When you get right down to it, Bumblebee is just Venom but with more color and a more interesting central human. Both movies are spin-offs from bigger franchises and are about a singular CGI alien coming to Earth and befriending a human, with the pair eventually teaming up in order to stop different members of the same alien species from bringing their friends in order to take over our planet and wipe us out. Along the way, we learn things about the two protagonists we have some laughs, there’s a bit of action, and we all go home after having had a pretty decent time.
Of course, there are definitely some differences. Bumblebee is about an alien robot who can’t speak, not a parasite who is almost constantly talking. And he befriends a moping teenage girl, Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld), not a moping adult male. But apart from that? Yeah, I’m sticking with this take, which may or may not wind up being hot. We’ll see once the movie’s out, I guess.
I guess one has to mention how this movie relates to the others in the Transformers series, both in terms of plot and quality. Let’s start with the plot. This film has one. That’s already a step in the right direction. It’s a simple story about a girl, her robot car, trying to get over the sudden death of her father, and saving the planet. Like I said, simple. It’s well-told, has its fair share of emotional moments, scatters in a good number of laughs, and does a solid job of building up its protagonists and their relationship. It has better characters than any of the previous live-action Transformers movies, and they often had several (longer) movies to establish them.
In terms of continuity, this one serves as what I can only assume will be a reboot. It’s set in the late 1980s, which would allow it to technically be a prequel, but since the robots look closer to their cartoon origins and there are some bits and pieces that wouldn’t add up if it was all part of the same continuity, it’s safe to believe that timeline is dead. And if this is what we’re going to get from now on? I can’t believe I’m saying it, but I’m actually excited to see more Transformers movies.
This is a movie that has heart, interesting characters, some solid action, and more than a couple of laugh-out-loud moments. It looks great—it opens with a thrilling battle on Cybertron (the home planet of these robots)— its soundtrack is wonderful, and it knows how to balance both its human and robot characters so that we wind up invested in both. We’re not pushing the robot aside for dozens of glory shots of the military this time around, for instance. (Although the military does play a part, and it fits well here.)
Bumblebee is easily the best of the live-action Transformers movies, and it reminds us why we were interested in the franchise at all. It does so with a smaller scale and simpler story, never forgetting that strong characters are why we wind up caring about the action they wind up involved in. It looks great, has a fantastic soundtrack, is funny and heartfelt, and entertains for its entire running time. It’s the reboot Transformers needed.
Conclusion: Bumblebee is a very good Transformers movie. Wow. It feels weird to say that.
Recommendation: If you like Transformers and want to see a live-action Transformers movie with good characters, solid storytelling, laughs, and heart, check out Bumblebee.