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Review: written 2018

Believe the buzz...

I’m going to have to confess straight up – I’ve finally really enjoyed a Transformers movie. In fact, much to my surprise, I’ve not only enjoyed it, I’ve been genuinely charmed by it..

With Michael Bay and Steven Spielberg both on the list of producers, this could have gone a number of ways – but this prequel has a satisfyingly retro feel which evokes much more heartwarming Spielberg than it does hyper edited and cgi-tastic Bay. Travis Knight as director (Kubo and the two strings) has brought some much needed clarity and simplicity, with more than a soupcon of eighties nostalgia..

Starting out with familiar territory with battles between Autobot and Decepticon, pretty quickly results in Bumblebee being sent to Earth (in the eighties.. )to pave the way for others to follow..but stealth is vital, so he becomes, of course, a Volgswagen Beetle. Injured and vulnerable, he is discovered by teenager Haylee Steinfeld, who helps Bumblebee learn to communicate and survive in his new environment. Their relationship forms the heart of the movie, and it works wonderfully, not least due to an endearing performance from Steinfeld. She brings a real warmth and dimension to her teenager struggling with the loss of her dad. That’s not to underplay however, the affection that shows in Bumblebees character. You actually feel that the creative team have really understood how to bring character to the eponymous car/robot in a way that none of Bay’s movies managed. A pre-existing affection for Transformers is not required here – though those with memories of the original Transformers are going to relish the throwback feel and look. The plot beats are also retro… enough that the movie does not ooze originality in terms of character development. I’m not going to pretend this is the new Citizen Kane, but that’s not really the point. It’s just fun being won over by the winning chemistry of the leads, in a movie that is oddly old-fashioned.. in a good way..

I kind of wish this had been the first Transformers movie – it would have pulled me in to the world in a way none of the others have been able to. Bringing things down a notch from world destroying cacophony and mayhem, and introducing some real characters that are a pleasure to watch, has transformed (sorry) this franchise at a stroke. I’d love to spend more time with these characters – let’s hope they’re not tempted to go bigger in a sequel……

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