Ah movie reviews. Not my cup of tea. Hell, I don’t even drink tea. Why should I let that nullify the expression? I guess not.
There has been a war raging among the internet faithful. The TransFans, as they were once called, have been bickering over the status of the Transformers franchise ever since the internet began to transmit data into our homes over phone lines. In previous years the fight was between the die hard G1 faithful and the mouth-breathing Beast Wars fanatics. The rift ran deep into the Transformers fandom splitting them into two camps, not unlike the infamous Star Wars Special Editions. Yet at the core we all agreed on a few key points, mostly the war between living robots from the planet Cybertron and how it was depicted on the small and big screen must continue to bring us entertainment.
The factions aside the live action movies have been received with mixed reactions. There seems to be a large enough audience to keep them in production, yet there continues to be a pull in both directions to satisfy both camps, the Beast Fans and the Beast Haters. There is no middle ground really. Not for someone who soundly rejects the Beast era and all of the ways it contaminated the pure Transformers brand. Even today the argument continues to go in the favor of the G1 fans despite the movies making a mockery of the G1 canon while adhering to a tight walk between the two. This is the long way of saying the Beast fans keep pushing their monkey into our pure metallic world.
Each movie continued to push the organic look of the robots, with mannerisms modeled after an organic, beast era style of body movements. This contamination was intentional. The filmmakers wanted the robots to be based on the cars and planes we grew up with, while keeping the organic element pervasive enough to satisfy the Beast fans too. That is why despite turning into a truck in the 2007 film, Optimus Prime looks and behaves more like Optimus Primal than the G1 hero we all grew up idolizing.
You cannot go into Bumblebee without bearing in mind the struggle we have had to fight just to see a purely G1 canonized portrayal of OUR beloved Transformers, the ORIGINAL transformers displayed correctly and properly with no ties to the Beast ere. I am not anti Beast, make a Beast Wars movie I’d ACTUALLY love to see that. Introduce the Predacons I’d be all for that. but adhere to the tropes of the established continuity rather than straddling a middle ground. The cartoons did this best, simply put they gave the world PURE beast cartoons and PURE metal cartoons, why then should the films mix the two?
Bumblebee starts off on Cybertron. Not the Michael Bay bastardization of Cybertron we see depicted in the previous films, we see *the* Cybertron we grew up with in the original G1 cartoon. The film shows us brightly colored, metallic robot beings with robotic movements and mannerisms and robotic faces. Not a living organism with metal skin, not a robot wearing fur to protect it from the energon, no we see the very Cybertronian war we have been damn well asking for since the original film was first revealed.
The movie immediately shifts to Earth. From there it does a good job firmly planting us back in 1987, the middle of the G1 cartoon universe. It doesn’t take place in Tacoma, Washington, but at least it’s set on the West Coast so they get that right. Also, Sector 7 is mentioned but there hasn’t yet been a full on merging of the mythos. This is clearly a Generation One live action film with just barely enough allusions to tie it into what comes later. This is acceptable because the G1 cartoons did exist BEFORE the Beast Wars so it makes sense to finally separate the two. You can have a blend later because that is what the comics and toys have done since, but we still needed to see a live action film set almost entirely in the original G1 cartoon universe. This movie could be redone in the animation style of the classic cartoon and edited into the canon and hardly anyone would notice. It was the film a die hard G1 loyalist such as myself had been waiting to see. I don’t mind occasional hints of what comes later, the first two films were pretty good movies.
The human character is very important. Unlike a whiny, spoiled post-millennial teenager who demands the world be handed to him on a silver platter and yells on the top of his lungs constantly to get his way, this human has real heart, emotions, human traits. Sam was a caricature. He was there to move the plot forward nothing more. The human in this film, which I have already forgotten her name but she was important nonetheless. She was a real person to me. I could see myself rooting for her life outside of the movie. I can see her past, her childhood forming. I felt for her. I was sad for her when it was appropriate and glad for her when it was acceptable. She was a real character even more than Spike from the old cartoons.
Bumblebee himself was the best. Not just how he turned into the Nazi war symbol we all loved him as when we were kids, but also his child-like innocence. In the original cartoons Bumblebee was often bewildered by human behavior yet he was always seen doing everything he could to fit into human society. He was truly Spike’s best friend. That relationship was carried over into this film. There was a mutual respect they were friends. In the 2007 and subsequent film Revenge of the Fallen, Spike and Bumblebee’s relationship were more like protector and pet, only the film never established firmly which one was the pet. I never cared for that. Bumblebee was mischievous for no logical reason. In the context of the retconning this movie does, it’s a little more palatable but I still need to revisit the film to decide for myself once and for all.
There is a scene in the G1 first season where Spike is hanging around a video arcade with Bumblebee walking around. That scene depicts the very nature of the character I wanted to see in this film. They have a few moments that made me recall that picture. It was a nice nod to the original cartoon that ALL of the stuff that followed owes a debt of gratitude. As I have always said, the Beast stuff can exist and is fine, but they need to acknowledge without the G1 stuff there wouldn’t have been a Beast Wars to begin with.
The action in this movie is also not going to satisfy the fans of the series. It’s far from head the dizzying explosions and shaky cam stuff the latter films are known for. In fact the movie is very much more reminiscent of Short Circuit than a Transformers film.
The characters are real, the story is believable and the action is fitting. By the end of the movie my heart had warmed and I felt a twinge of gratitude towards the filmmakers from sitting down and saying, here you go Merry Christmas TransFans, we’re sorry for Dark of the Moon here is the film you were picturing in your head when we announced a live action Transformers movie.
It has minor flaws, as all movies do. But nothing stood out to me as glaringly obvious. The first film was riddle with cringe worthy moments I edited out myself in the first ever Fan Edit I made in an attempt to salvage what was there. I see no need to ever have to do that with this. I only wish there was a way to transpose the character models from this movie over the top of the other films to at least salvage what is there. Oh well, nothing is perfect, but the Bumblebee movie gets about as close as a movie about alien robots ever could. I give it a perfect score, five our of five. I saw no need to defend this or that, it felt entirely fresh and familiar at the same time. It was a blast to watch and a joy to experience.