, you might be saying to yourself “here we go again” because it is all action. After the initial series of explosions and robot banter the film takes a turn for the better, as it follows an 18-year-old girl named Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld) who stumbles upon a beat-to-shit Volkswagen Beetle *spoiler alert* that turns out to be a robot alien in disguise.
Rather than overloading the narrative with giant robot battles, David Knight spends the majority of the movie building the relationship between Charlie and Bumblebee. By the end of the film they are as close as someone could be with an alien robot first car. This pays off in a big way, as we actually feel empathy for our characters during the more intense scenes. There’s also a childlike aspect to the film that keeps it just small enough not to feel overdone. Our two main characters are pulling petty pranks and watching movies together, not working with the military to save the world.
The cast members are all great. Hailee Steinfeld (Edge of Seventeen, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse) put on an excellent performance especially considering she interacted with a CGI character for most of the movie. The biggest surprise was John Cena. Cena plays Agent Burns, a military General who is trying to track down Bumblebee and “turn him into spare parts”. Cena adds his own gym-bro style of humor that provides some much needed comic relief in some of the more overly-serious scenes.
Son of Nike fonder Phil Knight, Travis Knight gives the audience more than just blurry robot battles. This Iron Giant-like story captures the hearts of the audience in a way that previous films of the franchise failed to do. The more human direction is something to look forward to in possible sequels to come. Despite not doing as well as Aqua-Man and Marry Poppins Returns at the box office this weekend, Bumblebee has successfully given the Transformers franchise a much needed reset and sets up a lengthy run in theaters this holiday season.