“Bumblebee, Our War Rages On. You Must Protect Earth, And Its People…”
With Transformers: The Last Knight undoubtedly holding the title for one of the worst films in recent cinematic history last year, the thought of having to endure yet another entry in the undying Hasbro based franchise heading into the last few weeks of the year harnessed a similar reaction to being handed a large straw bag of coal for Christmas after anticipating something much more useful and entertaining. Extravagant similes aside, heading into Bumblebee after being made aware that no longer were the awful directorial mittens of Michael Bay actually attached to the project, with the American killer of contemporary cinema reduced to a slight producing role, my expectations were somehow slightly raised in anticipation of a movie which just might get the subject matter bang on for the very first time in just over the course of an entire decade. Directed by the BAFTA winning Travis Knight, a filmmaker famous for his works on animation, with the excellent Kubo and the Two Strings acting as the American’s official directorial debut, it comes as no surprise that Bumblebee is undoubtedly the first film in the Transformers franchise to actively be of any good, with it being a character driven, effects heavy coming-of-age science fiction adventure which scrapes the pallet clean of the woe which came before it and offers up a thoroughly entertaining and engaging end of year blockbuster. Yes that’s right, I got weepy at a Transformers movie.
Of the many plus points, the primary concern of Bumblebee clearly settles on an intention to go with a completely alternative filmic sensibility to the previous entries in the franchise, with the painful epileptic editing, jokes about statutory rape and fascination with up skirt camera shots thankfully no more in favour of a film with a central narrative both enjoyable and crucially, family friendly. Along with proving just how awful a filmmaker Michael Bay has turned out to be, Knight’s movie understands the notion and impact of character depth, with Hailee Steinfield’s (The Edge of Seventeen) central music obsessed teen, Charlie Watson, beaming with levels of effective characterisation unseen previously within the franchise within the first five minutes of the movie. With the CGI superbly noticeable due to the film’s somewhat low-key approach in comparison to previous ventures, the relationship between Charlie and the cutesy titular robot in disguise is undoubtedly the most impressive aspect of the movie, with laugh out loud comedic set pieces and charming interactions resulting in a central partnership which brings to mind the likes of E.T and at times, Big Hero 6. With a crowd pleasing era-based musical jukebox featuring the likes of Tears for Fears, Simple Minds and a continual riff regarding The Smiths, Knight’s movie is a surprisingly accessible and charming Transformers adventure, a movie with so much to like even with a rather cliched central plot, yet the most crucial aspect of Bumblebee is that it is a movie which sets a precedent and platform for potential future films in the franchise by clearly signalling to everyone involved; THIS IS HOW YOU MAKE A MOVIE IN THE RIGHT WAY. Please take note.
Overall Score: 7/10
“My Name Is Miles Morales. I’m The One And Only Spider-Man. At Least That’s What I Thought…”
With the superhero genre reaching some sort of unprecedented cinematic peak in 2018 with the likes of Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War in particular reminding that even in a climate stuffed with familiar tales of heroism, there are still many tales left to be told, the last month of the year has reserved just a few more before returning once again with a new handful of highly anticipated releases come 2019. Produced by the successful American pairing of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the first of two big comic releases this month is of course, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, a barmy and maniacal addition into its’ respective genre which continues the recent success of the pair’s ventures into animation after the likes of the rather excellent The Lego Movie and The Lego Batman Movie, with a movie which utilises the versatile figure of Marvel’s web-slinging cash cow for a dazzlingly designed superhero adventure which attempts to offer something slightly different to the same old comic-based routine many of us are well and truly used to. With a gorgeously orchestrated animated design and some snappy comedic dialogue, Into the Spider-Verse is an entertaining if slightly functional Marvel addition, offering some of the best visual splendour available this year but suffering ever so heavily from an overstretched running time which does unfortunately begin to test the patience as it ticks just under the two hour mark.
With an overly familiar Lord/Miller tongue-in-cheek sensibility running through the central core of the film, Into the Spider-Verse begins by poking fun at the varying cliches attached to the superhero genre, particularly in regards to the many origin-based stories and similar cinematic developments of Spider-Man himself since the turn of the twentieth century, and with a clear understanding that many in the audience will undoubtedly be comic obsessives themselves, the snappy dialogue and in-house running gags prove effective, even when the core storyline does strangely end up falling right into the familiar superhero plot devices the script finds joy in making fun out of. With the central appeal of the movie hanging on two key factors, the first of which being the jerky, stylised animation which more than ever before seems to be a direct three dimensional transition of the comics from paper to screen, and the second of course being the chance to see radically different versions of the Spider-Man character all appear together on-screen in order to combat the central threat of the larger than life, Wilson Fisk, the question remains whether such selling points actually benefit the movie as a whole or are simply nothing more than cinematic gimmicks. In the case of the animation, a high proportion of it is indeed spectacular to behold on the big screen, with sweeping, soaring wide screen views of an animated New York really quite breathtaking, but as the movie moves into its’ predictable climax, the overreliance on stuffy, messy and maniacal splashes of pixelated colour brings the film on par with Teen Titans! Go To The Movies in terms of the headache inducing pain your eyes endure before the credits ultimately roll, but with a stellar supporting voice cast including the likes of Hailee Steinfield, (True Grit) Nicholas Cage, (Mandy) and Mahershala Ali (Moonlight), Into the Spider-Verse is an entertaining, if flawed, sugar rush of a movie with enough to like to counteract the migraine you may obtain after watching it.
Overall Score: 6/10
“I Am An Old Soul. I Like Old Movies And Old Music. Even Old People…!”
I know the feeling. As one of the minorities who believe they were born in the completely wrong era, The Edge of Seventeen is one of those fantastical coming-of-age comedies in which relating with the leading lady is simple. A conflicted socially awkward teen who believes the current social strata is one of isolation and technological addiction could sum up Hailee Steinfield’s Nadine, a high-school junior who fails completely at fitting in with the modern crowd and unfortunately loses her best friend after she catches her sleeping with her brother. Ouch indeed. The Edge of Seventeen works on a wide range of levels, no more so than Steinfield herself, who after her star-making performance in the Coen’s remake of True Grit, embraces the film’s lead role in her stride and creates a character so effortlessly likeable, the fact that she appears in every shot of the movie makes it an enjoyable ride into the ambiguity of modern youthfulness once again.
Whilst the perilous teen conflicts at the heart of The Edge of Seventeen aren’t entirely organic, the rather understated nature of the narrative helps to inflict a sense of realism into the drama associated around Nadine, with her brother, played by Everybody Wants Some!! star Blake Jenner, seemingly at the heart of the main issues, a problem many siblings across the globe can relate to. Adding a level of droll humour to the proceedings, Woody Harrelson’s portrayal of Nadine’s teacher-comfort is a quaint addition, one which allows our heroine to find comfort in the heart of someone much older yet someone who understands her completely. Strangely enough, the 15 rating plastered on the movie will unfortunately dissuade most of the audience the movie is attempting to connect with, yet The Edge of Seventeen is indeed one of the more heartwarming additions to the big screen at the moment and when put up against the likes of Office Christmas Party, it’s Annie Hall. On its’ own however, The Edge of Seventeen isn’t exactly in that particular pedigree but it is still is a worthy addition to the genre.