'Bumblebee' is easily the best 'Transformers' movie ever made

Paramount PicturesThey did it. Paramount has made a great ‘Transformers’ movie that should be beloved by both critics and fans.

Warning: There are minor spoilers ahead for “Bumblebee.”

If you’re sceptical over another potentially lame “Transformers” flick, don’t be.

Bumblebee” isn’t just the best “Transformers” movie Paramount Pictures has made. It’s a great movie. Period.

Set in 1987, the “Transformers” spin-off follows fan favourite Bumblebee as he seeks refuge on Earth while his home planet is at war.

He’s supposed to be finding a safe place for his allies, other Autobots like Optimus Prime, to come and eventually join him (the plot of 2007’s “Transformers”). But when other Decepticons (the bad bots) follow along, Bee winds up losing his voice and memory until he’s found by a young girl named Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld). The arrival of more Decepticons puts both of them, and the planet, at risk.

The result is an unexpectedly sweet coming-of-age story between a young girl and her bot which feels like a mix between a Spielberg film, a John Hughes movie of the ’80s, and a kid-friendly “The Shape of Water.

Do I need to watch all those other “Transformers” movies in order to watch this one?

Transformers bumblebeeParamount PicturesJorge Lendeborg Jr. and Hailee Steinfeld kick off, what could be, the first movie in their own franchise.

Nope. “Bumblebee” stands on its own as a prequel to the entire franchise.

In fact, if you try to watch the Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox “Transformers” movie afterwards, “Bumblebee” appears to rewrite some of the first film that’s centered around that silly All Spark cube. The most it’s mentioned is as a production company at the film’s start – All Spark Productions.

Why to see it: It’s not directed by Michael Bay and has the heart of Steven Spielberg and an up-and-coming director, Travis Knight.

Bay is still one of many producers on the film; however, it’s executive-produced by Steven Spielberg. “Bumblebee” plays very much like “E.T.,” the Spielberg-directed film about an alien crash landing to Earth and then seeking refuge with a youngster, which very much served as inspiration for the spin-off.

Hailee steinfeld bumblebee Paramount PicturesThe film is led by the very capable Hailee Steinfeld, who was nominated for an Oscar for her performance in ‘True Grit.’ The movie follows Charlie as she discovers Bumblebee.
Bumblebee hailee steinfeld Paramount PicturesSome of the shots in ‘Bumblebee’ will remind you of a Spielberg movie.

If you don’t know director Travis Knight’s name, perhaps you know his work on the brilliant stop-animation movie, “Kubo and the Two Strings.” The movie was nominated for two Oscars, including best animated film for its original, emotional tale about a young boy and his family.

Read more: The stop-motion animation used in “Kubo and the Two Strings” was painstaking

If you’re worried about the dialogue and writing of this film, the screenplay isn’t written by a man. It’s the first movie in the “Transformers” franchise to be written by a woman, Christina Hodson, and that shows. “Bumblebee” doesn’t unnecessarily objectify women like the many movies before it.

What’s hot: It tells a heartwarming story in under two hours, Hailee Steinfeld will become an instant favourite, and Bumblebee will break your heart.

Transformers bumblebee movie hailee steinfeldParamount PicturesIt turns out Bumblebee is exactly the unexpected friend Charlie needed.

“So much better than I thought it’d be” was a phrase I heard a lot of as the movie ended at my screening. I’ve been to a lot of “Transformers” screenings since 2012, and this was the first time I heard audible praise after one of these concluded.

The reason for that praise is deeply rooted in the well-crafted relationship built between Steinfeld’s misunderstood teenager, Charlie, and her Volkswagen Beetle. She’s trying to come to terms with the loss of her father while the rest of her family has seemingly moved on. The car turns out not to be the warrior Bumblebee we’re used to, but a scared and vulnerable autobot named B-127 who can’t remember who he is or where he came from.

The story answers some of the biggest questions you may have about the fan favourite, including how he lost his voice and got his name. If that doesn’t make you weepy at least once, you may not have a soul.

