Allow me to state upfront that I have now nor ever have been a fan of the Transformers. When they arrived, my tastes ran in other directions. That said, I have done some behind-the-scenes work with the franchise a few times in my career so have a good working knowledge. I’ve also seen the first Michael Bay and bits of the subsequent ones, enough to know these also aren’t to my taste.
I was therefore ready to outright reject the first solo film, Bumblebee, but the trailers hooked me. That and the arrival of Hailee Steinfeld, who I have enjoyed since True Grit. As a result, the film, out now on disc from Paramount Home Entertainment, is far more enjoyable than imagined.
By making this about a girl and her robot, a tried and true formula dating back decades (was Gigantor the first?), the film is smaller, needing only so much backstory to be plausible. Set in the film universe, it’s set in the past and therefore acts as a prequel to the overstuffed films that have ground the series into rust.
We get glimpses of the Cybertron civil war, with Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen), the Autobot leader, ordering loyal B-127 (Dylan O’Brien) to seek safety on Earth. No sooner does he land than scared humans and vile Decipticons batter him, damaging his vocal synthesizer and sending him into hiding. That is, until he’s discovered by18-year-old Charlie Watson (Steinfeld). She’s emotionally damaged, having just lost her father, and they find one another in a series of charming scenes.
All that changes when Sector 7’s Jack Burns (John Cena) alerts the bad guys B-127 has been located, then the running, chasing, shooting, and exploding begins in earnest. By then, we’re emotionally invested in the pair and put up with the noise. At its core, the film is about people learning to find their voices and overcome adversity of all stripes, in order to stand tall and move forward. That’s a good message for the intended audience.
The film is out in a nice variety of formats including the 4K Ultra HD Combo and Blu-ray combo. The movie is said to have been shot at a resolution of 3.4K, and finished at 2K giving us a sharp, colorful, and detailed image. All the CGI looks particularly good in 4K. The Blu-ray 1080p transfer is equally good. The Dolby Atmos soundtrack provides an excellent companion to the visuals.
What’s lacking are excellent special features, delivering instead, the same old. We have
The best part of the package (both $k and Blu-ray) is the prequel mini-comic Sector 7 Adventures, which is nicely written and drawn and I wish the credits were provided although it was packaged by Avalanche Comics Entertainment, which produced a previous Transformers in-pack comic and know their stuff.
The special features include Sector 7 Archive: Agent Burns: Welcome to Sector 7 (0:50), Sector 7 Adventures: The Battle at Half Dome (9:19), a motion comic version of the ACE comic; Deleted and Extended Scenes (19:05) — Original Opening, Drive to Karate Class, Birthday Present, Car Wash and Beetle Breakdown, Charlie Drops Off Mona and Conan, Decepticons Inspect the Armory, Drive to Cliff, Sector 7, and Appliance War; Outtakes) — Burns Meets Bee, War Room, There’s a Door in My Way, Charlie in Trash, and Saved the World; Bee Vision: The Transformers Robots of Cybertron (3:56); Bringing Bumblebee to the Big Screen in five parts: The Story of Bumblebee (3:54), The Stars Align (7:04), Bumblebee Goes Back to G1 (10:02), Back to the Beetle (6:20), and California Cruisin’ Down Memory Lane (19:57).