The other Transformers films have grown in scope so much that it’s gotten to the point where giant robot dinosaurs and King Arthur are getting involved. But the scope of [Bumblebee] felt so much more intimate and based on the characters instead. Was that a deliberate choice going in?
Yeah, very much so.
So that didn’t evolve over the course of writing the movie?
If anything, it started even smaller and then grew bigger. But I always wanted it to be about Charlie and Bumblebee. Even at the end yes the stakes are big, yes there could be a Decipticon army coming, but it’s always about Charlie and Bumblebee.
It’s about Charlie helping Bumblebee because she loves him and can’t leave him. They found family in each other. It’s kinda about protecting them and that bond. So the stakes are big, but the emotional stakes are always intimate and small.
One of the best elements of the film was the contrasts throughout, especially with Charlie’s step-father telling her to smile more because she’s seems so disconnected from the world. But in the next sequence, she’s getting Bumblebee and genuinely smiling with him. How fun was it to find those kind of connections for the characters?
It was really fun, and I think so much about what I wanted to do with the family is to see that it’s not ‘they’re bad, she’s good’, it’s just that [Charlie’s] just disconnected from them. She’s hurting so much because she’s misses her father, and she hasn’t really been able to bond with them. Even that scene where she comes through and sees them all watching TV together and she’s completely separate from them, it’s not that she’s lost all joy. It’s just that she’s lost the ability to have a connection with the rest of the world.
Bumblebee really is about her rediscovering who she is and rediscovering those relationships so that by the end of the movie we can feel like we’re really leaving her in a good place. Where she is kind of healed and she is kind of back with her family in a good way.
In these kind of movies, the stepfather is, if not outright villainous, tends to lean into an, “Ugh, you’re not my real dad!" relationship with the younger characters. But in this film, the stepdad, Ron, ends up becoming so likable!
He’s a good guy! In the end, it was the “more than meets the eye" thing that we wanted to do. We wanted to keep that in mind with all the secondary characters even. To turn things a little bit on their head. Take the trope and push it a little bit further.
If you were to hypothetically do another Transformers film, what would you want to explore? Is there any element you’d want to jump into?
I may have some ideas, but they are definitely secret!
Directed by Travis Knight (Kubo and the Two Strings) from a script by Christina Hodson (Birds of Prey), Bumblebee stars Hailee Steinfeld, John Cena, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Pamela Adlon, Jason Drucker, Abby Quinn, Rachel Crow, Ricardo Hoyos, and Gracie Dzienny. The film arrives on Dec. 21.