“Bumblebee” shows us what might have been.

Credit to James Raiz, @boxofficeartist

Today I saw the new Bumblebee movie, after swearing off future Transformers flicks in 2014.

The original cartoon was excellent, tentpole stuff. A true staple of the 80s. When big screen graphics finally got to the point where they could handle a realistic adaptation, we got stuck with whatever Michael Bay felt like shoveling on us.

The first film was…adequate, but flawed. So audiences lined up for the second one, which was…hella flawed. But it gave us great visuals! So we lined up for the third film, which was flawed but better than the second.

Since the franchise was trending upward, audiences lined up for the fourth film…

…and it sucked tailpipe. Hard. 2014 was when I realized I was the problem. Paramount kept heaping money on Bay because people kept seeing his crappy movies, hoping they would get better, that we should just put some makeup on this one and it wouldn’t happen again.

I boycotted the 5th film, which still made a ton of money, but was universally panned as being manure.

Then I heard about Bumblebee.

I wasn’t optimistic, until 2 things happened: first, I heard Michael Bay wasn’t in charge (though he got a producer credit, probably on a technicality). Second, the trailer was awesome.

You could clearly see the original Transformers, with their original voices, looking like their original forms during a fight on Cybertron! No spiky metal turds that were indistinguishable one from another!

I was in. So I went and saw it.

On its own, the film was good. Compared to the last five, it was great. Here is why.

  1. Respect for the source material. Within the first two minutes, you see cameos on the fly from Autobots and Decepticons who look recognizable by their shapes and colors. Arcee was the first one I spotted, followed by Brawn and Ironhide. Then Soundwave, Shockwave, Starscream, Skywarp, and Thundercracker. Cliffjumper even had a speaking line or two. And Ravage! Above all, Optimus Prime was there, looking correct and proper, and of course, killing any bad guy in sight without hesitation.
  2. A human lead who didn’t suck. Hailee Steinfeld (name?) was really good. Convincing, realistic, showed emotion, had heart. Her supporting cast had slightly fewer than one dimension each, which works if you are John Cena, but not if you are her emotionally demanding family.
  3. Just enough to legally bind it to the original film franchise, with enough changes to work as a reboot. No spoilers, but while the movie begins with a fight on Cybertron, and we see Sector 7 at Hoover Dam with a young Agent Simmons (John Tuturro’s character later on), the story wraps up in such a way that it porks the timeline from the 2007 film. Which is fine with me. I know I want decades between reboots of anything, but with Transformers, no. Give me that do-over NOW.
  4. Easter eggs. Won’t list them all here, but when Bumblebee played “You got the touch” on his stereo, I squealed a little.
  5. Maybe we can get a full-on makeover of the Bay cesspool, with someone sane at the helm. I can’t say this enough. Make the rest of the movies over from here. Hell, give us a sequel called Optimus Prime, and round out the trilogy with Megatron, who, by the way, does not appear in this film. Again, in the original timeline he is technically frozen in Hoover Dam…but the story on Earth plays out as if this is not the case…

Guh. I will shut up now. Just go see it, it is a fun romp that is worth the money. There are some poorly acted teen drama tropes that happen for…I dunno, checkbox reasons, I would count those as the major weakness of the film. The action scenes were great, the effects were top notch (you can actually see what is happening when they fight), and DAMN dude, Bumblebee is a scrappy, brawly, dirty fighter. He takes his hits, but he also kills like six Decepticons one-on-one in this film.

That’s all folks. See the movie. Reboot the rest. Get back to work.

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