Thoughts On: Bumblebee - A New Start


Bumblebee - A New Start

Thoughts On: Bumblebee (2018)

The story of Bumblebee's first venture to earth.

I have developed a strange affinity for Michael Bay's Transformer films, but it seems his era of insanity has come to a close. Bumblebee is what you think a Transformer movie should be. I don't know anything about the original Transformer toys or the cartoons; if I'm reminiscing correctly, my childhood was composed of Disney films, people screaming about bogeys on the TV, morning cartoons that no one gets nostalgic about and 80s teenage melodramas. I do not care about the original Transformers lore and its relation to this revision of the Transformer films. All I can say is that Bumblebee is ok.

Very much so a harsh revision of Bay's Transformers, Bumblebee is far more kid-friendly, politically correct and inclusive (as you expect the modern blockbuster to be), and self-consciously disruptive of the basic masculine hero narrative. Moreover, this has greater touches of realism and is far less melodramatic. Good and bad emerge from this. Starting with the good, the humour in this film-  whilst far from sophisticated (the puke joke got me best) - works and does not try to repulse. The realism (of a narrative not necessarily aesthetic kind), too, makes for a warmer, less intense experience. You see this best with the function of transformations. Throughout Bay's Transformer films, the narrative usually has to take a slight pause to emphasise the spectacle in the transformation process an Autobot or Decepticon takes. There are, indeed, many 'transformation shots' in Bumblebee, but there are a huge number of transformations spotted throughout this film, and not only are they varied and beautifully executed, but are subtle and often undemanding. This brings us closer to Bumblebee, allowing us to see him as a functional and sentient being, less a device always trying to impress. That said, the greatest positives of Bumblebee are the action scenes. I would not say that they trump those seen in Transformers in every way. There is a focus in Bumblebee on hand-to-hand combat; the sequences are focused and extended. Bay's sequences use more gun-fire, explosions, destruction, weaponry and are relatively brief - though, in my opinion, are brilliantly helmed. In short, Bumblebee's action sequences exist closer to the world of martial arts and Bay's sequences closer to dog fights. Each excels, but there is a slickness and ingenuity to the choreography in Bumblebee which I can't say I have seen before and very much so enjoyed.

With the major positives noted, we're left with the fact that Bumblebee is a rather ineffectual movie. That is to say that its mediocrity and throw-away-ness is acceptable. For all that the Transformer films can be criticised for, they're not easily ignored - they're far too loud and bombastic for that. Bumblebee is a crowd-pleaser (a crowd-easer), and so falls short in the narrative and character department in ways that are all too familiar. Whilst the narrative realism in this film provides a nice, simple and whole tone, the drama suffers. In such, much feels inconsequential as you watch this film. What is more, character arcs feel rather contrived (the film has to try absurdly hard to integrate diving off a high platform and into water into the plot). Bay's Transformer films do not waste their energy in such departments - and such is part of what makes them so dramatogically fascinating. Bumblebee is mundane in this respect. Also, I must say I do not like the way this has been designed. Aesthetically, this is best called cute (and such defines the intentions of the narrative - it wants to create cute moments). Bay's films were harsh and brash; the design of the Transformers slick, curvaceous, dangerous, real and ugly in an impressive way. The Transformers here feel cartoonish and like midgets in comparison to what we have become accustomed to. Some may appreciated this; I respect the Baysian designs.

In total, I can say that Bumblebee is pleasant enough of a film. I'm content to see Bay's series put to an end, and whilst I won't avoid the sequels to come from the remodelled franchise, I'm not eagerly awaiting anything. With all of that said, I turn things over to you. Have you seen Bumblebee? What are your thoughts?

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