Blight of the Bumblebee

The Franchise That Killed Orson Welles Is Back

Bumblebee is a Transformers movie. It is not about an actual bee. A review will appear here shortly. But first, some ancillary information:

Anyone who remembers the original Transformers movie does so for two things– connections to two of the greatest filmmakers of the modern age, Orson Welles and Paul Thomas Anderson.

You don’t believe me. Some clarification might help. The first Transformers movie was not the one you’re thinking of.The FIRST Transformers movie, a hand-drawn cartoon called Transformers: The Movie, came out in 1986. No one currently has any legitimate reason to make any sort of movie about Transformers, either plural or singular. But in 1986 Transformers were a hot commodity, actual toys that kids bought and played with, and so the movie had a reason to exist. It was a commercial.

If you’ve seen that movie, you might remember its singularly bad theme song, a very generic 80’s Big Hair Cheese Metal Anthem called “The Touch”, performed by a fellow named Stan Bush, arguably the least 80’s Big Hair Cheese Metal Singer Name ever. Even if you know the song, you’ve almost certainly have never heard of Stan Bush. Stan Bush, amazingly, WONDERFULLY, has a Wikipedia page. It is absolutely worth a visit.

Paul Thomas Anderson, widely regarded as one of the best American filmmakers working today, absolutely remembered “The Touch”. It was featured in his great film “Boogie Nights”, in one of the movie’s funniest and most pathetic scenes.

 

Anderson has said that Orson Welles was a big influence on him. This should be obvious to anyone who’s seen either filmmaker’s work. Anderson’s “The Master”, about an egocentric, maniacal cult leader, was almost certainly based on Orson Welles’ character in the 1986 Transformers, a character which…


BUMBLEBEE(1/5 stars)
Directed by: Travis Knight
Written by: Christina Hodson
Starring: Hailee Steinfeld, John Cena, Angela Bassett, Justin Theroux
Running time: 113 min.


 

Oh, I’m sorry. You were perhaps unaware that Orson Welles was actually IN a Transformers movie. Orson Welles’ most notable side-hustle was selling shitty Paul Masson jug wine to America’s high-functioning alcoholic grandparents. It wasn’t his best work. He also did voiceover work. As he entered the twilight of his life, someone persuaded him to do the voice of Unicron, The Transformers: The Movie’s planet-sized bad guy who literally eats other planets. On October 5, 1985, he went into the studio to record his lines. He was in such poor health that his voice work had to be run through a synthesizer; you can’t really tell it’s him. He died five days later.

So now we have another Transformers movie, which I’m obliged to review. This one is ostensibly about one Transformer, Bumblebee, but there are several other Transformers in it. There are human actors in it, notably Hailee Steinfeld and John Cena. They are fine. Like Orson Welles, they almost certainly did this movie for the paycheck. No judgment here. Angela Bassett and Justin Theroux voice the bad Transformers; happily they did not die five days after filming.

If you enjoy watching Transformers transform, there is plenty of that in Bumblebee. If you enjoy watching Transformers fight the U.S. military and/or each other, there is plenty of that. Plenty of people continue to pay to watch Transformers movies, so we’ll keep getting them, and film critics will continue to have existential crises. It’s been written that when asked about his Transformers movie, Orson Welles told friends that it was about “toys who do horrible things to each other”. That’s the only review this or any Transformers movie needs.

 

We shall eat no planet before its time

Jason Avant

Jason Avant is a writer and editor based in Carlsbad, California. He’s written for and edited a bunch of websites that no longer exist, and occasionally contributes to one that does: Roads and Kingdoms.

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