Ashbourne News Telegraph - - WHAT’S ON -

THE ro­bots in dis­guise re­ceive a wel­come and sweetly sen­ti­men­tal re­boot in the sixth in­stal­ment of the Trans­form­ers fran­chise.

Travis Knight, Os­car nom­i­nee for the ex­quis­ite stop-mo­tion an­i­ma­tion Kubo And The Two Strings, re­places Michael Bay in the di­rec­tor’s chair for a fam­ily-friendly ori­gin story cast in the mould of The Iron Giant.

Bum­ble­bee un­folds be­fore events of the orig­i­nal Trans­form­ers and ser­vices a softly beat­ing heart be­neath gleam­ing metal through the touch­ing friend­ship of the tit­u­lar Au­to­bot and a grief-stricken girl played by Pitch Per­fect alum­nus Hailee Ste­in­feld.

The 22-year-old ac­tress de­liv­ers a beau­ti­fully cal­i­brated and sin­cere per­for­mance, cap­tur­ing the awk­ward­ness of a teenager who hears her pain echoed in the songs of The Smiths.

Pro­duc­tion de­sign­ers go to town with late 1980s pe­riod de­tail – amus­ingly, the De­cep­ti­cons are cred­ited as ar­chi­tects of the World Wide Web – to a sound­track that bops to the catchy melodies of A-HA, Rick Ast­ley, Tears For Fears and Steve Win­wood.

Spec­tac­u­lar ac­tion se­quences punc­tu­ate the heart-tug­ging nar­ra­tive but di­rec­tor Knight wisely doesn’t at­tempt to out­mus­cle Bay, whose pen­chant for spe­cial ef­fects-laden de­struc­tion in slow-mo­tion left pre­vi­ous tours of duty feel­ing bloated.

A bruis­ing show­down against the das­tardly De­cep­ti­cons on planet Cy­bertron forces Op­ti­mus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) to sound the re­treat.

He dis­patches B-127

(Dy­lan O’brien) to Earth to es­tab­lish a base of op­er­a­tions. B-127 crash­lands in Cal­i­for­nia and makes a hasty es­cape from armed forces com­manded by Jack Burns (John Cena).

Dur­ing a skir­mish with De­cep­ti­con war­rior Bl­itzwing (David Sobolov), B-127 loses his vo­cal pro­ces­sor unit and his core mem­ory is dam­aged.

He trans­forms into a yel­low VW Bee­tle shortly be­fore his cir­cuits shut down. Plucky teen Char­lie Wat­son (Ste­in­feld) sal­vages the car from a scrap­yard and in the safety of her garage, she is stunned to dis­cover the weather-beaten Bee­tle is a shape-shift­ing ro­bot. She chris­tens him Bum­ble­bee and agrees to keep her mech­a­nised pal safe, aided by smit­ten neigh­bour Memo (Jorge Len­de­borg).

Mean­while, De­cep­ti­con hun­ters Shat­ter (An­gela Bas­sett) and Drop­kick (Justin Th­er­oux) trace B-127 to Earth and make first con­tact with Dr Pow­ell (John Or­tiz) from covert gov­ern­ment agency Sec­tor 7.

They con­vince the gullible sci­en­tist that Au­to­bots are mankind’s en­e­mies and the only way to elim­i­nate the threat is to al­low them ac­cess to Earth’s net­work of satel­lites. Bum­ble­bee is lean at un­der two hours – and bal­ances af­ter­shocks from the fall of Cy­bertron with Char­lie’s grow­ing pains.

Ste­in­feld ten­derly con­veys the depth of her hero­ine’s af­fec­tion for her child­like robo-com­pan­ion and is one of the cutest weapons in the Trans­form­ers ar­moury.

Fleet­ing scenes of De­cep­ti­cons ex­e­cut­ing hu­mans, who ex­plode as colour­less goo, shouldn’t dis­turb young au­di­ences.

For once in this fan­tas­ti­cal uni­verse, com­pelling char­ac­ter de­vel­op­ment and heart­felt emo­tion aren’t among the fallen.

Hailee Ste­in­feld as Char­lie with Bum­ble­bee in VW Bee­tle form John Cena as Agent Burns, left, and De­cep­ti­cons Shat­ter and Drop­kick Touch­ing: Char­lie forms a bond with Bum­ble­bee

Jorge Len­de­borg Jr. and Hailee Ste­in­feld

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