Wednesday, 26 December 2018
Directed by Travis Knight
UK cinema release print.
Wow... it’s getting really dangerous to see an actual movie at the cinema in the UK again.
I thought the days of Draconian censorship were behind us but, no, first Aquaman (reviewed here) and now Bumblebee have both been pre-cut for the UK market to achieve lower ratings on the advice of the BBFC. So let’s be clear about this... if you go to see Bumblebee at a UK (or Australian, apparently) cinema then you are not actually seeing the film, just a highlights only version because, yep, they cut a full 6 seconds out of this thing. Personally I find one frame of film cut to be appalling vandalism but they’ve cut a whopping 144 frames out of this? Between them the BBFC and the studios should be hanging their heads in shame and refunding our money for making us watch things pretending to be films when they’re not the full version. I don’t think this is acceptable behaviour and I find it damned offensive. I won’t say anything more about it in this review but my hands are tensing up right now from writing about these crimes against filmanity because I’m so enraged. It’s not the only thing which enraged me about the movie.
So, okay... let’s go with the big main positive about this film and say that this prequel is the best follow up to the original Transformers we’ve had. It’s not nearly as good as the very first one but it’s way beyond the follow ups which, to be fair, is not saying too much because Transformers 2 - 5 were all, basically, absolute rubbish which I couldn’t believe were coming from the same creative team as the first one.
Although Michael Bay has stayed on with this one as producer, it’s a bit of a sea change here and the writers and directors have gone for a little change of pace. Sure there’s plenty of action in this one but there’s also lots of small stuff about the way the characters relate to each other and grow... in other words, there’s a lot of heart to this one. Something all the other sequels forgot to throw into the mix while they were similarly busy not allowing themselves to slow down from anaesthetising the audience with non-stop action and forgetting that contrasting action with some less kinetic content is what allows the action sequences to have an actual impact in the first place. This one... more or less... gets the mix between the two right and the result is we have a fairly well balanced film.
That being said, I was almost frothing at the mouth within the first five or ten minutes of what was left of this film after the censors were done with it... so enraged I wanted to yell at the screen and walk out.
Why? Well a complete lack of story logic continuity in the opening sequence which completely kills it.
The film starts off on Cybertron with the Decepticons winning the war against the Autobots (lead by Optimus Prime) and we see Bumblebee escaping to earth to await the coming of the other Transformers. All well and good but when we see Bumblebee on Cybertron he is already in the form of a car. Wait, what? It’s well documented in the Transformers movie universe that the various robots need to scan something before they are able to turn into it... and that’s further backed up in numerous scenes in this movie too. Since a car which is built to carry human passengers would be a completely alien concept to the Transformers at this point, then there’s no way any of the Autobots would be able to change into one. Not unless they’d already been to Earth. Oh, I thought to myself, that means we’ll be finding out that Bumblebee has already visited Earth in his past but... no... a minute or two later Optimus Prime tells him he’s located a planet called Earth they can all go to hide on. So... yeah... it makes absolutely no bloody sense that the first time you see the title character he’s in the shape of an Earth made car when he hasn’t even seen a car or knows what it looks like. This is untenable, people and sloppy writers should really be taken to account for bizarrely poor slip ups like this. Especially since it’s going to pop the average viewer right out of the movie while s/he tries to figure out just what the heck kind of story logic is being followed here. Or in this case... unfollowed.
Okay, now that’s out of my system, when Bumblebee gets to Earth things become more like the early, non-action sequences of the original Transformers, with the friendly autobot stumbling around, breaking things and accidentally bumbling his way through doors etc while covertly befriending the main lead Charlie, played by Hailee Steinfeld who I’d just seen... alright, heard... in another film at the cinema as Gwen Stacey in Spider-Man - Into The Spider-Verse (reviewed here) and also her love interest Memo (played by Jorge Lendeborg Jr, who was so brilliant in Brigsby Bear last year... reviewed here). Meanwhile they have to deal with the military from Sector Seven (from the previous films) plus a couple of Decepticons who have misled the military into helping them locate Bumblebee.
And you know what...?
Considering how angry I was at the start of the film, the rest of the story is so well written and performed that I even had tears in my eyes during one of the more moving sequences. Actually, being a prequel, this fits in pretty well with the previous films... apart from that annoying start with the car thing. It’s also really well acted and feels much more like an overall coherent story, rather than just a basic frame to hang set pieces on. Some of the action sequences felt a bit ‘samey’ and dull but at least they were well paced and you still felt like there was a reason to be having them... which I guess is at least half the battle with films like this.
Dario Marinelli’s score is nicely serviceable but it didn’t really seem to share any of the big themes created by Steve Jablonsky for the other ones. At least as far as I could tell because, during a lot of the action scenes, the noise was turned up way too much over the score for it to be effectively heard anyway. It sounded appropriate to the subject matter of the film, though, so that’s something.
Other than that... if you’re a follower of the Transformers movies and have been waiting for something which comes at least even a little close to capturing the lightning in a bottle of the first live action movie then Bumblebee is definitely the one to go see. It’s fairly heart warming and the director certainly has a good go at it. Kids would probably like this one too... even though it seems to be targeting itself at people who were of a certain age in the 1980s when The Breakfast Club was one of the main ‘go to’ movies for a certain generation. Don’t you forget about... this one.