Australian Council on Children and the Media

Bumblebee

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Short takes

Short takes: Not recommended under 13 due to frequent animated violence. Parents should be aware that there are two versions of this film available. One has been classified as M and one has been edited and classified as PG. When the film is released on DVD, it could be the M rated version.

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Bumblebee
  • a review of Bumblebee completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 17 December 2018.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 13 Not recommended for this age group due to frequent violence.
Children over the age of 13 Ok for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Bumblebee
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild science fiction violence and mild themes. Some scenes may scare young children
Length 114 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

This is the sixth instalment in a series of films based on the Transformers franchise from the 1980’s and Bumblebee is a prequel to the 2007 Transformers film. Young transformer robot B-127 (Bumblebee) escapes a fierce war on the planet of Cybertron to seek refuge on Earth.  His mission is to safeguard Earth until the other Transformers can regroup and join him. When he arrives on Earth it is 1987 and a secret military group assume that he is hostile and try to chase and destroy him. Whilst trying to escape them, B-127 is also pursued by enemy robot, Decepticon Blitzwing, who has followed B-127 to Earth to try and find out the location of leader Optimus Prime. When B-127 refuses to disclose the information, Blitzwing rips out B-127’s vocal processor and damages his memory core.  B-127 takes refuge by camouflaging himself in the form of a cute, yellow 1967 Volkswagen beetle. Meanwhile on Earth, teenager Charlie Watson (Hailee Steinfield) is still grieving over the death of her late father. She is a bit of an outcast and buries herself in trying to repair the car she was working on with her father before he died. One day in a scrapyard hunting for parts, Charlie comes across the little yellow VW beetle (Bumblebee) and accidentally activates the communication signal. This is picked up all the way across the galaxy on the planet of Cybertron and notifies the enemy Decepticons of Bumblebee’s whereabouts. Charlie convinces the scrapyard owner to let her take the beetle home. In her garage, the car transforms into Bumblebee’s robot form and Charlie and Bumblebee become fast and loyal friends. Little do they know that two Decepticon robots Shatter and Dropkick have arrived on Earth and have fooled the military into believing that they are on a peace keeping mission. The military are allowing them to access the Earth’s satellite system to try and locate Bumblebee. No matter how dangerous it is, Charlie and Bumblebee must avoid capture and try to put a stop to the evil plans of the Decepticons to take over and destroy Earth.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Robots; aliens; war; 1980's nostalgia; death of a parent; grief; family; friendship.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is very frequent violence in this movie including scenes of war, scenes that resemble torture and aggressive macho behaviour.

  • There are frequent CGI-animated battle action sequences in this film either between large transformer robots or between transformers and humans. The battle scenes include use of weapons, substantial gunfire as well as hand to hand combat where the transformer robots use their limbs as slashing or cutting devices.
  • When the violence is between robotic creatures, they get injured but there is no blood.
  • Although we would expect that there would be casualties from all the fighting and gunfire, there are no dead or gory injured bodies shown in the film. This means that the violence seems to have no real-life consequences.
  • Twice, the robots point their guns directly at a human at close range and shoot them. The humans are ‘liquefied’ and explode into a pool of slime. 
  • There are frequent violent verbal threats being made. For example, pointing a gun at someone and saying “Destroy!” or “We have 100 guns pointed at you”.
  • Bumblebee the robot is strung up and hung by his arms, in a scene resembling a torture scene, and beaten by two other robots.
  • A large military officer picks up Charlie (an 18-year-old girl) and throws her violently onto the ground.
  • A tall building on Cybertron is bombed, and we see it collapse in flames.

 

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • The transformer robots are very realistically animated with CGI, and are huge, dominating forms covered in weaponry. Some children may find these creatures very scary.
  • There is a moment where Bumblebee transforms from a Volkswagen beetle into a robot for the first time in front of Charlie. First his eyes light up unexpectedly and Charlie is shocked and quite frightened. Bumblebee is very cute and not at all threatening, but some children may find this first transformation a little scary.
  • Children under five may find the fast-paced battle scenes scary or overwhelming.
  • On earth, the transformers arrive as large, comet-like balls of fire that explode onto the surface.
  • The main military character, Lieutenant Jack Burn, is a very macho, tough character that smaller children may find threatening.
  • During a fight, some of the transformers release large robotic dogs that attack the other side.
  • There are several fast-paced car chases, with lots of dangerous driving and near miss accidents.
  • Bumblebee is thrown off the edge of a cliff and falls right to the bottom. He is injured but manages to get up and stagger away.
  • The military men grab and restrain Charlie and her friend Memo, despite them struggling and crying to get free.
  • At times in the film, Bumblebee transforms from a very ‘cute’ and quite harmless looking robot into his ‘battle’ form, where his face changes and his eyes glow a different colour as he prepares to fight.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • Charlie is dealing with the fairly recent death of her father. She often gazes at a photo of him and is distressed that her mother has remarried and ‘moved on’ when she is not ready to. Some children may find this emotional.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

  • Some children in this age group may find some of the above scenes a little scary or disturbing.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

  • Children of this age are unlikely to be disturbed by the content of this film.

Product placement

  • Volkswagen
  • Pop tarts
  • Weightwatchers

Sexual references

There are some very mild romantic or sexual references in this movie, including:

  • A teen boy removes his shirt and the girls around him watch and look at him suggestively.
  • Memo has a romantic crush on Charlie and keeps trying to work up the courage to ask her out on a date, or to hold her hand or to try and kiss her.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • When a milkshake is spilled on his shirt, a teen boy removes his shirt. The girls around him look him up and down suggestively.
  • When Memo is driving in the car with Charlie, Charlie asks him to remove his shirt so that she can use it as a blindfold. Memo removes his shirt but feels awkward and self-conscious for a moment.

Use of substances

  • None of concern

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • Damn; Shit; Frikkin’; What the hell

 

In a nutshell

Bumblebee is a fast-paced action film, but the central relationship between teen outcast Charlie and the very endearing Bumblebee give it a lot of heart. Charlie is a strong and interesting female lead character who shows a lot more compassion and intelligence than many of the adults around her. Many parents will also enjoy the 1980’s nostalgia with great cars and a fabulous soundtrack. This film is likely to be advertised towards and appeal to younger children and tweens; however the frequent cartoon-like violence that seems to have no real-life consequences could have a desensitising effect for children, so is not recommended for those under 13. 

Parents should be aware that this film was originally classified as M, but was modified and lowered to PG. It is of the opinion of the ACCM that it should have retained the M classification due to the volume and frequency of violence. Parents should also note that there are now two versions of the film released, one is rated M and the other rated PG. In addition, when the film is released on DVD it could be the ‘M’ rated version.

The main messages from this movie are that good will overcome evil, and that we can conquer our inner fears.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Courage
  • Teamwork
  • The importance of family and friendships.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • What does it mean when there is a lot of fighting and violence, but nobody seems to get hurt? Is that realistic?
  • The best way to handle and process grief.

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