The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part
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Bumblebee proves it's possible to bring fun and a sense of wonder back to a bloated blockbuster franchise -- and sets up its own slate of sequels in the bargain.
The movie doesn't seem to be playing near you.
All Critics (218)
| Top Critics (29)
| Fresh (202)
| Rotten (16)
Where the Bay "Transformers" movies alternated between ecstasy and dullness, "Bumblebee" is consistently middling.
If only not being terrible was the same as being good; Bumblebee is still just reheated nostalgia.
The movie works in large part because of the depth of Steinfeld's performance. We haven't seen such a well-realized character in any of the other Transformers movies.
Imagine if John Hughes made a Transformers movie. Or: Think E.T., but with auto parts.
"Bumblebee" does hold up as a fun, family-appropriate movie on its own terms, and redeems its beleaguered franchise in the process.
After the cacophonous abomination that was Michael Bay's Transformers: The Last Knight, I suppose the mere whiff of competency smells good in comparison.
The best news of this detour is that it's proof that good cinema and blockbusters can go hand in hand. [Full Review in Spanish]
If this is the beginning of a new franchise, I hope it continues in the same vein.
Works in stripping back the world building mythos and placing its focus on a nostalgic sci-fi action adventure that is as sweet as it is electrifying.
Lack of racial diversity in Bumblebee is tempered by a complex female lead, with the end result of a rockin' movie guaranteed to make your Millennial soul soar.
Bumblebee is an incredibly nice breath of fresh air compared to the previous Transformers movies. If you have been scarred or turned off by the Michael Bay version of the franchise, then this movie is certainly a welcomed change of pace.
A rarity for a Transformers outing: actual characters with definable arcs! What a concept!
Michael Bay should take notes from Travis Knight on how to make a Transformers movie that lets you see and understand what is happening before your eyes, and this is an exhilarating throwback to the '80s that looks and feels like something Steven Spielberg would have made in that decade.
A new direction for the toy action figures gone Hollywood: somebody figured out that even science fiction (like Frankenstein's monster) needs heart. And so, along with the action scenes of the big automatons duking it out, there's the story of an out-of-sorts teenager dealing with the death of her father. This is old school entertainment here, masterfully realized, with even the 80"s soundtrack designed to reel the audience into the plot. After the film was over, I thought that the next installment couldn't ask for a better introduction. A sci-fi offering not simply "for the kids".
Why haven't they been making these kind of Transformers movies from the beginning? Bumblebee is a scaled-down, character-driven family film where the bigger moments re about fitting in, finding your sense of self, and keeping your new alien robot friend hidden from your parents. Set in the late 80s, Hailee Steinfeld (Edge of Seventeen) plays a high school senior dreaming of a life beyond her neighborhood and family. The ticket out is a new car, which just happens to be an Autobot from another planet disguised as a VW beetle. Because Bumblbee had his memory wiped from a fight years earlier, he's very childlike and endearing, and the interaction between the big robot and Steinfeld will rekindle more than a few memories for The Iron Giant, E.T., and other classic "boy and his dog" tales. There's a real attention to the characters, big and small, that makes this the best Transformers movie. Not everything has to be about the next world-destroying cataclysm. There's plenty of formidable drama in watching a teen girl navigate the world with an unconventional new friend. Director Travis Knight (Kubo and the Two Strings) graduates to the world of live-action with a terrific feel for the visual parameters and material. It helps that Knight gives his film a sense of scale without sacrificing coherency. The camera prefers wider shots and longer takes so the audience can follow the action. The movie also has a sly sense of humor it knows when it call upon, like a highly enjoyable John Cena who is baffled at his government's open door policy to evil robot aliens: "They have Decepticon in their name. Is that not a red flag to anyone else?" This is a well-paced, sweetly heartfelt movie with good humor, good characters, and good action. If this is what happens when you strip Michael Bay from the franchise, then lock him up.
Nate's Grade B+
The live-action Transformers franchise that has been running since 2007 is incredibly divisive at best. Although many people still continue to praise that original film, it's also disliked just as much. As far as the sequels go, it's really a matter of how much you find them annoying. Personally, aside from Transformers: Dark of the Moon, I think the sequels continued to get worse and worse. Transformers: The Last Knight was the final nail in the coffin for me, as it was easily one of the worst big budget films I've ever seen. When the first pieces of marketing landed for this new Bumblebee film, I was very optimistic about where they had decided to take this series. While I can say that most people will be able to agree on the fact that it's easily the best film to come out since the original and is possibly even superior to all of the previous movies, it still didn't do much to impress me either.
Taking place in the late 1980s, Bumblebee follows the Transformer known as Bumblebee as he is sent to Earth after a devastating event on their home planet of Cybertron. Followed by two Transformers who have a completely different agenda, they make life difficult for him on this planet, as well as the humans they encounter. A young woman in Charlie Watson discovers that an old car from the junkyard is actually a transforming robot and they form a bond that sets the heart of this story in motion. Many viewers will watch this movie and probably be moved by the relationship these two share and while it does have some fantastic moments, I just thought this story was far too similar to other films, without much new to offer.
In terms of storytelling, Bumblebee strips away the overly complex narratives that this franchise gave us throughout the last decade and truly makes a very simplistic story between a girl and her robot, and what consequences may arise from that. Comedy is subjective, but I sadly felt some of the same dumb humour very present here. Although the action is much more visible and the emotions are real, they're undercut by some cringe-worthy lines of dialogue. Not that this ruined the movie for me, but it did take me out of the experience at times.
As far as the cast goes, Hailee Steinfeld continues to act circles around each and every cast member that she has to work with. Whether it's her devoted performances in movies like The Edge of Seventeen or her fun attitude throughout the Pitch Perfect movies, I've always enjoyed her on-screen. This may be her best performance yet, but this is not the point I'm trying to make. With a central character as well-performed as Charlie, the rest of the cast definitely falls by the wayside, with a big asterisk on John Cena. While I like him in comedies, I just don't believe he can pull off real drama. As the head military officer, his dialogue was either meant to be cheesy and laughable or serious, which I felt came off as more comedic than dramatic. I know that this is the tone they were obviously going for, but it really didn't work for me.
In the end, fans of Transformers will get a kick out of the action and average moviegoers will more than likely be able to latch onto the human characters and actually care about them this time around. This familiar story makes for a much stronger film in the Transformers franchise, but it doesn't feel all that original. Although I enjoyed watching this movie for the most part and can recommend it to all ages, I don't think many risks were taken to spice up this stale story. Bumblebee has some great moments throughout, but as an overall film, it didn't impress me enough to warrant a glowing recommendation.
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