Bumblebee Movie vs Transformers (2007) – Movie Review(s)!
Potential Spoilers ahead for both movies
“I’m done with effects movies for now. When you do a movie like, ‘Transformers’, it can feel like you’re doing three movies at once -which is tiring.” – Michael Bay
The 2007 movie, “Transformers,” directed by Michael Bay, is about an insecure, inadequate teen named Sam Witwicky buying his first car, who turns out to be an alien robot named Bumblebee, who also needs an artifact from Sam in order to save the world from his enemies: The Decepticons. The 2018 movie, “Bumblebee,” takes place in 1987 when an alien robot with amnesia, named Bumblebee, mistaken for a simple car, is received by a grieving, angsty teen named Charlie Watson. Together, they rediscover themselves, which leads to a partnership of saving the world from Bumblebee’s enemies: The Decepticons. Everyone agrees that the first of the eventual eight Transformers movies directed by Michael Bay, is the best one of the series. The visual effects in the 2007 Transformers movie is less intense than the future films, and possesses a clear, straight-forward story. However, the Transformers movie still contains various problems, most notably its crass humor, and its occasional offensive stereotypes. The Bumblebee Movie is far superior to the 2007 Transformers movie in three ways: the story, the characters, and the fan-service.
The first way the Bumblebee movie surpasses the Transformers movie is its story. The Bumblebee movie is a simple, character-driven story, while the Transformers movie is more about the action and explosions. The Bumblebee movie is directed by Travis Knight, who is known for his detailed-oriented approach to his stop-motion, animated films. The Bumblebee movie reflects this. While the Bumblebee movie’s story is simple, and sometimes clichéd, it has slow, intimate moments that reveal more about the characters, which cause you to care about them. Both Charlie and Bumblebee are able to rediscover themselves through each other, strengthen each other, and rescue each other, which leads to saving the world from the Decepticons.
The Transformers movie is directed by Michael Bay, famous for his Victoria Secret commercials and automotive advertisements. Michael Bay places a higher priority on extravagant wonder. Bay’s Transformers movie has a clear story, but spends more time producing rapid-cut choreographed fight scenes than developing characters or fleshing out the story. Though special effects and choreography are important to a film, story and character hold equal importance. The Bumblebee movie, which balances memorable scenes that were both action-packed and quiet, is the more superior film.
The second way the Bumblebee movie exceeds the Transformers movie, is the characters. Charlie Watson is a seventeen year-old working through the grief of losing her father, while struggling to grow up and gain independence. Charlie is very relatable to many viewers in the same age group. She is unique to the rest of her peers within the movie. She doesn’t try to fit in with anyone else. Travis Knight purposely instructed to have her character designed and filmed as such. Charlie comes off as a character other of her age group would want to hang out with. Arguably, she has a friendship/“love” interest, that always seems to be a major theme of teen flicks. However, Memo is a gentleman, who adds some funny moments, and doesn’t get in the way or becomes obnoxious. In addition, Charlie and Memo do not end up becoming a romantic couple, but remain friends, which shatters the cliché that “a boy and a girl always have to become a couple at the end of a movie.”
The characters in the Transformers movie are drastically different. Sam Witwicky is an insecure, inadequate teen who hopes to become cool by purchasing a stylish car. YouTuber Lindsey Ellis argues that Sam “…is more or less defined by his own inadequacy. (Lindsay Ellis. “The Male Gaze vs. The Men – Feminist Theory Part 2 | The Whole Plate Episode 6.” YouTube. 6 Sept 2017.)”: lame shut-ins who only care about girls in perverted ways, and extremely insecure. A profound demonstration is an infamous scene where Sam’s love interest, Mikaela Banes, examined his car after is breaks down. Instead of listening to Mikaela’s statements of being unappreciated in her line of work as a mechanic, and only being revered as a prize to be won, Sam simply gawks at her skimpy clad body. Ellis refers to this as “Dissonance of Framing: The text is saying one thing, the framing is saying something else (Lindsay Ellis. “Framing Megan Fox – Feminist Theory Part 3 | The Whole Plate Episode 7.” YouTube. 23 Sept 2017.).” Mikaela is the best written, yet undervalued character in the movie, with a sympathetic backstory about her adolescent criminal past with her father. There is no reason for Mikaela to fall in love with Sam. Aside from running around with the Allspark for ten or so minutes, he has demonstrated no other positive traits that would warrant affection from Mikaela.
