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December 26, 2018

Bumblebee (2018) --- "Every Hero's Story Has A Beginning."

Plot Summary
On the run in the year 1987, Bumblebee the Autobot seeks refuge in a junkyard in a small California beach town. Charlie, on the brink of turning 18 years old and trying to find her place in the world, soon discovers the battle-scarred and broken Bumblebee. When Charlie revives him, she quickly learns that this is no ordinary yellow Volkswagen. (1)

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Hello, Movie Buffs! 
     Directed by Travis Knight (Kubo and the Two Strings) and written by Christina Hodson (Unforgettable), Bumblebee (2018) is an entertaining and action-packed film that is probably one of the best in the Transformers franchise. Bumblebee uses much of the same formula that its predecessors use but also differs from the previous five Michael Bay films. This film succeeds because the story and characters are well-written and have depth Bay’s heavy-handed machismo script is replaced with a more feminine sensibility. Of course, don’t expect there to be big surprises or ground-breaking discovers because that is not what this film set out to do. Instead, Bumblebee rekindles the spirit of the original cartoon, while adding an unexpected dose of warmth and humor that is familiar and skillfully accomplished.

     Bumblebee (2018) can be described as The Breakfast Club (1985) meets Netflix’ Stranger Things meets Transformers, and I can explain why. First, the 80’s soundtrack and teenage girl angst is nothing short of a coming of age story in that evokes an emotional connection between the audience and the main characters; hence The Breakfast Club.  Second, Bumblebee proves that you can still make a classic 80’s film (or series) where our heroes meet a mysterious friend being chased by the authorities and something more sinister but it is up to the heroes and the mysterious being to put a stop to the bad guys and save the world; hence Stranger Things. And lastly, both films are skillfully blended with robot carnage, hence Transformers.
     On top of all these connections, this is also an origin story on how Bumblebee came to Earth and features a new cast of characters, it drops the complicated subplots and opens the film with a more genuine and realistic approach on an origin story. It's simple, yet effective story that provides some nostalgia but also stands on its own. By the end, I wanted more and yet I am glad that it ended the way it did because they could have easily added more and increased the film runtime. Instead, they decided to keep the scope of the story between Charlie and Bumblebee, which is exactly what this franchise needed. Although I did want more content, I am glad that they didn’t try to cram a ton into this film. When you think about it, Bumblebee is not really a Transformers film because Bumblebee himself is cute and hilarious, almost like an awkward teenager. While the film brings in the Transformers aspect when it needs to, for the most part, this is a coming of age story about a teenager girl and her robot with nostalgic 80’s elements.
     Fortunately, Bumblebee (2018) captures nostalgic elements of the ’80s without being to cliché. When it comes to the ’80s the music is legendary for its synthesizers and emotional rantings, and while the music was comically integrated the selection was perfectly timed and wonderful to listen to throughout the film. For those who are fans of ’80s music should be prepared to lip sync, smile, and tap to the beat.
     Now, director Knight’s experience with being an animation director (Coraline, Kubo, ParaNorman) is evident in this film. He brings a new style to the franchise, a welcome change because he understands how to use visual effects to express a scene’s intent and emotions. For instance, Bumblebee (Dylan O'BrienAmerican Assassin, Maze Runner, Teen Wolf) says very little, since we get to see how he lost his voice, but his facial expression and mannerisms are enough to convey his words. He can be both tender and badass all in the span of a few moments, and his unique fighting style overcompensates for his less than average stature.
     The screenplay thoroughly respects the characters. Hailee Steinfeld (Edge of Seventeen & Pitch Perfect 3) was amazing with her performance as Charlie. Jorge Lendeborg Jr (Love, Simon and Spider-Man: Homecoming) was good and complimented Steinfeld as Charlie's neighbor, Memo. John Cena (The Marine) was typical John Cena so typically he was good as Agent Burns. The Decepticons, Shatter (Angela BassettOlympus Has Fallen) and Dropkick (Justin TherouxThe Spy Who Dumped Me) were almost unrecognizable but were voiced well and gave the Decepticons some sass that was needed. Pamela Adlon (Better Things) as Mom, Sally, and Stephen Schneider (You’re the Worst) as the goofball stepfather, Ron, provided some good moments of comic relief. It was nice to hear Peter Cullen (Transformers) return as the voice of Optimus Prime but it wasn’t better than hearing Dylan O'Brien give B-127 (aka Bumblebee) his voice despite only having a few lines.
     Overall, Bumblebee (2018) is a great film and probably the best in the series due to its heart and humor. Writer, Christina Hodson, delivers a story that differs from the rest of the franchise because while it is a Transformers film due to the robot carnage, it is also a coming of age story with a pinch of sinister-ness and some (a lot of) 80’s flare. Like Transformers meets The Breakfast Club (1985) meets Stranger Things. In addition, the story also respects the characters, who gave solid performances,  as well as builds an emotional connection between said characters and the audience. Thanks to director Knight and his experience as a lead animator, the visual effects bring a new style to the franchise that I am sure that the majority will be pleased by the outcome. The action is great as it highlights Bumblebee’s unique fight style due to his less than average size. Bumblebee brings renewed life back to the franchise and is the film fans have been waiting for, I highly recommend it.

“The darkest nights, produce the brightest stars.”

- Memo [to Charlie]

Final Vote --- 8.8 of 10 stars

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Movies Similar 
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Battle: Los Angeles (2011)
Chappie (2015)
G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra (2009)
G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013)
Pacific Rim (2013)
Reel Steel (2011)
RoboCop (2014)
Tron Legacy (2010)
Transformers (2007)
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)
Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)
Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)
Transformers: The Last Knight (2017)

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