When the idea for a beetle was considered for the first time, the initial reaction assumed that it would be more than the same and precise way to maintain the franchise. But then the first trailer hit and suddenly the expectations have changed. Prospects for the '80-set Transformers the film, which showed a short glow of designs from generation 1 and touching the character work, began to build the hope that the film could finally be the one awaited by the original admirers.
So, it's an amazing relief to say that Bumbarba surpasses all expectations and gives a fantastic, emotional, exciting movie that ranks as the best live action Transformers movie to date, far away.
If you grew up with Transformers, at the opening five minutes you will want to jump from your seat and jump with joy. Director Travis Knight essentially elevates the image from the beginning of a cartoon pilot to show the Cybertron War – and instantly relieves fears. It is a statement that makes the love of the Knight of knowledge clear, but also that he puts his own stamp on the film from a visual point of view and in the way the action is recorded.
We passed out vague, indiscriminate Bay designs and instead, we got bold colors and recognizable characters of those characters so fond of childhood. We see that Soundwave and Shockwave are leading the Decepticon set as seen in the trailer, so even more revealing of the surprise. However, one extraordinary moment is to see some current Prime Minister in action – and this time there are no lips of Optimus.
The events are soon falling to the ground, where we are introduced to John Ceza Barnes, whose training is severely interrupted by robotic wheels, leaving him scarched in more ways than one. She adds a little more depth to the usual, militaristic stereotype and Price (who has built an acting career from firmly supporting roles) plays the nuances and anger of the character well, causing sympathy, and not just being "a bad guy" to eradicate.
The heart of the film, however, focuses on the relationship between Bubbleby and Charlie (Heylee Steinfeld), and this is where the film stands out. Setting the film in the 80's gives more breathing space in terms of narrative and artistic development. The action takes place in a suburb of the small town – the main setting for some of the best films of that decade – and the movie is proudly dressing its number of influences, with E.T. which is the most prominent.
Charlie is an outsider and very alone, failing to connect with her new family unit, as she continues to suffer from the usual gang of middle-aged girls in school, but what adds such a need is that she suffers all this because of sorrow.
Just as Travis Knight did with his beautiful animation, in particular Cubo and Both Arrays, he deconstructs and reconstructs the idea of family and connections with heartfelt power. The relationship Charlie makes with "Bee" becomes so strong that it is almost impossible not to let go of a tear or several – even the only way she touches her face can bring a lump in her throat. It is a proof of the performance of Steinfeld and the CG's knightly direction that they can bring a new life to the beloved yellow bot.
Of course, there is a lot of action and spectacle, but the decision to keep the number of transformers and human characters on hand adds to the much-needed investment in the thrill of the movie. And, as mentioned above, Cybertron flashbacks – that are happening on a much larger screen than we've seen before – are guided by the joy of watching (and listening) to original robots pretending as admirers have always wanted.
For narrative reasons, there are two new Decepticons added to the fray, who spend the duration of the film living to that very name. The couple makes a real threat to the search for a cat and mouse on a bee, while it does not fall into some of the previous – and unhappy – stereotypes that hinder the previous Transformers movies. It helps their introduction to see a fairly brutal meeting with the icons Autobot – quietly saluting the trauma of the flicker force that the movie from 1986 has inflicted on many of us as children, when most of the original lineup was destroyed to make room for new toy … sorry, characters.
But Easter eggs do not stop there, because the movie is full of references – but since they are all in love, they do not feel forced or nervous. Breakfast Club, for example, appears as it wants to be done in a lot of high school film, but that's only when you connect with Jade Nelson and Hot Rod, who will appreciate how layered they are. It also has a very real quality given the setting of the 80's, which is almost underestimated Bumbarba in comparison with most of the performances – there is no open indulgence in suitcases and frames, which gives the film almost timeless quality.
Of course, the soundtrack is a gift, but there are still teens around the world finding comfort in listening Smiths to deal with anxiety and loneliness – and it's great to think that a whole new generation can find its way to loving Tears of Fears and Duran Duran through a new Transformers movie. The result of Dario Marianelli, meanwhile, adds a small fusion of John Carpenter's syndrome in the proceedings, adding to the richness of the film in a subtle way.
Bumbarba is a success on many levels, with content that can be enjoyed by young audiences, those who have grown up with Michael Bay movies as well as original fans. It's certainly high for franchising, balancing action with drama for great effect. And while one of the comedies is not quite a country, it's likely to be too busy hitting the air to take care.
Bumbarba opens in cinemas in the UK on December 26, 2018