Describing this as the best film of the Transformers franchise is likely the very definition of faint praise, but there you go, and here it is- Bumblebee, the best film of the increasingly moronic franchise. That being said, the film is still dreadfully formulaic with a predictable plot and tiredly formulaic characters, but at least it has heart, in a reasonably affecting lead and some great ’80s songs (even if that is, hey, so Guardians of the Galaxy, isn’t it?).
So the biggest question about Bumblebee is, what is it about the 1980s? You know, films either made in the ’80s or set in the ’80s, they seem to be in a league of their own, they just seem to have a headstart on any film set in, say, the present-day. Is it all just heady nostalgia? If it was just that, sure, films like Bumblebee and television shows like Stranger Things would appeal to people like me (hey, the clue is in the name of this blog) but would it really spell huge mainstream success or critical appeal? The ’80s were quite awhile ago now, and the young ‘uns going to the cinema these days weren’t born back then. So what makes the 80s so cool, and is it just that the fashions and the music were actually better back then? Is that a fact now?
Is it the escapist appeal of a simpler world that is without the internet or mobile phones or social media which so inconveniently complicate the scripts of films set n the present day?
I don’t know, really, but as Frank Finlay’s character noted in Lifeforce (hey, itself of the ’80s – even the bad films from that decade are great) I sense a pattern emerging here. Or a disturbance in the Force (hey, another ’80s film – I think I should stop now).
Perhaps I should condemn these ’80s-set films for following the JJ Abrams School of Film-making, which is to just simply steal the tropes of so many Amblin/Steven Spielberg films of that decade and try to get away with it by saying “oh, it was INSPIRED by” or “I LOVE those old movies!”. Maybe I should condemn modern audiences for flocking to the familiar and encouraging said practises by making such films and TV shows such successes. Maybe there is really nothing new under the sun.
In any case, Bumblebee proved pleasant enough fluff; indeed mostly harmless. If I were scoring films with stars these days, the film would almost get five for the scene where Bumblebee spits out the cassettes of The Smiths and Rick Astley, when the film avows that we have to have some measure of integrity when fawning over ’80s pop culture.