Cast: Starring Hailee Steinfeld, John Cena, Pamela Adlon
Director Travis Knight
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
Running Time: 114 minutes
Rated: M
Opens December 20th

Set in 1987, twenty years before the first Transformers movie took place, and serving as a prequel. ‘Bumblebee” is an imaginative spinoff from the original films, providing a further account of the fan-favorite character’s origins. This is the first film in the series not directed by Michael Bay (who instead is executive producer), the film offers a huge change to the very male dominated franchise with a teenage girl being the centre of attention. With a very fresh take on the transformer movies but adding plenty of memories and a new character, the film is certain to be a winner. New director Travis Knight brings more humor and a lighter touch to what we have come to expect.

Because it has been a number of films ago since the origins of these off world visitors has been explained, the story opens with a brief recap of the events that drove the sentinel robots to seek safety on Earth. We discover that on a far away planet Cybertron, a centuries-long civil war has taken place between the peace-loving Autobots and the power-hungry Decepticons. When it reached a critical stage, the Autobots leader ‘Optimus Prime’ fearing defeat, sends his young soldier B-127 to establish a foothold on planet earth so he can live alongside the human race in anticipation of the arrival of the rest of the remaining Autobots.
Arriving on earth in 1987 in the middle of a military exercise led by a secretive government agency Sector 7, and its commander Jack Burns (Played by John Cena), Bumblebee inadvertently crash-lands in a spectacular way that quickly segues to a massive firefight as Burns and his soldiers try to capture Bumblebee who hides in a San Francisco bay area scrap yard after transforming into a faded yellow 1967 Volkswagen Beetle. By this stage VW car lovers watching the movie will be in there element as “Herbie” quickly springs to mind.

With the pending arrival of a Decepticon hunter intent on destroying Bumblebee, we meet Charlie Watson (Hailee Steinfeld) who discovers the worse for wear Bug while scavenging spare parts to repair a classic 1959 Corvette long treasured by her father, who died of a heart attack while she was still in high school. Now almost 18th years old, she wants greater independence, so the old VW seems like just the ticket to freedom that she’s been looking for. When she gets the Beetle home, she’s astounded to see the car suddenly transforming into a robot which she with the name B-127. Today’s digital effects really come into their own with the transformation scenes especially if you watch this film in 3D. It’s so much better with the latest screen technology. A brief “getting to know you period” allows Charlie and Bumblebee to become good friends, as she pointedly ignores her concerned mother Sally and the new boyfriend Ron as well as her younger brother Otis.

Bumblebee’s troubles begin catching up with him, as Decepticon arrivals Dropkick (voiced by Justin Theroux) and his commander Shatter (Angela Bassett, the first time we have seen a female Transformer) and they partner with the unsuspecting leaders of Sector 7 including Jack Burns to hunt the Autobot down at any cost.

Paramount pictures decision to portray Bumblebee as a 60s Volkswagen bug might initially seem strange but this model was the character’s original configuration in early stages of the Transformers timeline before morphing into the more muscular Chevrolet Camaro in later movies. Director Travis Knight adeptly incorporates the Beetle’s familiar, friendly shape into both the brilliant action sequences and the more emotional dramatic scenes to shape Bumblebee’s immediately recognisable secondary character. The film is funny, fast and very well down. A great Christmas treat.

8 Out of 10