Dario Marianelli’s score to Bumblebee is bland at best, containing very little in the way of thematic material or indeed pretty much anything that hasn’t been done a million times before.
Honestly, I was quite looking forward to this score. From the trailers Bumblebee looked quite good, and seemed like exactly the course correction that the Transformers franchise needed after the train wreck that was Transformers: The Last Knight. This new movie looked completely different; seeming a lot lighter and more fun in comparison to previous entries in the franchise, and giving off a kind of Iron Giant/E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial vibe. With this in mind as well as the knowledge that renowned composer Dario Marianelli was attached to the film, the groundwork was laid for Bumblebee to have a pretty phenomenal score – one I was rather enthusiastic about hearing.
So when the day finally arrived where I could listen to Bumblebee for the first time, I was pretty excited. I had so many questions. What musical style would it have? Would it have an 80s vibe to it? Would the composer use any of Steve Jablonsky’s established themes? Being a pretty big fan of Jablonsky’s Transformers scores (I firmly believe that the first is one of the greatest scores of all time) I was particularly intrigued by that last question. So with excitement levels at a fairly high point, I began the album.
The score opens with Cybertron Falls, and to sum it up in but a few words; after listening to it I was considerably less excited about the score than I had been just a few minutes prior. The music starts with some very ominous almost Terminator-like synth, instantly answering the 80s vibe question I had. What hope that was garnered from these few precious seconds however was quickly dashed as orchestra then takes over for some very generic-sounding action music that then plays for the remaining minute or so. There was a little flicker of interesting towards the end of the track though, as the frantic tone switches up to heroic for a moment in what kind of sounds like a theme. But there was no Jablonsky, very little synth and nothing really…new, just an orchestral action style we’ve heard a thousand times before. This is only the first track though, so at the time I hoped that maybe the rest of the album is better (spoiler, it isn’t).
Charlie is a theme, I think. The tone here is switched up massively from rapid action to slow and hopeful, and honestly it’s with this style that the score is at it’s best. It’s just plain orchestra with no sign of the rather intriguing synth we heard earlier, but it’s enjoyable all the same. Strings and piano notes form much of the track, and overall we just get a good three minutes of semi-interesting, relaxed and almost pensive score. The music is also clearly meant to be a theme for the central human character of the movie, but I honestly couldn’t pick out a particularly recognisable motif. Maybe we’re supposed to associate the musical style with the character rather than a specific set of notes? That’s my best guess anyway.
Meeting Bumblebee is pretty good, I won’t lie. It’s easily the standout cue of the score, purely because it’s just a lovely piece of music. It starts off with some questionable-sounding electronics, but then slows down and heads back to that rather peaceful orchestral style that Charlie introduced, and it’s here that I hear a theme for the first time. It’s definitely more of a recognisable musical characteristic than a particular series of notes, but I hear it. The score then swells with some heroic and rather inspirational-sounding strings, presumably meant to represent Bumblebee. It’s a nice “meet-up” of two mood-based themes, and easily the most interesting thing about the album so far.
The more action-oriented side of the score then properly begins with Charlie Sneaks Out, with percussion and electric guitars playing a more dramatic rendition of the theme for Charlie. Bee’s Had Enough then properly kicks this high octane side of Bumblebee into gear with rapid strings, frantic brass and even bringing the rather creepy synth from Cybertron Falls back. What this track isn’t however, is different. There’s no real recognisable motifs, no radically different musical style – it’s nothing we haven’t heard before. The music isn’t unique, it isn’t interesting. If I hadn’t heard this score and someone played this track to me, I might say Mission:Impossible or something Hans Zimmer-related. It doesn’t even sound like Transformers, it’s just (and I hate using this word) generic.
Charlie Dives In and Not Quite There then bring back the softer and more emotional side to Bumblebee for one last hurrah before the score closes out. Charlie’s theme makes a welcome but unfortunately short return, and we get a rather relaxing electric guitar and strings combination for a few minutes before Bumblebee finally ends *cough* sorry I mean; draws to a close.
Overall, the score to Bumblebee is fine. It’s not ridiculously great or horrendously awful, it’s just…nothing special. Steve Jablonsky’s themes from his iconic scores for the Transformers franchise do not make an appearance, which is a shame. Occasionally I thought I heard a note or two from them, but it was probably just me desperately trying to find something to like in this album. I’m finding it difficult actually to conclude this review, because I can’t just hate on the score (as it’s not awful) but I can’t praise it either (as it’s not good) so…I’ll leave you with this; I didn’t enjoy it, and will likely never listen to it again, because Bumblebee is just an OK score – and that isn’t enough for me.
Bumblebee is forgettable. Dull, boring – nothing we haven’t heard a million times before.
Standout Cue: 5. Meeting Bumblebee