- Review by Kaya Savas - January 9, 2018
Bumblebee will forever be known as the first Transformers film without Michael Bay, and at this point that is a refreshing thing. While the third film had elements of the first, the last two Transformers were a bit atrocious. Steve Jablonsky has been the sole sound of Transformers films for a decade, but for this origin story, director Travis Knight brings aboard Dario Marianelli. Marianelli scored Kubo And The Two Strings for him, which was Knight's directorial debut. This is only Knight’s second feature film as director, and he handled it extremely well. Bumblebee finally has a level-headed director behind the wheel who can see that more isn’t always better.
The dial is turned back and we get back to basics. The story itself is nothing to shake a stick at, we’ve seen it probably a hundred times now. We are introduced to our young protagonist who is an outcast and alone in the world. In this case we are dealing with a dead parent for added effect. In fact, if you swap out dead parent for dead sibling you pretty much have Big Hero 6. But if you glaze past the recycled storyline of an adolescent and their new misunderstood alien/pet, Bumblebee is actually quite engaging. Dario Marianelli’s score might feel a bit vanilla compared to what Jablonsky did, but it hits all the marks and delivers an emotional core that this franchise has been missing for some time.
We open the film with the war on Cybertron, and where Optimus Prime sends Bumblebee to Earth to look for a new refuge. In these moments it was actually exciting to see Marianelli pay some homage to Jablonsky. While the score never quotes Jablonsky’s themes directly, there were some style choices that couldn’t help but feel like they were channeling Steve. It’s once we are introduced to Charlie, our main protagonist that the score finds its original voice. Marianelli balances a mostly orchestral score with some added electronic textures that really help build out sequences and scenes overall. In fact, it’s in the score’s structure where it actually shines the most, there’s a really great build and flow to the whole narrative.
Then we have the intimate moments between Charlie and Bumblebee, where we see her imprinting on him as this guardian figure, a figure she lost with the death of her father. Marianelli handles the emotional core of the film with ease, beautifully crafting Charlie as a strong but also broken soul who Bumblebee helps fix. This is where the film finds its soul, and it’s extremely effective. Marianelli finds a really great emotional way to wrap up everything, injecting the whole story with sentiment and character.
Bumblebee feels like a 90’s action/adventure movie in the best ways possible. The score may lack the bold themes we’ve come to know in the past Transformers films, but by focusing on building character and a deep emotional core, the score manages to make Bumblebee a very enjoyable experience. You may not reflect back on the film too much, since we have more than our fair share of this exact same plot in other films (Big Hero 6, E.T., Free Willy, How To Train Your Dragon, The Iron Giant, Pete’s Dragon, The Water Horse, etc). However, there is a charm to Bumblebee, and thanks to the score it ties together extremely well.