Director: Travis Knight
Cast: Hailee Steinfeld, John Cena, Jorge Lendeborg Jr.
Release Date: April 2, 2019
A Review By: Kevin Lovell
Film Rating: 7/10
Disc Rating: 9/10
CYBERTRON has fallen. When OPTIMUS PRIME sends BUMBLEBEE to defend Earth, his journey to become a hero begins. Charlie Watson (Hailee Steinfeld), a teenager trying to find her place in the world, discovers and repairs the battle-scarred robot, who’s disguised as a Volkswagen Beetle. As the DECEPTICONS hunt down the surviving AUTOBOTS with the help of a secret agency led by Agent Burns (John Cena), BUMBLEBEE and Charlie team up to protect the world.
‘Bumblebee’ follows our yellow autobot hero in the year 1987 following the climax of the war on Cybertron as he is sent to Earth at the request of Optimus Prime to prepare for their next move against the deadly Decepticons. After barely surviving an encounter upon his arrival, Bumblebee is discovered by a young girl named Charlie (Steinfeld) who is gifted the autobot in his VW Bug form on her eighteenth birthday. After quickly discovering her car’s true form and forging a new bond and friendship with the autobot, the lives of both are soon put in danger when two Decepticons arrive in search of our hero and unafraid to eliminate anything or anyone that stands between their target, and with the help of the military behind them. Now Charlie and Bee will have to test their trust in each other and dive into dangerous territory to protect the planet and the lives of everyone they care for before it’s too late and the Decepticons are successful.
Directed by Travis Knight (Kubo and the Two Strings) from a screenplay by Christina Hodson (Unforgettable), Knight does a fantastic job at the helm of ‘Bumblebee’ which marks his sophomore directorial effort, perfectly capturing the style and tone of the original animated series for which he’s clearly passionate and guiding along the action and excitement with style. The film also owes some credit to the well selected cast which includes Hailee Steinfeld (The Edge of Seventeen), John Cena (Blockers), Jorge Lendeborg Jr. (Spider-Man: Homecoming), John Ortiz (Kong: Skull Island), Jason Drucker (Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul), Pamela Adlon (TV’s Better Things), Stephen Schneider (TV’s Broad City) and more, with the majority delivering solid performances for the most part in each of their respective roles and helping to make the very human nature of this tale work as well as it does.
‘Bumblebee’ is a well-crafted and quite enjoyable entry in the world of ‘Transformers’ that delivers beautifully in many areas, yet at the same time noticeably lacks in a couple others. While so many seem to appreciate the film’s style and changes, the slower pace accompanied by the lack of any extravagant and expansive action sequences often makes it feel lacking in some way. I can certainly appreciate many wanting a bit more of a fleshed out story and not as much nonstop insanity flying across the screen, and while its fresh style and other positive elements are quite impressive and welcome, a ‘Transformers’ film intended to fit in the same universe as the others nonetheless feels incomplete and anticlimactic without some degree of visually spectacular action sequences, not to mention a notable shift in appearance for those action scenes it does feature. Simultaneously serving as a prequel to the five ‘Transformers’ films directed by Michael Bay and also as a soft reboot in its own way, it does a great job of referencing the various prior films while switching things up in style, story and many other departments enough to also make it very much its own. Many hardcore fans of the original 80’s animated series are also certain to greatly appreciate the style and tone of which ‘Bumblebee’ captures beautifully, while also consistently paying homage to the cartoon in other various ways. I would strongly encourage anyone that enjoyed the previous ‘Transformers’ films and/or are fans of the world and characters in general to definitely try and make a point of checking out ‘Bumblebee’ whenever possible, odds are it will at the very least keep you thoroughly entertained while managing to frequently slap a smile on your face throughout.
Overall, ‘Bumblebee’ is a heartfelt and uniquely different entry in the ‘Transformers’ film saga with some well fleshed out new characters and its share of tense and entertaining action sequences. Yet it’s also by far the least explosive and slowest paced entry in the film franchise, often keeping the action sequences fairly grounded and uneventful, which feels at odds with the other five films its intended to fit in with, yet the positive elements and its clever nods and dedication to the 80’s cartoon and other coming of age adventure films of that time do wonders to help it become something different that works rather well in its own right. ‘Bumblebee’ is definitely highly recommended for fellow fans of the ‘Transformers’ world in general, as well as of Michael Bay’s enjoyable film entries who are each sure to appreciate this interesting new installment in many ways. Diehard fans of the 1980’s G1 ‘Transformers’ animated series in particular will probably enjoy ‘Bumblebee’ all the more thanks to the constant tributes and nods it pays to the toon and that decade in general.
The Blu-ray release of ‘Bumblebee’ features a full 1080p High Definition presentation utilizing a 1.78:1 Aspect Ratio. The video presentation looks magnificent as a whole and provides a clean, sharp and richly detailed presentation from start to finish with no noticeable faults or issues to be uncovered throughout. It holds up impressively even during the various fast moving and darkly lit moments and action sequences, never resulting in anything occurring onscreen becoming negatively affected, let alone rendered indiscernible. Overall, this is a wonderful high definition video presentation from Paramount that looks great from start to finish and should thoroughly please fans.
The Blu-ray release features a Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 channel compatible) soundtrack. Please note that this review pertains solely to the Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio presentation. This multichannel soundtrack is quite the treat, delivering a crisp, clean and truly hard hitting audio presentation throughout. It constantly embraces all seven available channels in order to send bullets, explosions, debris, nature elements and plenty more whipping throughout the various speakers whenever appropriate, and never causing any dialogue or other audio elements that might be occurring simultaneously to become distorted or rendered inaudible in the process. Overall, this is a marvelous Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 compatible) soundtrack that delivers across the board and makes for an aggressive and incredibly enjoyable compliment to the film that never disappoints.
The Blu-ray release of ‘Bumblebee’ includes a healthy helping of bonus content that fans of the film should enjoy. Included on the release is a collection of ‘Deleted and Extended Scenes’ (running approximately 19 minutes in length altogether) and ‘Outtakes’ (approximately 9 minutes combined) from the film, in addition to some Behind the Scenes Featurettes which feature interviews/comments with members of the cast and crew, plus behind the scenes footage and more. The various Featurettes can be found in ‘Bringing Bumblebee to the Big Screen’ and include: ‘The Story of Bumblebee’ (approximately 4 minutes), ‘The Stars Align’ (7 minutes), ‘Bumblebee Goes Back to G1’ (10 minutes), ‘Back to the Beetle’ (6 minutes) and ‘California Cruisin’ Down Memory Lane’ (20 minutes). Also included is a ‘Sector 7 Archive’ which features an ‘Agent Burns: Welcome To Sector 7’ introduction (approximately 1 minute), along with the Motion Comic ‘Sector 7 Adventures: The Battle at Half Dome’ (9 minutes) and ‘Bee Vision: The Transformers Robots of Cybertron’ (4 minutes) which gives some background info on the various characters seen in the film’s opening sequence. A physical comic book edition of ‘Sector 7 Adventures: The Battle at Half Dome’ is also included in the package, at least for first run pressings of the release.