Sam’s parents are presented as crass and perverted. Mr. Witwicky attempts to maintain order and discipline, but comes off more dead-beat dad, who cares more for his lawn than a legit good father, who should be concerned about where his son is. Mrs. Witwicky mindlessly runs her mouth without care to its consequence and is ignored by her husband, who has learned to cope. Mr. and Mrs. Witwicky have little to no redeeming qualities, and do nothing to assist Sam and Mikaela’s predicament. Bumblebee and Sam also have no chemistry. Bumblebee has no reason to like Sam, especially to stay with him, and have no quiet moments to talk about themselves and develop a friendship. The characters from the Bumblebee movie are a drastic improvement compared to the Transformers movie cast.
The final reason the Bumblebee movie surpasses the 2007 Transformers movie is the fan-service.
Before we begin, I want to quickly preface that there are two different types of fan-service: One nods to the fans with familiar characters, locations, or objects that they have knowledge of and love. Marvel does a splendid job of constantly tossing in comic book references in their movies, and there are many fans who love finding them. The second is of the more explicit kind. There are countless examples from the Japanese Animated Genre of characters who dress scantily-clad and share sexually-oriented jokes. The type of fan-service I am referencing is the first kind.
Travis Knight and his crew appear to possess a vast knowledge of and loyalty to the Transformers franchise. The opening sequence to the Bumblebee movie is practically a love letter to the fans. The opening scene on Cybertron contains multiple cameos from Autobot characters such as Wheeljack, Arcee, Brawn, as well as the Decepticons characters Starscream, Shockwave, and Soundwave. Each Transformer character, whether Autobot or Decepticon, are faithfully designed, inspired by the memorable 1980’s cartoon.
The Transformers movie has little to no fan service. One clear nod to the Transformers franchise is a scene where the camera pans to a 1980s model yellow camaro, as well as a 1980s yellow volkswagen beetle, Bumblebee’s original alternate mode. Optimus Prime’s character design is noticeably the only design that has any resemblance to the cartoon, while everyone else has extremely busy, complex designs (including Prime himself), alienating to the Transformers prime audience (no pun intended). Travis Knight makes a more concise effort to be faithful to the original cartoon.
Let me be clear the Transformers movie is not a terrible film. I do point out its weaknesses of excessive crass humor and degrading stereotypes. But I also want to attest to its strengths, such as enjoyable military characters and scenes as well as the occasional jokes that provide comic relief among the more intense battle sequences. I agree that compared to its sequels, the Transformers movie is a good movie, having some great moments and visuals. However, when comparing the 2007 Transformers movie to the Bumblebee movie, it is obvious which movie can provide the most enjoyment.
The Bumblebee Movie is clearly superior to the Transformers movie. The Bumblebee movie has a simple, beautiful story with well-rounded, relatable characters, and loving fan-service. I urge those, whose only exposure to Transformers was the Michael Bay films, to please give this franchise another chance, and go watch Bumblebee. If the Bumblebee movie has enough success, we will receive more films like it that will attain the respect this franchise deserves.
Ellis, Lindsay. “The Whole Plate: Film Studies through a Lens of Transformers.” YouTube. Lindsay Ellis. Playlist. 25 Jul 2018. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLJGOq3JclTH8J73o2Z4VMaSYZDNG3xeZ7
Ellis, Lindsay & “Black Nerd,” Andre. “BUMBLEBEE CAN GET IT! (ft. Lindsay Ellis) – Movie Talk & Spoilers.” YouTube. Andre “Black Nerd.” 23 Dec. 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cWP8D5f6dEE&list=PLG5ar_PUQPyS6C6WE6Q1LTAYkQr9qXpMh&index=27&t=0s
Knight, Travis. Bumblebee. Christina Hodson, Hailee Steinfeld, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., John Cena. Paramount. 21 Dec. 2018.
Bay, Michael. Transformers. Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel. Paramount. 3 Jul. 2007.