“Hey, Dan, do you mind checking out a new film for us, and writing some interview questions for the star of the movie?”
Usually, I’d jump at the chance to do this. In fact, jumping doesn’t describe my level of excitement; I’d urinate on an orphaned kitten just to meet the bloke who sold the popcorn to the guy watching the new movie.
However, this was different because I was asked to watch Bumblebee; the sixth instalment in the Transformers film franchise. And we all know how great the past five films were.
Sorry; by “great”, I meant “grating”.
Starring Hailee Steinfeld and John Cena, Bumblebee tells the story of the second most interesting Autobot, Bumblebee – unsurprisingly – as he takes refuge on planet Earth. Upon crash-landing, he startles John Cena’s military agent, and vows to destroy Bumblebee. What a mean, ol’ meanie. After an alien robot nearly wipes out half of his crew by exploding into them, he wants to be rid of it? BOO. VILLAIN. BOO. Battered and scarred, Bumblebee eventually escapes and hides out with 18-year-old Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld), an “edgy”, angsty teen trying to find her place in society. Is no-one else a tad put off by the fact that Bumblebee could have hidden anywhere, and he chose to live with a newly-18 girl? Bumblebeeadophile.
I’m going to throw this out there – the first Transformers movie was barely okay; and they’ve only declined in quality since. I’m tired of seeing a Michael Bay bloodbath, which consists of so many quick cuts during action sequences that you can’t tell who’s punching who, who’s a good guy and who’s a bad guy, or – frankly – if you’re about to have an epileptic fit or not. I’m tired of seeing so many objects explode; cars explode; helicopters explode; heck, at one point, Hailee walked on some leaves, and I’m pretty sure each one of them made a tiny explosion under her feet. Unfortunately – even though this picture wasn’t directed by Bay, but by Travis Knight, the director of one of my favourite films, Kubo and the Two Strings – it still contained many of his iconic, and shoddy, tropes.
In fact, the only thing going for a Transformers movie is, really, the action sequences, and these weren’t impressive in the slightest. The film finishes with a battle beneath a – wait for it – tower, ready to project a big scary beam into the sky, piercing the clouds above. Apart from every movie ever produced after 2012, where have we not seen that before? The Transformers clang and smash against each other, but it’s all a blur and I, by now, have no idea who I’m rooting for. There’s no real consequentiality, however. In an attempt to save his friend, Hailee, Bumblebee hides her in a dumpster, which is later blasted with several rockets. SHIT. She’s dead. Finally, some drama in this horrific picture, and… Nope. The rockets which were intended to blow Bumblebee’s face off simply tipped the dumpster over and allowed Hailee to walk out of it. Why not try beating each other with feathers coated in bubblewrap? That might be more damaging.
Speaking of the relationship between Hailee’s Charlie and Bumblebee, it was just very beige. It was set in the mid-80s; a time where only two things happened – people took a fuck load of drugs, and movies involved kids teaming up with out-of-this-world entities, like E.T. and Short Circuit. How great would it have been to pay homage to these films, with some fun, whacky friendship building moments? There were only two instances – one where Hailee was attempting to teach Bumblebee how to hide, but he wasn’t understanding the concept, and when he tried to push her into her crush. The rest of the time, we saw her sat in Bumblebee, driving around, chirpsing some bloke who I had no interest for. Bumblebee was a mode of transport. The titular character was the equivalent of an Uber driver. Hell, at least if he was an Uber driver, he’d have begged me for a five-star rating and offered to suck my toes for a tip. Bumblebee didn’t even do that. If you’re looking for a fun teen-robot double-act, I insist you watch Big Hero 6, and brutally main anyone who suggests Bumblebee instead.
I’m being too harsh. It’s not all bad. The, erm, soundtrack was catchy. I think I heard a Hall & Oates song beneath the clanging and clashing of gears and metal thrashing against each other. In all honesty, it did have good music. In fact, music was a key part of the picture. As soon as Charlie would wake up, she’d put her headphones on and listen to music. There wasn’t a scene where she didn’t wear a heavy metal band tee. And yet, there’s not one moment where she listens to heavy metal. Hailee’s character was totally confused. She was meant to be a gross, unhygienic, troublesome teen, but that’s the complete opposite to what Hailee is. She’s a gorgeous, fun-loving pop star. At one point, she rolls her eyes at a spot on her forehead (which I couldn’t see, for the record). You just spent millions on creating a robot battle; couldn’t you have edited a zit on her face? Or use me? I have spots on my spots. I’d have been an acne-double. At one point, her step father falls back in shock of how grotesque she is. I’d like to state that she looked like Hailee Steinfeld with a fringe. Oh, the horror. The humanity. Won’t somebody think of the children? Either cast someone who is actually average-looking or use prosthetics and make-up to disfigure Hailee. If she’s the gross one at that school, I’m taking my GCSEs again. (And am probably still getting rejected by every girl in the playground. Sigh.)
I’ve met John Cena three times now – once for Ferdinand, once for Blockers and once for Bumblebee – and he’s one of the nicest, most down-to-earth guys I’ve ever met. And, surprisingly, one of the funniest. What do they put in the water at WWE? Apart from steroids. Obviously. And this shows in Bumblebee. He doesn’t have a lot of screentime, but he’s so charismatic and a welcome relief, as he was the only one who brought real humour. Hailee’s love interest was an attempt at comedy, but every joke fell flat.
A lot of the jokes were lazily written. In fact, a lot of the script was. It was in a constant battle to remind you that it’s set in the mid-1980s, despite the other films being set in the present day. As if the music and the cars and the fashion weren’t enough, poor actors were forced to awkwardly ram lines into your being, like a horribly scripted catheter, such as “I want to watch my show – ALF”. Who honestly speaks like that? “I’m going to catch up on some TV – by watching some TV shows, like Mad Men, Keeping Up with The Kardashians, Countdown and Hannah Montana.” (Whoever watches those shows together needs counselling.) Every reminder of the era was awkward and clunky; like Hailee saying, “This is a brand-new song by The Smiths”. It’s clever because their music’s old. Get it?
The problem with launching a Bumblebee spin-off is that it was always going to face criticism, what with it being a part of the Transformers saga. Unfortunately, its writing was its main downfall. Firstly, don’t write a prequel and allude to major character deaths if we’re going to see them in future films. Optimus Prime allegedly died in this movie, yet he’s on the goddamn poster ogling Megan Fox for the following picture. As for Bumblebee; he “died” roughly three times throughout, and after the first shock revelation that he’s alive, I couldn’t care if he woke up again or not. My iPhone died less during the viewing, and that’s saying something…
I actually really rate John Cena. He’s one of the most charismatic people I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. And my god, a single handshake from that man feels like each of your knuckles is being massaged by rolling pins. He told me that the Transformers were actually designed, in Bumblebee, to act similarly to the original animated series; their transformations weren’t smooth, but more clunky and forced, which is a nice touch. And that is the only reason Bumblebee is getting a star. Otherwise, Bumblebee is just a film with poor jokes, excessive-yet-dull action sequences, predictable moments and unanswered story arcs.
The only good news to come out of Bumblebee? Paramount have decided to pull Transformers 6. For that, I thank you, Cena. You really are the real People’s Champ.