SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Transformers: The Last Knight, in theaters now.
For a couple years now, we’ve known that Paramount Pictures is planning a number of spinoffs for its insanely-lucrative Transformers franchise. The first of which will reportedly be a movie starring the fan-favorite Autobot and Optimus Prime’s best buddy, Bumblebee. The yet-to-be titled film has been shrouded in mystery — but there are a few key details that have been unearthed thus far that give us a sense of what to expect from the Michael Bay-less feature. Here’s what we know, so far.
All the way back in May of 2015, Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner indicated there were multiple planned spinoffs for the Transformers franchise, and even then, indicated Bumblebee would be the first to, ahem, roll out. “As we go forward, we would imagine several more Transformers movies, not just in the current lineage but also spinoffs and focusing on certain key characters that are beloved by the world over,” he said. “Many of you know Bumblebee, the yellow Camaro, formally known as a yellow VW Bug, and he is a beloved character by kids all over the world. We could see stories told around Bumblebee and other characters.”
Almost a year later, Paramount officially slated the Bumblebee film for a 2018 release, which has held to this day. It was touted upon its announcement as “the never-before-heard story of Bumblebee.”
Paramount CEO Brad Grey would go on to indicate that the Bumblebee flick would be made at a “lower cost” than previous Transformers films — known for their insanely-large budgets under director Michael Bay — saying, “There are characters in the Transformers universe that can be and should be made into their own movies…We will make the first movie with Michael [Bay] and go right into a Bumblebee movie, which will be at a lower cost.”
Grey, at the time, indicated Bay would be at the helm of the Bumblebee film — however, that quickly changed. It seemed Bay would simply work on the film in a producer capacity, as it was announced in March of this year that Travis Knight, director of the Oscar-nominated Kubo And The Two Strings — who also worked on films such as ParaNorman and Coraline — would step in to direct, lending his unique vision to the franchise, and becoming the first director other than Michael Bay to helm a live-action Transformers film. Shut In and Unforgettable scribe Christina Hodson would be hired to write the film.
As for casting the spinoff, word has been slim. The only actor or actress whose name has been attached to the project is Hailee Steinfeld, known for her roles in acclaimed films like True Grit and The Edge of Seventeen. Steinfeld would reportedly play the lead in the film. Long-time Transformers producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura teased in a recent interview, “It’s the story of a 17-, 18-year-old girl who, through a series of events, she and Bumblebee find each other, and they make each other whole.”
The producer added, revealing what makes a Bumblebee film interesting, “Bumblebee’s a very loving character. He’s got a lot of heart, so of course the idyllic life of these two is interrupted by the evil Decepticons. And how are they going to be able to deal with the problem without Optimus and without everybody else?”
Plot specifics are still very much under wraps — but we do know the film will be set in the ’80s. This centers on a time with “considerably fewer Transformers,” leaving the film “concentrating on the big, yellow star (who in the movies so far can only talk via snippets of radio broadcasts) and likely pitching a little younger, tonally.” This quote gives an indication that the Transformers spinoff may aim for a younger demographic, which would be a major departure from The Last Knight, which featured its fair share of cursing and violence.
How does an ’80s-set Bumblebee movie work in continuity, exactly? Well it’s been established in the last couple Transformers film, especially The Last Knight, that Transformers have been living on Earth and influencing historical events since The Dark Ages. There’s even a flashback to Bumblebee fighting Nazis in World War II.
Di Bonaventura would later compare the film to The Iron Giant — another period robot piece — which she also produced. “It reminds me a little bit of Iron Giant years ago when I did that movie at Warner Bros.,” she said. “It just reminds me a little bit of that where it was very contained and yet it didn’t feel small.”
All in all, we can gather that the Bumblebee film will be less of a globe-spanning epic, and more of a character-driven story focusing on the relationship between the titular Autobot and its leading lady, whomever that may be. The tone will be light, and skew towards a younger age group. And set in the ’80s, you can bet it’ll have nods to the original Transformers cartoon — after all, Bumblebee has been confirmed to appear in his classic Volkswagen Beetle form in the film, just as he did on the classic animated show.
Transformers: The Last Knight is significant in its passing-of-the-torch to Bumblebee as the flagship Autobot of the Transformers film series. It doesn’t necessarily set up a Bumblebee solo film, but it boasts a hefty amount of the character, and frames him as the top-Autobot in the wake of Optimus Prime’s absence. It’s even Bumblebee who manages to strike the final blow to Quintessa, and save the world at the end of the film.
We’re entering a new age of Transformers movies. With Michael Bay no longer directing (apparently), there’s room for new characters and fresh perspectives to shine. It seems Paramount is taking advantage of this opportunity with its Bumblebee film. We’ll just have to wait and see if it’s the breath of fresh air the franchise needs.
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