Bumblebee (AU - PG/UK - PG/US - PG-13)

In a word: Honed


Hailee Steinfeld plays Charlie Watson in Bumblebee. 


"For a character without a voice Bumblebee has much to say. More, dare I say it, than would initially meet the eye."

The previous five Transformers films have been full of sound and fury, and signified nothing more than Hollywood’s addiction to sequels. The latest entry in the franchise tries a different approach, focusing on the single 'autobot', Bumblebee, in a prequel that has more heart and soul then all the other films combined.

With a title character renown for not having the ability to speak, it was imperative for Bumblebee to be partnered with a strong lead. Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit, Pitch Perfect 2 and 3) rises to the challenge and injects real emotion and humour into her performance - which is quite the achievement seeing as her acting partner is a CGI transforming car.

Steinfeld plays Charlie Watson, a teenage girl grieving the loss of her father. Ridiculed by her peers and misunderstood by her parents, she builds a special bond with Bumblebee who is also somewhat lost, afraid and alone after landing on Earth. Together they rediscover themselves by helping each other as they evade the special forces led by Agent Burns (John Cena) and the 'deceptacons' hunting them, Shatter (Angela Bassett) and Dropkick (Justin Theroux).

True to the Transformers heritage, there is ample action, including a spectacular battle on Cybertron that opens the tale, and plenty of “robot-fu” that follows. The difference this time is that we actually care for the characters.

The original Transformers movies featured a confusing array of dozens of robots and a large ensemble of two-dimensional stars making it difficult to connect or even recognise the characters unless one had an intimate relationship with the toys. This prequel hones down the cast of characters and devoting much of the screen time to developing a real connection between Charlie and Bumblebee. The dramatic investment pays off as it generates a plot driven by real characters and delivers battles that are more impactful as we have come to know and feel for the combatants.

As a piece of nostalgia, Bumblebee manages to capture the feel of the late 80’s with playful nods to pop culture icons of the time such as Alf, Miami Vice, The Smiths, Ronald Reagan and The Breakfast Club. The film embraces its 80's heritage, making this a special walk down memory lane for those who grew up in that time while still clearly appealing to the younger generation who will be playing with these toys nearly 35 years after they were first introduced. 

All this nostalgia, action and drama communicate a theme of loyalty and belonging. Bumblebee and Charlie learn through their friendship that there is a place and people they belong to - and that place is a home and those people are family. For a character without a voice Bumblebee has much to say. More, dare I say it, than would initially meet the eye.