Have we reached a place in society where we can admit the "Transformers" movies are garbage? Look, each one of the five (FIVE?!?) movies has something to offer, whether it's watching Shia LaBEEEF slowly losing his mind on camera, T.J. Miller getting burned to ashes in the fourth one, Chicago getting systematically destroyed in the third one or Stanley Tucci playing a drunken Merlin in the last one.
Franchise director Michael Bay managed to turn his love of the military, expensive vehicles and massive explosions into a series that grossed close to $5 billion worldwide. Are the movies good? Not really. Entertaining? Sure. But now that Bay has announced he's done directing the movies so he can focus more on chilling at the Playboy mansion, it's time to give some new filmmakers a chance in the sandbox.
If you told me I was gonna be excited for a "Transformers" spinoff prequel starring the mute yellow badass Bumblebee, I would've said you were smoking the same stuff Bay was while making these movies—but a few things had me a little hyped for this thing. Setting the film in 1987 gives the filmmakers a new texture and color palate to play with. Hailee Steinfeld as the star sounded like a great idea. I guess she's an annoying pop star now, but I still remember her holding her own against Jeff Bridges in the "True Grit" remake.
The main reason I had faith was the director, Travis Knight. Not only is he the CEO of Portland-based animation studio Laika, but he also directed the animated showstopper "Kubo and the Two Strings." If anyone could give giant robots talking about crap like "The Matrix of Leadership" some gravitas, it would be Knight and his creative team.
For the most part, all the things I was excited for came to pass. Having the story set in 1987 and focusing on a teenage girl getting a rusty 1967 Volkswagen Beetle as her first car is perfect. Steinfeld carries the movie effortlessly and her interactions with a giant computer-generated robot always feel authentic and, surprisingly, touching.
It's not just some epic action movie about a girl and her robot saving the world, but instead manages to tell an intimate story about a depressed young woman overcoming grief and falling in love with her first car.
Travis Knight slows down the action and Bay-hem of the franchise proper and allows all of the robot fighting to be clear and visually legible which, in itself, is nearly miraculous. "Bumblebee" doesn't have the spectacle of the other films, but it doesn't need it. The story is smaller, the action is more evenly paced throughout the film and it's just a nice little movie to take the kids to that won't make your eyes bleed.