Robotic fights, chases and some international disasters, the usual…. this tongue-in-cheek one liner might come close to the climax, but it just about sums up the film.
Indeed, what can a prequel offer that the film and its many sequels haven’t? Machines morphing into cars and airplanes; the thesis of Transformers, those into the franchise are all too familiar with. So what can the story of one inhabitant of Cybertron, no doubt the most endearing of the lot, give us that we haven’t seen before?
But before we rest our case, let it be said the narrative as much about Bumblebee as its lead 18-year-old protagonist Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld) is much more than sheer visual wizardry. There is humour, wit and above all, emotion.
Indeed, Bumblebee we know is the emotive of the lot, here we also learn how his ‘heart’ has come to beat the way it does. Man and machine, sorry, woman and machine the relationship between the two is fun, interesting and touching. Once the narrative establishes how Bumblebee, B 127 Chris, lands on earth and how Charlie finds him, the rest of the story is all about how Charlie steps up to save him. Indeed, there is little newness, awe or wonder when Bumblebee changes shapes or when its enemies of the same prototype are out to get him. But what the film lacks in novelty, it makes up by enhancing its emotional core. Charlie’s bonding with Bumblebee is only a precursor to her finding love and affection within her own family which also includes a stepfather. Between the discovery of Bumblebee and her self-discovery, expectedly there is a whole lot of action, fight between good and bad transformers, who are the reason why Bumblebee heads earthwards. Here humans, however, are not just playing ball. Hailee Steinfeld as Charlie gets ample room to manoeuvre and display her skills.
Her innocence combined with her talent for all things mechanical is a delectable combo. So is her chemistry with Bumblebee that often makes you forget, he is an ‘it’, a machine. This is where the director scores brownie points; for infusing life into Bumblebee. As Charlie reminds Agent Burns (John Cena); he is more human than you are. Our favourite dialogue, however, is when she tells Bumblebee which she drives around as a Beatle; ‘Are you kidding me, oh you could have been a Camry all this while’. Could the film have been more? Possibly not, set in the year 1987 we get to see video cassettes, record players and landlines markers of an era gone by. It indeed is as someone utters the word sometime in the film; underwhelming. And therein lies its beauty, it doesn’t overpower or maraud your senses with an overdose of theatrics or superficiality. There is technical prowess at display but what makes it work is, it has a heart. Clocking less than two hours, it doesn’t move at breakneck speed but with suitable pace to grab your attention.