By: Simson Garcia
Our beloved Bumblebee character, aka Bee, aka B-127, is the first domino to fall, literally/figuratively, in the Transformer universe. Bumblebee's the prequel, chronologically speaking, to all Transformer films. The movie too, for me though, fell just a little too hard on itself and I'll tell you why. First a synopsis.
The rivalry between Autobots and Decepticons begins on Cybertron--the Transformer homeland. A civil war's waged causing havoc to where the bots are outnumbered and must regroup. Optimus Prime sends Bee to 1987 Earth and orders are to set up refuge and operations. The main objective is to help save earth from the incoming Decepticons. Bee comes crashing in from the sky into the middle of a training exercise coordinated by Sector-7--a secret government agency that monitors extraterrestrial life. Sector 7's mercenaries then seek to capture him.
We find, however, he's not alone. Blitzwing, a Decepticon, soon comes plunging just as Sector 7 had ambushed Bee. A fight ensues to where Bee manages to get the upper hand and kills Blitzwing. Bee's voice box is ruptured and his computer systems malfunction from the damaged caused in the fight. Right before his systems fail, he scans a 1967 Volkswagon Beatle nearby.
He's soon found by teenager Charlie Watson who routinely scrounges up parts in her uncle's scrapyard. Her hopes and yearnings in owning and driving her own vehicle come to light when she buys Bee in the Volkswagon form he's in. She fixes the VW, only to discover the transformer afterwards. Meanwhile, a signal disperses during her attempts to rev Bee's engine.
The signal reaches two other Decepticons--Shatter and Dropkick--from a distant planet while in the middle of interrogating Autobot Cliffjumper over Prime's whereabouts. They receive the signal and travel to earth in search of Bee. Upon their arrival, they encounter Sector 7. The Decepticons eventually negotiate a deal and are provided earth's satellite functions with aims to find and destroy Bee.
After a while, Charlie continues mending Bee and together form a bond that includes teepeeing a house, watching old John Hughes films, and listening to 80's music through Bee's stereo system. Through fiddling around with Bee's hardware, she soon discovers a holographic message from Optimus and begins to understand Bee's objectives. While on a trip to work, Charlie leaves Bee idled in her home, alone. He then breaks things around the house and sticks his hand into a power surge creating another signal the Decepticons detect. Sector 7 and the Decepticons eventually seize Bee, but Sector 7 later discovers Shatter and Dropkick's true intentions. Sector 7, Bee, Charlie and friends come to a final fight with Decepticons in order to save earth.
Where Bumblebee is strong is when it creates a space you can be comfortable in akin to Ready Player One where pop culture references galore. So strong it is in this area, I wanted the whole Simple Minds song to play out during one scene. But that's probably the only area I'd give it the strongest B grade in because I loved the few Easter eggs it left. You can't get enough of those Hughes films. Now, we're talking another blockbuster film here, not another "brat pack" episode. But Bumblebee is great because it captures that essence. The chemistry between Bee and Charlie exemplifies that. It's the classic format: a lonely and bullied girl-next-door yearns for more, only to find a unique friend in need; they journey towards crazy and fun stunts, and their lives are forever changed from the experiences. It's a simple yet awesome formula. And it works, especially here, because it's a cool action film at the same time.
The film, remains, a blockbuster action piece. It's another one that falls in line and doesn't reach further than its predecessors. Ok, maybe three notches, but that's the second part I'd grade it a B. But I'm so familiar with the action stunts that've flooded the Marvel Universe that I feel like this is just another part to an assembly line. I wanted to love it, but there's something missing. Perhaps Bumblebee should have offered less throwaway dialogue. It may have been too strong in the nostalgia factor at times and at others--too weak. My expectations were high, although I prevented from being tugged too close to any built hype. I just thought, maybe, this film would go in a totally different direction than past Transformer films. For me, it seems like another part to an enduring franchise. This isn't a bad thing. But it wasn't the stand out and stand alone film I expected.