Michael Bay completely torpedoed a cartoon and franchise that molded many lives of my age group. He did a great job with the first film but with each subsequent sequel, managed to out suck the previous installment. Yes, even Bay gave the short shrift to one of these easiest characters in to make grandiose on a movie screen, the Dinobots. Screwed the pooch big time. And after that, I swore after Transformers 4 that I would never see another Transformers film in the theater. I waited till Netflix to waste another 2+ hours of my life watching the Transformers: the Last Knight. I spent most of that time wondering how much they had to give Anthony Hopkins to appear in that stillborn. So when they announced they were doing the origin story for Bumblebee, I still wasn’t caring that much. After seeing Michael Bay wasn’t at the helm for this, I gave this a better than fighting chance. After seeing the preview and seeing old school Transformers and see the battles on Cybertron (the home planet of the Transformers), I was hooked.
I’ll give this review 2 parts and the first part of this review is for those who are not hardcore Transformers fans. The second half of the review is for those who are going in with a more critical eye and have an affinity or solid background in Transformers. Scroll down for the nitpicking. So if you’re completely Transformers naive, here’s your review:
The Transformers come from Cybertron and there are 2 types, Autobots and Decepticons. Autobots, good guys, Decepticons, bad guys. Decepticons have won the battle for control of Cybertron, forcing Optimus Prime (leader of the Autobots and one of my all time favorite characters) to send one of his top soldiers, B-127, to Earth and set up a new base for the Autobots. Of course, the Decepticons track down B-127 to Earth and they want to take him out and set up their own base. Charlie (Hailee Steinefeld) is a teenager living in the 80’s who just lost her dad and is full of angst. She and her dad used to work on cars and uncovers B-127 who is hiding in a junkyard. Surprise, she fixes B-127, brings him home, and uncovers his secret. Bumblebee earns his name by Charlie finding in bees in the VW bug.
John Cena plays Jack Burns of sector 7, probably the MOST cliched army-esque character of all time. You’ll remember sector 7 as the agency John Turtorro worked for who made it his life’s mission to lock up the Autobots. He was hilarious, Cena is not. Burns encounters Bumblebee when Bee crashed landed onto Earth and made it his life mission to track him. Arnold Schwarzennegger had the best action cliches, Stallone had some good ones too. But they were tongue in cheek. Cena doesn’t have that affable nature the Rock has but to his defense, even the Rock couldn’t deliver these lines without vomiting. Yes, these are word for word: “I will personally rip off your face.” Good to see he can do his own face ripping and not delegating a lacky to do that. But my favorite: “There’s a door in my way.” And then had his guys blow up a door. How fun would that be? I would love to loudly announce there are tourists in my way. And then blow them up. Stuck behind some asshole on the turnpike who refuses to move over but does 55 in the fast lane? Blow them up. Someone sits directly in front of you in the movie theater while there are 5234 other open seats? Blow them up. God, this character made my skin crawl.
Let’s also discuss Charlie’s family. The mom (Pamela Adlon) and stepdad (Stephen Schneider) try to recapture the Witwickis goofiness from the first 3 Transformer films. Although it’s a little more deep and tumultuous with Charlie still holding on Even the brother Otis (Jason Drucker) gets in on the laughs as a karate student who is hell bent on kicking ass. And why oh why is someone naming their kid, Otis? What kind of sadist would do that, even in the 80’s? Let’s cut that shit out, that name is now reserved for pets only. But another problem with this film is it revolves WAY too much around Charlie. The name of the film is Bumblebee. The basis is robots coming to Earth and fighting. Yes, I do want to see the relationship the Transformers have with humans. And the cartoon/cartoon film/first Michael Bay film did a great job with balancing out robot battling and human interaction. But this is too much on everything else but as Michael Bay said, “Giant fucking robots.”
The reviews are pouring in how this is the greatest Transformers film. I get we’re all eager to wash out the Michael Bay shlock from our mouths but slow the fuck down, people. This films isn’t that great at all. And how soon you forget about the animated movie? And the first Bay incarnation was solid. But this is the best film of the lot? Please. Is it because it’s a female lead and we’re savages if we all don’t agree that it’s the best, we’re sexist? Please. This film was almost 2.5 hours long and I felt myself looking at my watch as this dragged. The final battle was meh at best and the ending was beyond lazy. This is the 3rd best Transformers fan but that’s not high praise as all of the sequels were awful. This isn’t in the same league as the animated film or the first installment.
If you’re not a big Transformers fan, you’ll give it ~5.
Now, for a deep dive analysis for those who are fans of the franchise.
Here are my problems with this film. You have the chance to undo some of the Michael Bay choices. The film opens with Autobots and Decepticons fighting on Cybertron. IMMEDIATELY, I was ecstatic to see some of my old time favorites on the screen. Optimus Prime, Starscream, Soundwave, Wheeljack, and Shockwave to name a few. No exaggeration, I let out a mini, “yes!” THIS IS WHAT WE HAVE BEEN LOOKING FOR YEARS. But this euphoria only lasts for 3 minutes before Bumblebee is shipped to Earth. You get another flashback to Cyberton fighting and yes, a Ravage sighting. So explain to me why the opted to use Shatter and Dropkick as the main 2 Decepticons who track down Bumblebee. Who are they? EXACTLY, THEY DIDN’T USE ANY OF THE MAIN DECEPTICONS? These are 2 made up Decepticons for the film. And Christ, not even one Megatron sighting, really? You do see Prime in a few video messages, fine. And we even get a great Easter Egg. They play everyone’s favorite song, “You’ve got the Touch” so be ready. So they do get a few nods in there but man, such opportunity wasted.
I have no idea why these writers don’t utilize the perfect recipe. All of the ingredients are here and mixed, all you have to do is throw in the oven and wait. Like Mariano Duncan said of the 96 Yankees, We play today, we win today. Das eet. Have Cybertron battles. Use the characters in the cartoon as they were. Have more screen time focused on the Transformers but a nice dose of the human relationship. Das eet.
This wasn’t good by any stretch and the fake love from the critics is staggering. As I write this article on Saturday afternoon, the news is already in that Aquaman is going to win the weekend. Aquaman, the lamest of superheroes. Aquaman, of the DC universe who hasn’t made a quality film yet. Calm down Wonder Woman fans, that was just fine. I understand the Bay has ostracized a ton of the fan base. But to lose to a perennial loser superhero and franchise screams volumes. Maybe if they get this franchise right, people will go back to the theaters to see the greatest cartoon series (next to Looney Tunes) ever. But for now, I’m going back to my edict of not paying to see Transformers films.
Autobots, transform and stay home. I give it a 4. And that’s only because of the Cybertron scenes.