After years of cinematic scrap heaps, Bumblebee redeems and reinvigorates the Transformers live-action film franchise with some heartfelt fun. It might not be a great movie or a radical reimagination of the familiar concept, but this ‘80s-set prequel does strip away all the clutter and bloat that had piled onto the series over the last decade and refocuses on the bond between young human and ‘bot that it all began with back in 2007.
Much of this refreshing change is due to Travis Knight (Kubo and the Two Strings) stepping in as director after Michael Bay helmed the first five movies. Knight and screenwriter Christina Hodson’s story gives its human protagonist, Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld), more depth and more of an arc than either Shia LaBeouf or Mark Wahlberg’s protagonists received, which creates more of an opportunity for emotional investment. This emphasis on finding the humanity in the story and providing an actual character arc thankfully extends to its Autobot title character as well.