Travis Knight continues his successful transition from stop-motion animator to director, this time in a thoughtful script by Christina Hodson. Their combined efforts successfully take Bumblebee back to his roots as a Volkswagen Beetle and make him a better, more interesting character. Charged with escaping to Earth in 1987, Bumblebee ( Dylan O'Brien) hides in a California junkyard, awaiting further orders from Optimus Prime ( Peter Cullen). That same year Charlie Watson ( Hailee Steinfeld) goes to the junkyard trying to find a car, and perhaps herself. Instead, the two find each other and forge a friendship that could mean disaster for both after the Decepticon hunters Shatter ( Angela Bassett) and Dropkick ( Justin Theroux) ferret out his location. Of the entire Transformers series, this is the best one and has the potential to save a faltering franchise. This is because Hodson clearly understands the elements that made the original series such a long-standing favorite. By creating a situation where the robots and humans have a genuine connection rather than an unsteady alliance, she creates a connection with the viewer as well. As with the cartoons, these friendships are with young people, primarily in Charlie and Memo ( Jorge Lendeborg Jr.). The fact that she pays homage to both the Transformers and the '80s in general is likely to go a long way with connecting the film to an audience of people whose hopes of reliving their childhoods through these films were quickly fading. There is a lot going on in the background that people will want to be watching for in this respect. Hailee Steinfeld is becoming an actress of notable talent and she does not fail here, either. It is her capability that makes the connection between man and machine believable, aided by Lendeborg's portrayal of the tentative sidekick. Instead of the robots having to carry the movie, the human characters walk side-by-side with them in importance. Knight's direction lines everyone up and puts them where they need to be so the CGI Crew can come in and make the scenes almost seamless. There is not one moment that does not seem like the robots are there with the humans, rather than an actor talking to air, and both the director and SFX departments deserve to share the credit. The score is exactly what is to be expected with a somewhat rebellious lead character living in 1987. In fact, this is used as another opportunity to pay homage to the original cartoon as well. The selected songs just work - even though they are from the period, they fit their usages very organically. The cinematography moves around in a little bit of a rush once in a while, but this gives a feeling of the sheer might and speed of the Transformers, rather than leaving one wondering if they have missed something in the shot. Whether this was intentional or not, it successfully adds to the intensity of the battle scenes. Some viewers will be disappointed that there is not as much robotic action as in the previous films, but there is a lot to be said for what they do give us - a Transformers film that is highly entertaining and worth watching. With all the callouts to the 80s, a solid story, and excellent execution, this is more than just a story of the affection between a girl and her robot; it is a story of the affection between a film and the fans of the robots in disguise.
All Movie Guide - Phil Griffin