Bumblebee woos those nostalgic for the 1980s [critique]

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Paramount Pictures / Screen Capture

Travis Knight’s style contrasts with that of Michael Bay. For good and for bad.

Bumblebee, released in theaters for 2018, arrives in the clear on television. Precisely on W9. Here is our review.

Ever since Michael Bay tackled the franchise transformers, in 2007, each episode was meant to be more spectacular than the previous one. Longer and noisier, too, the big show becoming the watchword of this franchise which can be declined at will in different places and times. After five films that have each been a big box office success, but the last of which have less marked critics, the director has become a producer of future versions of his franchise inspired by the Hasbro range of toys. Unsurprisingly, the very popular Bumblebee is thus the first to be entitled to its spin-off. If successful, Paramount provides many more… Is this variation worth it? It all depends on what you expect from a blockbuster transformers. More aimed at children, this episode fully plays the card of nostalgia for the 1980s. After the heroes of Sforeign things or those of Ready Player One, it is therefore up to the yellow robot to discover the 1980s, its pop music and its cult films, Breakfast Club on your mind. Assumed references, if not original: the classic by John Hugues has become an inevitable wink, when it comes to approaching this decade.

Too many explanations

The action therefore takes place in 1987. Fleeing his planet Cybertron after an attack (during which the Transformers never looked so much like toys, which recalls the animated series of the time, it is one of the beautiful ideas from the film), Bumblebee is hiding on Earth. His meeting with young Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld) will upset his plans. Changing into a Ladybug, the robot sympathizes with the teenage girl who loves mechanics, who is struggling to mourn her father. A softer approach than in previous opus: this relationship is really at the heart of the film, the director taking the time to attach himself to the duo with the help of a succession of touching and funny scenes, before plunging them into the heart of the film. action. The actress seen in True Grit and Pitch Perfect 2 is excellent, and proves that she has the shoulders to carry this type of blockbuster. Too bad the rest is too telephoned to fully function. The film will not stop explaining to us the origins of Bumblebee, a bit like Solo who answered all kinds of questions that we did not ask: where does his nickname come from, how did he lose the use of speech, how did he learn to communicate using his car radio etc. A process that also allows screenwriter Christina Hodson (who has since written the film on Harley Quinn) to explicitly quote the first transformers, which was so far a fan favorite, which is by turns cool (the scene where the hero wreaks havoc in the living room) and too repetitive / explanatory. Without detailing, the very end of the film is oddly constructed: a plan has clearly been created to please the fans, but judging it visibly too unclear, it is explained a few moments later, at the start of the credits …

Soft action

The other weak point of Bumblebeeis that if the heroine is sufficiently worked to reach the public, the secondary characters are more clichés: the little brother head to slaps, the mother in crisis with her teenager, the overwhelmed stepfather or the neighbor in love mad, but clumsy, are less well written than the girl, which creates a rather awkward shift in tone. Finally, apart from the opening, Steven Knight never manages to impress with his action sequences. Far from offering fights as fluid as Michael Bay, he lacks ambition in his staging, offering lambda camera movements, which follow his characters in a way that is not always clear. Result, it brings out the false side of the fights, created 100% digitally. It is all the more unfortunate that it was expected in this area, having broken through in animation at Laika, in particular thanks to Kubo and the magic armor (2016), acclaimed by critics.

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