On the run in the year of 1987, Bumblebee finds refuge in a junkyard in a small Californian beach town. Charlie, on the cusp of turning 18 and trying to find her place in the world, discovers Bumblebee, battle-scarred and broken.
Review by Louise Keller: It's the charming relationship between Hailee Steinfeld's 18 year old protagonist, Charlie and the alien robot she names Bumblebee, that makes this Transformers prequel into a heartwarming fantasy. It's a clever reinvention of the franchise and Kubo and the Two Strings director Travis Knight injects plenty of heart, as opposed to Michael Bay's unsubtle, overlong and overloud earlier extravaganzas. There's plenty of action of course, but the emphasis is on girl meets robot and the playful interaction between the two is delightful. One of the film's redeeming features is that it doesn't pretend to be anything other than what it is - fantasy action for kids of all ages. Some of the robot action may be considered a little clunky and the dialogue trite, but Steinfeld even manages to make lines like 'Let's do this' and 'Talk to me' sound relatively convincing.
The battle between the gigantic alien robots begins on the doomed planet of Cybertron and ends on Earth, where the heroic Autobot is establishing a safe base away from the evil Decepticons. It's all about survival and John Cena is suitably cast as a military officer, when the army becomes involved. There's a subplot involving school kids and competing relationships, but the mainstay of the film never strays from its central relationship between Charlie and Bumblebee - or B, as she calls him.
Charlie (Steinfeld) is a bit of a loner. She loves tinkering in the auto-shop, misses her father, feels distances from her mother and desperately wants a car. She gets more than she bargains for with the yellow beetle on wheels that converts into a robot and has a mind of his own. I love the scene in the garage when Bumblebee reveals himself for the first time, when their bond is established. The fact that B has lost his memory and is speech deprived offers opportunities for humour and innovative plot points as he uses the radio and songs to communicate his emotions. There is a lovely sense of freedom when Charlie (and friend Memo - Jorge Lendeborg Jr) stands in the speeding car with head poking out of the sunroof and hair flying in the wind as she leaves the driving to B.
Steinfeld, who made an auspicious screen feature debut aged 14 in True Grit (2010), has such warmth on screen - she is the film's greatest asset. We believe in the relationship between this unlikely pair and when a tear rolls down her cheek, we feel what she is feeling. For a fantasy adventure with heart, Bumblebee is the bees' knees.