Bumblebee

Since the trailers for Bumblebee last year, I’ve been eagerly awaiting this movie’s release at the cinema. One, because I love the Transformer movies and two because Bumblebee has been my main man bot from the start and now they’ve made a movie about him! Yay!

Can I say yay at 48?

The Autobots and Decepticons have been around since the 1980s, so most of us have heard of them, but for those who have been living under rocks for the last 32 years here’s some info..

Transformers

Transformers came into being in 1984 as an American/Japanese transforming toy with the good guys (Autobots) against the bad guys (Decepticons). Later the franchise expanded to include comics, animation, video games and movies – of which Bumblebee is the sixth (and best) installment.

Transformers the movie was more successful for its fantastic effects than the acting, but subsequent movies haven’t been able to equal or better the original – until now.

Bumblebee – The Plot (ish)

On Cybertron, the Autobot resistence, led by magnificent Optimus Prime, are having their bots kicked by the Decepticons in the civil war. As Optimus and Co prepare to leave the planet, a Decepticon force led by Soundwave, Shockwave and Starscream, intercept them leaving Optimus no choice but to send B-127 (aka Bumblebee) alone to Earth in order to find a base where the Autobots can regroup.

B-127 crash lands in California where he unfortunately disrupts a training exercise by Sector 27 who believe him to be hostile and so they attack – driving him into a forest where Decepticon, Blitzwing, gives him a bot-whooping when he refuses to reveal Optimus Prime’s location. Things look bad for B-127 and seconds before his circuits fizzle out, he scans a 1967 Volkswagen Beetle and transforms accordingly – ending up in a scrap-yard.

The scrap-yard belongs to 18 year old Charlie Watson’s uncle who gives her the car as a birthday present and she takes the battered old Beetle back home and goes to work on fixing him, but not before she unknowingly activates a homing signal (oops) that is then detected by Decepticons, Shatter and Dropkick, who head to Earth and dupe highly intelligent Sector 27 into helping them find and capture B-127 who they claim is a fugitive. Sector 27 decide that the Decepticons (clue is in the name) are to be trusted? Needless to say that, once again, Earth is in danger.

Charlie

Female protagonist, Charlie, is a tomboy who spends her spare time lying under cars. She’s moody. She hates her family and her shit job. She’s a teenager, innit? Tinkering with cars and playing music keeps her sane as she struggles to find her way in a world without her beloved father in it. I can identify with Charlie, except that I lost my dad when I was 26. Then again, I’m 30 years older than Charlie and I can’t change my own tyre, let alone fix cars. But I do love The Smiths.

B-127 (aka Bumblebee)

When it comes to Bumblebee, where do I start? I’ve had a crush on that bot since the original Transformers movie and the last time I felt genuine feelings like this was for Shredder from the Mutant Ninja Turtles movie in the 80s. Yes, it’s a little weird, but I know I’m not alone as a lot of autistic people connect better with animations etc than humans. Note: I am not one of those people who get off on car exhausts or want to marry lamp-posts. That’s a whole different level of weird. But just to put things into perspective – Charlie (human) has feelings for Bumblebee (Autonomous Robotic Organism)

You get me?

Bumblebee communicates through music, so he’s definitely my kind of bot. He’s cute. He’s lovable. And he’s fookin’ badass when his battle helmet flips down and he flames the living shit out of everything! Also, he’s yellow so he’s less likely to be nicked. Not that Bumblebee would remain nicked for long – him being a transforming arse-kicking robot, right?

Bumblebee has definitely saved the Transformers floundering franchise and maybe that’s something to do with new director, Travis Knight, breathing some fresh air into the story? But for me, it’s because all the elements work. The likable (and identifiable) protagonist. The most lovable Autobot of them all. The mind-blowing special effects in surround sound. I mean, DAMN!! And shit loads of nostalgia – especially if you like The Smiths. What’s not to love? I can’t see them being able to better this film, unless they want to write a storyline about a slightly deranged middle-aged autistic housewife and her transforming Toyota Yaris?

Charlie Watson: Is the Beetle for sale?
Uncle Hank: It’s yours kid. Happy Birthday.

 

 

More Than a Movie..

My fascination with movies started in 1978 when I saw Close Encounters of the Third Kind – a film about aliens, aptly enough. I remember feeling scared, not about the movie, but of everything around me. The crowds. The smells. The cacophony of voices. The familiar feeling of wanting to be sick. The fear of vomiting in public.

I also remember the feeling in my chest as the lights dimmed and the cinema screen flickered into life for the first time in my life..

Cinema was very different in those days and for the young (and undiagnosed) autistic me it made for a conflicting experience because of the queuing, crowds, uncomfortable seating and divs using the back of my chair as a foot-rest. Not to mention the aroma of hot dogs and cigarette smoke! That said, once the film started I was able to lose myself in the fantasy – providing my bladder wasn’t too full, that is.

