The latest installment in the Transformers film series is almost here. Bumblebee is rolling out to theaters on December 21. It’s a prequel that shows the eponymous Autobot’s early days on Earth, back when his vehicle form was still an adorable Volkswagen Beetle.
But if your first response to new Transformers movie is something like, “Ugh, not another one,” just wait a second. There are plenty of reasons to pay attention to this one. Here are five ways Bumblebee is shaking up the series’ formula and proving that it’s a different kind of Transformers movie.
There’s a Brand New Director with an Awesome Filmography
Bumblebee is the sixth live-action Transformers movie and the first that is not directed by explosion fetishist Michael Bay. If the older films were maybe a little too loud for you, you might be interested in the new face behind the camera.
That’s Travis Knight, who is relatively new to directing but is no stranger to filmmaking. He helmed 2016’s Kubo and the Two Strings and worked as an animator on Coraline and ParaNorman. He’s no stranger to special effects, which will help him manage the performances of the computer-generated characters in this movie. His previous work has also been a bit more kid-friendly than the earlier Transformers entries, which may be a good approach to take with a series based on a toy line about shapeshifting space robots.
There’s a Female Lead — That’s New
For the most part, Bay’s contributions to the franchise have been among the bro-iest movies that ever bro’d. The main characters have been men, mostly doing man things, and it’s gotten progressively more strange to see grown dudes talking to huge machine men. But Bumblebee changes direction in more ways than one.
This time around, the main character is 17-year-old Charlie Watson, played by Hailee Steinfeld. This returns the series to its animated-series roots, in which the Autobots’ allies were typically children with a taste for adventure. Steinfeld should bring some much-needed youthful energy and fun to the series.
There’s a Totally Different Setting and Vibe
Bumblebee takes place in 1987, which is the year after the animated TV series ended. This will also help it appeal to adults who grew up watching the cartoon while also providing a lighter tone.
The ‘80s are generally just a more fun time period to set movies in. The music is lighter, the colors are brighter, and you could board an airplane without taking your shoes off first. This era should help to keep things a little more fun than the previous movies’ grimy, military gunfest.
It’s Got G1 Transformers Toy Nostalgia
The Autobots and Decepticons are getting some retro looks to go along with the era. Bumblebee himself will sport a couple of looks based on his original toy and cartoon versions.
This means he’ll get away from the earlier entries’ exposed metal bits and cables and have a brighter, yellow-armored look. It’s a more basic style, but it’s classic and fun. He won’t be quite as boxy as he looked in the animated series, but he’ll have simple shapes and tons of color so he won’t look so much like the tangle of cables behind your TV like the robots in the other movies. And he isn’t the only one getting this treatment. Another nice callback has the Decepticon, Soundwave, taking on his cassette-player alternate form, complete with his “tape,” Ravage.
The Transformers Look Amazing and There Are Triple-Changers
Not only is Bumblebee alone on Earth while the rest of the Autobots fight a civil war on their home planet of Cybertron, but he also has some incredibly powerful enemies to face. New villains Shatter and Dropkick, who have pursued Bumblebee to Earth, have an ability that’s rare among Transformers.
Specifically, they’re Triple Changers, which means that they have three different forms. Shatter’s two vehicle configurations are a 1971 Plymouth GTX muscle car and a Harrier jet. Dropkick can transform into an AMC Javelin and a SuperCobra attack helicopter. These extra options make them an even bigger threat to the hero and should provide opportunities for some impressive action sequences.