Bumblebee ★★★

There have been five Transformers films during the past decade, which is probably five more than was needed. Spun out of a line of transforming toys produced in the 1980s by Hasbro—which also spawned a successful cartoon series, along with comic books and video games—the increasingly ridiculous movies built around an 18-wheeler that, well, transformed into a heroic, bipedal “Autobot” and back, kept on truckin’—until few cared anymore. But care you should, since we at last have a good one. Finally freed from the directorial clutches of Michael Bay, a man who never tires of blowing things up, director Travis Knight’s wonderful Bumblebee is the film we should have gotten to begin with. Like many of this year’s better features, this character-based spinoff bears a female touch. Scripted by newcomer Christina Hodson, the movie stars Hailee Steinfeld (Pitch Perfect 2 and 3) as Charlie, an independent, handy young woman who receives a beat-up Volkswagen Beetle for her 18th birthday. But little does she know that her new car is “more than meets the eye.” In fact, “Bumblebee” is more than a transformer—it’s a fully formed character straight out of the silent film era; having lost its synthesized voice during the picture’s prologue, the metallic descendent of Buster Keaton bumbles its way through one terrifically choreographed set-piece after another. Credit for this must also go to sophomore director Knight, CEO of stop-motion animation studio Laika, who proves that his first movie, Kubo and the Two Strings, was no fluke. (At Assembly RowBoston Common, Fenway, Seaport, South Bay and in the suburbs.)

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