In contrast, last week I went to see The Crimes of Grindleward – a completely different experience because all of the above (aside hot dogs) has been eliminated. Even crowds, if you choose the earlier showing times.

I’d imagine that a lot of autists love watching movies, either at the cinema or at home. That’s because being able to lose ourselves in fantasy helps to make existence on this confusing planet a little more bearable, no? And when it comes to the wizarding world, I’d guess many autists identify with the ‘non-magical’ versus wizards’ concept because it’s not dissimilar to the NT versus autistic one.That’s not to suggest that we have magical powers, because we don’t. Unless you consider photographic memory a superpower? Or that there is a war between autistic and non-autistic. It’s just that ‘No Maj’s’ don’t understand the wizarding world and vice versa.

There are many autistic traits to be found in the Harry Potter/Fantastic Beasts films. I mean, Newt Scamander has many Asperger traits, despite no affirmation from J.K Rowling. Then again, the film is set in the 1920s so Newt wouldn’t have been diagnosed anyway. And while it can be said that Harry Potter himself isn’t an autistic character, one can empathise with the range of emotions he goes through when Hagrid informs him that, actually, he’s a shit-hot wizard and those things about himself that he never understood – such as his hair growing back overnight – suddenly make sense which is not dissimilar to receiving an autism diagnosis.

Aside the film itself, I consider the credits to be an important part of the experience, but time and time again I find that I am the only person remaining in my seat as the last credits scroll up. It’s always the same. The end of the film comes, the soundtrack kicks in and there’s a flurry of activity with people standing up, coats being put on and a general mass exodus towards the exits. Some people hang on for the crowds to disperse and then they get up and leave which just leaves me..

I always watch the credits. One reason is that I like to see the names of the people who made the film possible. Another is that I’m a music fan and there are often several pieces of music of soundtrack played during the credits. Also, there is often something extra mid-credits or at the very end. Some movies use bloopers and in others the post credit scenes are a crucial part because it ties the movie up or leaves the audience (or who ever is left) in a state of anticipation.

*SPOILERS WARNING* At this point I’m going to use UP and Christopher Robin as examples so if you haven’t seen those films and would like to, please scroll down beyond the italics.

In the case of the animated film, UP, the credit scenes flip through Carl’s photo album and we get to see the adventures he has with Russell and Dug. As we see in the film, this is what Ellie wanted him to do after she was gone. Blended with the beautiful (and award-winning) score by Michael Giacchino these scenes brings this movie to a pleasing end. Everything is tied up and you leave the cinema feeling happy.

A more recent example is Christopher Robin where, after a few minutes of credits, there is a little sequence where all the characters are having a dance and a sing-song on the beach where there is an old man playing a piano. The old man is no other than Richard Sherman, a nine time Oscar nominee and writer of some of the most memorable songs Disney ever made. It’s a sweet touch and one that many people never got to see because they left the cinema as soon as the credits started to roll.

If I hadn’t stayed for the Fantastic Beasts credits, I wouldn’t have heard the fantastic soundtrack. Or learned that Mr Depp had a small army of people pandering to his every need. Or that his scary contact lens had its very own technician.

Then, there’s the flip from fantasy to reality..

I would happily sit in the empty cinema long after the credits have finished because I need time to adjust from fantasy to reality. But that’s not possible when the cleaners are giving you the evils because they can’t start cleaning up until you’ve shifted your arse.

In my younger days, I would go home and reenact everything I saw and then I would work the characters into my world using their phrases, mannerisms and style. I know now that it was part of masking – of being somebody I wasn’t because I couldn’t be myself. In those days, I was more out of this world than I was in it – something which my mother would testify to, if she were alive. She always said that I never seemed to be here. She was right. I was far, far away..

I wish I could take the credit for this quote, but it comes from a fellow autist in response to an online post I made about staying until the very end of the credits. I think that many of us will identify with it.

Earth is simply where my body is tethered…

These days, I don’t go home, shut myself away and reenact. Those days ended when I realised that nobody else I knew did such a thing – not on their own anyway. Drama was never an option for me due to my social and communication problems. Not to mention, crippling anxiety. Any enjoyment of being able to become different characters would have been lost in the discomfort of everything else. And so it’s down to music, literature and the movies to take me away from life.

In the cinema, the endorphins flood my body. The feel good hormones. The ‘I can fucking do this‘ hormones!

Then the experience ends. I push open the exit door and reality slaps me in the face with atomic force.

The anxiety. The weariness. The disconnection.

I’d give anything to turn around and walk back into that darkened room because that room is my wardrobe into Narnia. It’s a portal to another world – a world that understands me.