Bumblebee is going to be an interesting part of the Transformers saga. It’s the first film not directed by Michael Bay — LAIKA founder Travis Knight takes over behind the camera — and it’s a prequel with a very different tone than the rest of the series. But, that might actually be a good thing.
We were at CinemaCon and got to see the first footage from Bumblebee. Check out our reaction!
More Iron Giant Than Transformers
The first Transformers spin-off is set in the ’90s and features the franchise’s first female lead, a teen named Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld). The scene we saw had Charlie and the titular Autobot meeting for the first time.
Charlie awakens on her 18th birthday and goes to the garage where she discovers a yellow VW Beetle. An amateur mechanic, Charlie slides under the car only to discover a robotic face as part of the chassis. The Beetle then transforms into a robot. While Charlie is frightened at first, she sees the robot cowering in a corner and whimpering. It’s more afraid of her than she is of it.
“Do you speak,” Charlie asks. “I’m not going to hurt you.” The robot responds in a series of sad whirs and buzzes, which gives its new owner inspiration for a name.
“Bumblebee,” Charlie declares. “I’m going to call you Bumblebee. It matches your outfit,” pointing to his yellow chassis.
The scene is a sweeter, slower-paced intro than the previous Transformers films and it really does remind one of The Iron Giant. More than any other Transformers film, this sequence displays a real understanding of the characters and making the audience really care about them. But, don’t worry. Director Travis Knight promises “lots and lots of explosions.”
Is Starscream the Big Bad?
In addition to Bumblebee, there are two yet-to-be identified robots – a red car and blue helicopter. But the big reveal in the action-packed trailer was the potential villain of the film: the jet fighter Starscream. We saw him fighting with Bumblebee and it was clear from his jet wings and red/blue color pattern that it was the classic henchman. It looks like all the robots have undergone a design change and it’s kind of for the better. While they still retain a lot of the original look from the other movies, there is something less manic and more polished in their look.
As someone who doesn’t dig the Transformers movies, Bumblebee actually felt like a fun action film for younger audiences. Plus, the Transformers themselves feel more tangibly real thanks to Knight’s attention to physical detail and his directing style. If you were going to write off Bumblebee, don’t be so quick to judge. This could be one of the big surprises of the year.
Bumblebee opens in theaters on December 21 in the US and December 26 in the UK.