It is a little perplexing that Travis Knight’s Bumblebee did not set the box office ablaze like other films in the Transformers franchise. Despite the overwhelming positive critical response, audiences did not seem as willing to dive into the loveable robot’s first solo mission. One can only assume that it was series fatigue, and being release around Christmas rather than a plum summer slot like its predecessors, that factored into this.
Thankfully audiences will now have another chance to catch up with the best Transformers film to date now that the Blu-ray finally hits shelves today.
A prequel to the 2007 film, the story picks up as the Autobots find themselves on the losing end of the war with the Decepticons on Cybertron. Needing to regroup, Optimus Prime, leader of the Autobot rebellion, sends loyal soldier B-127 to the remote planet Earth in order to set up a new base. Landing on Earth in 1987, in the middle of a military training exercise led by Sector 7 lieutenant Jack Burns (John Cena), B-127 quickly finds himself under attack by both the military and the Decepticon known as Blitzwing. After the battle leaves him voiceless and battered the Autobot disguises himself as a 1967 Volkswagen Beetle and ends up in a junk yard.
It is there where he is discovered by eighteen-year-old Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld), who convinces her Uncle Hank (Len Cariou), owner of the scrapyard, to give her the Beetle. Still mourning the lost of her father, with whom she used to fix up cars, Charlie finds it difficult to cope with the fact that her mother (Pamela Adlon) has remarried. It is when working on the Beetle that she discovers that her car is anything but ordinary. Renaming him Bumblebee, Charlie and her new alien friend begin to learn how to overcome the physical and emotional scars that are holding them back from becoming the individuals they are meant to be.
Playing like an 80’s coming-of-age tale – one filled with pop culture references of everything from The Breakfast Club to Miami Vice to The Smiths and all things in between – the film is packed with a surprising amount of emotion. As he proved in his brilliant directorial debut Kubo and the Two Strings, Knight has an ability to capture the way young people process grief in an engaging way.
Unlike previous installments in the franchise that got tied up in reinventing the mythology of Transformers, including placing them on the moon and having them help Harriet Tubman fight slavery, Knight keeps the focus on Charlie and Bumblebee’s relationship. While Transformers like Optimus Prime, Shockwave, Soundwave and Cliffjumper make cameo appearances, this is the first film where the characters and story feel more important than merely selling toys. Bumblebee’s central Decepticon villains Shatter (Angela Bassett) and Dropkick (Justin Theroux) are used just enough to keep the action moving without sacrificing the emotional core.
The Blu-ray, which comes with a mini Bumblebee comic, has several special features that will satisfy Transformer lovers young and old. “Sector 7 Adventures: The Battle at Half Dome” is a lengthy motion comic that captures the events at the beginning of the film from the perspective of a Sector 7 agent. The comic serves as a bridge to the 2007 Transformers film. Fans of the 80’s Transformers cartoon and toys will find “Bumblebee Goes Back to G1” informative. The feature explores how the film blended many of the 80s character designs with the modern aesthetic of Michael Bay’s films.
Bringing a once dead franchise back to life, Bumblebee is the live-action Transformers film fans will want to add to their Blu-ray collection.
Bonus Features: Agent Burns: Welcome to Sector 7, Sector 7 Adventures: The Battle at Half Dome (All-New Motion Comic), Deleted and Extended Scenes, Outtakes, Bee Vision: The Transformers Robots of Cybertron, The Story of Bumblebee, The Stars Align, Bumblebee Goes Back to G1, Back to the Beetle, California Cruisin’ Down Memory Lane.