The Transformers live-action films are at the center of a dichotomy. The CGI and explosion spectacle of the films made them huge box-office hits, but much of the original audience of the Transformers -- those who grew up watching the old cartoons and collecting the shape-shifting toys -- aren't fans.
The movies only grew bigger, louder and longer and, over time, even the general audience might have felt a bit of action fatigue with the fifth entry in the franchise, Transformers: The Last Knight. The summer 2017 release pulled in disappointing box-office numbers, and interest in the franchise seemed to die down -- enough that Paramount has opted to pull the seventh Transformers film from its schedule.
Yet the wind might have just shifted in the Transformers' favor once again. Tuesday saw the release of the first trailer for the solo spinoff film Bumblebee, and the film looks to be a breath of fresh air compared to the overly complicated and Earth-threatening proceedings of the ensemble films. The film seems to occupy a much smaller scale, and it appears to tell a much more intimate story. For that reason, even though further plans for the Transformers films have been put on hold, we wonder if Bumblebee could be the film to reignite interest in the franchise.
At the center of Bumblebee, there is a relationship between Hailee Steinfeld's Charlie Watson and the Autobot. This friendship between the two seems to callback to the first Transformers film, which started with Bumblebee and Sam forging a bond of trust. With this approach, Bumblebee looks to be going back to basics, and almost serving as a new beginning that will take its time in exploring this relationship instead of rushing through it to get to the thick of the action. A more intimate story is one that has been sorely lacking from the five previous films, and it's one that may inject some much-needed heart in a franchise that, for the most part, has been as cold as the metal of its leading robots.
Moreover, Bumblebee is a period piece set in the '80s, meaning that it instantly sets itself apart from the pack. It divorces itself from the main timeline of Michael Bay's movies and is therefore allowed to tell its own little story. On top of that, this time setting is one that should appeal to old-school Transformers fans, given that this is the era when the toys and cartoons skyrocketed into popularity. The nostalgia effect of the time period, married with the classic design of Bumblebee's yellow Volkswagen Beetle, should bring the film closer to its roots -- and that can only be a good thing.
Looking closely at the trailer, there even appears to be an Iron Giant quality to Bumblebee. The tight bond between a teenager and her robot friend, the malevolent presence of the army, a machine with the heart of a hero -- these are all elements that call back to a classic and beloved animated film. This is in no small part due to the guiding hand of director Travis Knight, who looks to have made a film that leaves the mind-numbing battles of previous films in its rear-view mirror.
Bumblebee appears to be the Transformers films fans have been waiting for and the one they always deserved. If so, hopefully it hasn't come too late.
Directed by Travis Knight (Kubo and the Two Strings) from a script by Christina Hodson, Bumblebee stars Hailee Steinfeld, John Cena, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Pamela Adlon, Jason Drucker, Abby Quinn, Rachel Crow, Ricardo Hoyos and Gracie Dzienny. The film is scheduled for release on Dec. 21.
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