After five outings with Michael Bay’s hyper-active directed action, Travis Knight of 2016’s excellent animated epic Kubo and the Two Strings brings a refreshing and necessary course correction in style, tone, and quality for the Transformers series. By scaling things waaaay back and focusing on the relationship between Hailee Steinfeld and her robot co-star, the film ends up having more in common with The Iron Giant and E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial than any entry within its own franchise. Knight delivers a movie that is heartfelt, touching, and filled with fun classically-staged action that is always easy to follow.
John Cena provides ample entertainment throughout — punchlines hit and miss in equal measure but every attempt at humor fits better than any joke in the Bay films. The movie is set in 1987, is heavy on 80’s nostalgia, but also feels like a movie from that era which allows space for some of the cheesier moments. The star of the show though is Steinfeld, who gives the best performance of the series and is heartbreaking at times in the role. Bumblebee is the Transformers movie they should have made all along and is one of the best blockbusters of the year. Grade: A.