It’s the first time in the 12 years of this franchise that you feel an actual bond to one of these bots. There’s something in Bee’s puppy-like wide-eyed innocence that really works here and just makes you want to reach out and give Bumblebee a hug while watching this film.

Bumblebee dogParamount PicturesUnlike previous films, ‘Bumbleebee’ makes a Transformer a developed character. He’s not just a robot that’s ‘more than meets the eye.’
Bumblebee volkswagen beetleParamount PicturesI bet Volkswagen is going to kick itself a bit for cancelling the Beetle come 2019 because this movie is probably going to inspire a lot of people to want one.

The unexpected friendship between Bumblebee and Charlie plays as a sweet throwback to John Hughes films of the ’80s, complete with tunes from the era ranging from Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” to Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me).”

If you’ve already fallen in love with Hailee Steinfeld’s version of Spider-Gwen in Sony’s “Into the Spider-Verse” (yes, that’s also her), she’ll become a favourite after “Bumblebee.”

How did a franchise, which in the past has so openly objectified the women in its movies, create one of the best female leads of 2018? It helps that the movie is written by a woman. Many of the previous “Transformers” clunkers are riddled in silly dialogue, racistbots, and sexism that wouldn’t fly after the #MeToo movement. Christina Hodson helps revitalize the franchise based on the popular toys to make it a series that’s actually kid friendly without a lot of cheap humour.

It makes me extremely excited to see how Hodson will handle Warner Bros.’ upcoming “Birds of Prey” movie, which she is also writing.

Original transformers dialogueParamount PicturesRemember this from the first ‘Transformers’ in 2007? That’s a light example of some of the bad dialogue that has plagued ‘Transformers’ movies for over a decade.

That said, “Bumblebee” is also surprisingly funny with a lot of laugh-out-loud moments that filled our screening. Many of these were because of Bee trying to learn how he should stay out of sight in a world full of humans. Others came from John Cena, who plays a high-ranking military officer trying to hunt down Bee, poking fun at the franchise.

John cena bumblebeeParamount Pictures‘They literally call themselves Decepticons. That’s not a red flag?’ is a standout line from Cena.

Perhaps one of the best things is that Knight and Hodson are able to tell a good story in about two hours, a shorter runtime than both “Aquaman” and “Mary Poppins Returns,” which the film will be competing with in theatres. It takes an hour for Optimus Prime and his friends to show up in 2007’s “Transformers.” In comparison, “Bumblebee” wastes little time getting to the point as it starts off with a big action sequence with the Transformers you know and love before kicking off Bumblebee’s origin story.

What’s not: There really isn’t much to complain over here.

The movie doesn’t do Cena much justice. It’s not really his fault. He has a few moments that will make you laugh, but otherwise, he’s not the real draw or star here. For what it’s worth, I don’t think the “Transformers” movies have ever done a spectacular job of knowing how to integrate the military seamlessly into the fictional world. It always comes off a bit goofy.

Bumblebee john cenaParamount PicturesCena’s in a good majority of the film, but mostly as an antagonist to Bumblebee.

I could nitpick a bit more over Charlie’s campy stepfather and brother, but this is a surprisingly solid movie.

The bottom line: See this over the holidays with the family.

Bumblebee movieParamount PicturesIf you thought you weren’t going to cry during a “Transformers” movie, you’re going to during this one.

Last year, audiences fell for a love story between a fish man and a woman in “The Shape of Water.” This December it’s a different kind of love story between a girl and her robot fans will rally behind.

Six movies into this franchise, I expected to write “Bumblebee” off as another “Transformers” cash grab. But it’s one of the most unexpectedly heartwarming and fun movies you’ll watch this holiday. And it has more memorable songs than Disney’s “Mary Poppins'” sequel. Please let Travis Knight make another “Transformers” movie.

Grade: A

“Bumblebee” is in theatres Friday. Watch a trailer for the movie below.

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