“They literally call themselves Decepticons. That doesn’t set off any red flags?”
– Agent Burns
Twelve years ago, the first film in the Transformers universe was released. I remember it like it was yesterday, laughing at the prospect of a movie based off of a child’s toy, thinking Hollywood has officially run out of ideas. Well, jury is still out on that last bit, but that initial shock that they would make a movie on the Transformers has transformed into more of an expectation. Including Bumblebee, six movies have been released in the universe, and it doesn’t seem to be letting up, no matter how much some people may be exhausted from them. That being said, it appears that majority of people not only love this movie, but consider it the best film in the entire universe. I don’t…but it’s near the top.
You can tell right away what they’re attempting to do in comparison to the other films in the universe, and I say attempting quite broadly. This film takes place in the latter half of the ’80s, so you know music is going to be littered in the movie, and that’s true enough. I even felt like this movie was a combination of films like The Iron Giant and E.T. both in tone and feel, right down to the main house the girl lives in. You have no problem believing they want this to feel like the ’80s, yet…I don’t ever feel like it IS the ’80s; not truly, anyway. Thankfully, that’s a non-issue. Other elements more than make up for that, but there’s one area that can’t escape criticism…that’s the fact that there is no goal, hence no plot. The Decepticons have a plot, which would’ve been fine if they were the protagonists, but they’re not.
On the run in the year 1987, Bumblebee finds refuge in a junkyard in a small Californian beach town. Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld), on the cusp of turning 18 and trying to find her place in the world, discovers Bumblebee, battle-scarred and broken. When Charlie revives him, she quickly learns this is no ordinary, yellow VW bug.Paramount Pictures
PEOPLE – 13/20 (65%)
Acting – 2/4 | Characters – 3/4 | Casting – 3/4 | Importance – 2/4 | Chemistry – 3/4
You can’t automatically say this film succeeds in every category in comparison to the other films in the universe because it doesn’t. Even with entirely convoluted storylines occuring at once, you still have to admit that the Transformers films did a very nice job at creating a lot of memorable characters, even though they were all basically robots. The only memorable character in this movie was Bumblebee himself. Hailee Steinfeld is fine and dandy, but her character is forgettable. You remember her because it is Hailee Steinfeld, not for who she plays. That being said, she was the only person in the cast that felt like they really picked the perfect person to play a specific role. So characters and casting both get three out of four stars. Nothing particular great about the acting, so that remains at half points, and a whole heck of a lot of people blend into one another in the long run, so that gets half points as well. Chemistry? I guess the girl and Bumblebee do alright, but that’s again the extent of noticeably decent chemistry. Everyone else is just….fine.
WRITING – 7/10 (70%)
Dialogue – 2/2 | Balance – 1/2 | Story Depth – 1/2 | Originality – 1/2 | Interesting – 2/2
Writing-wise, I can’t really say too much about this is very impressive. Obviously, dialogue is important to the plot, given Bumblebee’s entire voicebox dillema, so that got full points. It’s also interesting enough to want to watch, as well as to keep you watching, so that also got full points. Everything else was mediocre at best. No, it’s not exactly convoluted, but for a majority of the film, it’s also not going anywhere. It works off of the whole fish-out-of-water thing, and how funny a big robot can be creating random havoc. Storywise, though? There’s not a lot of point for…pretty much anything that happens. Not until the end, so that gets half points. Story depth? Sure, the bones of some important things are there, but only the bones. You don’t really feel that emotionally involved with any story. Also, as I also mentioned before, it’s not fully original. It feels like it takes a lot of inspiration from movies like E.T. and The Iron Giant, as well as Big Hero Six. It’s original in comparison to all the other movies in the franchise, but that’s it.
BTS – 9/10 (90%)
Visuals – 2/2 | Cinematography – 1/2 | Editing – 2/2 | Advertising – 2/2 | Music & Sound – 2/2
As with any film in this series, there is a strong focus on everything happening behind-the-scenes. The visuals are all pretty impressive, even if I don’t always believe it takes place in the ’80s, the editing of the action sequences in particular are all done really well, it was as-advertised, and even the music and sound play a role in the plot overall, so it is fun just to listen to the film. I didn’t really notice anything particularly exciting about the cinematography, though. Everything about the camera angles seemed more or less typical.
NARRATIVE ARC – 9/10 (90%)
Introduction – 2/2 | Inciting Incident – 2/2 | Obstacles – 1/2 | Climax – 2/2 | Resolution – 2/2
Even with the film not really having a solid plot, it still follows a pretty solid narrative structure. The introduction gets you acquainted into what’s happening on Cybertron, Bumblebee, why Bumblebee is on earth, and the main character of Charlie. The inciting incident is ultimately when Charlie meets Bumblebee, which changes the course of events for the rest of the film. Now, because there’s no real solid plot, there’s also very little real obstacles to come across. It’s actually pretty shallow. As far as Bumblebee knows, there are no villains on Earth after he destroys the one he found. He then goes into hiding, and he’s pretty sure he’s done for good. Basically, his only goal is to beat up the bad guys IF they show up…it’s pretty weak. Climax-wise does feel like a culmination, since the audience can feel the buildup while watching, and the resolution calms things down and returns everything to a new sense of norm.
ENTERTAINMENT – 6/10 (60%)
Rewatchability – 2/2 | Fun Experience – 2/2 | Impulse/Buy – 1/2 | Impulse/Talk – 0/2 | Sucks you In – 1/2
I’d say overall, this movie was entertaining, maybe even more so than what you would typically expect. It is a movie I wouldn’t mind seeking out to watch again because honestly, I did have a good time watching it as a general rule. Heck, I wouldn’t even mind owning it…but I’ll more likely put it in my wish list than buy it myself. I think there’s enough happening on screen that even if it’s not true, you feel like you sometimes HAVE to keep watching because you feel as if something important is about to happen, and you have to be watching or else you’ll miss it. So that gets half points. I don’t really think it’s a highly discussion-worthy movie, but overall, yeah, I’d say entertaining.
SPECIALTY – 35/40 (87.5%)
Transformers – 10/10 | Action – 10/10 | Prequel – 5/10 | Halfway Decent – 10/10
Let’s talk about the expectations you have going in to see this film. First of all, it’s a Transformers movie, so does it feel like it fits? While it has a few random plot holes here and there, it ultimately feels as if it fits right into the universe as a whole. As an action film, it’s not exactly super action-oriented, but the way they deal with action is very welcome in comparison to a lot of the other movies in the series, who often feel like they try way too hard to introduce action that they over-do it. So, the balance between the two in this film help make it feel fresh again, so that gets full points. As a prequel, I think it’s fine, but those plot holes it runs into and even the difference in theme hurt the film having connections to the series that began in 2007. So, even though they made the film look great on an independent bases, it may have just complicated connections to the main story. Other than that, I’d say they ultimately made the movie they wanted to make from the get-go, which means I would say it’s halfway decent.