Surprisingly Super

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 05 Jan 2019 11:49:08




By Farina Salim Quraishi

By the time the mighty machines crawled creakily to the finish line in Transformers: The Last Knight, it was apparent to even die-hard Hasbro fans that the exhaustive robot-fury was well and truly out of juice. After decade and five towering Transformers movies - all visually overwhelming but creatively bankrupt - expectations from the sixth live-action Transformers offering had transformed (read dropped rock-bottom) drastically! But as fan favourite Transformer Bumblebee takes center stage in the series spin-off, the skepticism for once is thankfully unfounded. Bumblebee, first in the series of planned sequels - though more of the same old metal crunching action - exceeds all expectations and delivers a fantastic and exciting film that is emotionally engaging as well.

Taking a step back in time, Bumblebee begins in 1987, the time before Autobots stepped in to the save the day for mankind in Transformers (2007). The Autobots are fighting a losing battle on their planet, Cybertron, with Decepticons having the upper hand. In a bid to save Autobots, Optimus Prime sends B-127 to Earth and other Autobots into space in order to set up a base to regroup later. But the plan goes awry after the escape pod is ambushed, forcing B-127 to crash-land on earth. B-127 ends up in California and disrupts a training exercise by Sector 7 - a secret government agency that monitors extraterrestrial activity on Earth - causing substantial damage.

Colonel Jack Burns (John Cena) takes B-127 to be sa threat and attacks it, forcing B-127 to run away in the forest. But once there, B-127 is attacked again by Decepticons which are looking for Optimus’ whereabouts. In the ensuing battle, a severely damaged B-127 manages to kill Blitzwing, but not before it damages B-127’s voice box and memory chip. Before collapsing, B-127 zeros in on a 1967 Volkswagen Beetle as his refuge.

At the same time, a grieving teenager Charlie Watson (Hailee Steinfeld) chooses the yellow Volkswagen Beetle as her birthday gift from her Uncle Hank’s scrap yard. As the machine-fixated Charlie attempts to repair the Beetle, it transforms into the B-127, whom she nicknames ‘Bumblebee’. Charlie also unknowingly activates a homing signal that is intercepted by Decepticons - Shatter and Dropkick - who head to earth and join forces with Sector 7 in a bid to ‘save’ earth from doom.

Taking over the franchise from Transformer series’ veteran Michael Bay, Director Travis Knight uses a more character-driven narrative to tell a coming-of-age story about friendship and bonding and does not unleash robot-fury from the word go, as has been the long-standing tradition. With an entirely new cast and aesthetics, Bumblebee is distinctly different from the humongous Transformer series which was literally collapsing under its own sheer weight. The transformation of the series from the metal extravaganza into something that beats and throbs with a real heart makes the installment more fun and heartfelt.

Doing away with franchise diktats with a free hand, Knight steers the metal monsters with a deft touch and devotes much time in establishing Charlie’s relationship with Bumblebee. The sweet and empathetic friendship between them is the film’s strongest strength and makes the 113-minute saga strangely poignant.

Story-wise, Bumblebee is more or less a follows the Transformers template. But it is the child-like wonder of it, so reminiscent of the first Transformer movie, that sets the new installment apart. Not to forget the small details. The 80s setting is pretty realistic with bulky TVs and walkmans popping up now and then. The dots connecting both the series are pretty distinct, with several subtle shout-outs to original franchise thrown in for good measure. While Bumblebee might not be the explosion-a-minute extravaganza like Michael Bay’s series, the action is pretty effective.

Oodles of robot-pummeling action, car chases and explosions and destruction all are mounted with cinematic flair. Be it the epic battle on Cybertron or power tower sequence or the penultimate Prime brawl; all the action-set sequences are jaw-dropping and give Transformers a run for its money. But as comparisons go, sorry Mr Knight, the awesome Dinobots (Age of Extinction - 2014) are still top of the class!

Hailee Steinfeld as a lonely teenager missing her father is fantastic. Bring the whole emotive arch to her role as a misfit teenage, the Oscar-nominated actress, plays Charlie with a touching vulnerability. John Cena tries hard but fails to make an impact with the dimensional character and comes across as a caricature.

As the trailer says, every hero has a beginning; Bumblebee has one and a solid one at that. With a beating heart finally getting activated in the metal monsters, the wait for the mighty machines to return is going to be a very long one. Go watch, this one has a buzz!!

The Hitavada Rating : O O O

PS: Do sit back for a glimpse of the ‘Future’ in the post-credit scene, they are a riot and cracker of a surprise.