Rated 3.0

The prospect of a sixth film in the live-action Transformers franchise seemed unappealing enough without it being fashioned as a sidekick origin story, but Travis Knight’s Bumblebee is by far the best entry to date. To the surprise of no one, the removal of Michael Bay from the creative driver’s seat results in a sharp rise in visual coherence and a sharp dip in toxic masculinity. In his place, Knight--CEO of Laika and director of Kubo and the Two Strings--consciously evokes the wonderstruck, warmhearted, family-oriented fantasy films of the 1980s, most notably E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. Hailee Steinfeld stars as Charlie, a gearhead outcast whose car transforms into the Autobot known as Bumblebee, an alien fugitive hunted by both evil Decepticons and the U.S. military. If anything, the film veers too hard towards sentimentality, but any random five minutes of Bumblebee contains more humanity than the previous five Transformers movies combined.