By Anthony Breznican
June 05, 2018 at 03:06 AM EDT

Yes, Transformers are more than meets the eye. But after watching this trailer, maybe there’s a little dust in the eye, too.

The new trailer for the Transformers spin-off Bumblebee aims for the heart and packs a surprising emotional punch for a franchise that’s not known for subtlety, quiet, or soulfulness.

The new film, directed by Kubo and the Two Strings filmmaker Travis Knight instead of Michael Bay, is a throwback in lots of ways. It’s set in 1987 rather than the present, and it restores Bumblebee to the form that kids of the ’80s remember best: a bright yellow Volkswagen Beetle.

To be fair, there are some nods to the Bay films. The Bumblebee trailer begins with the voice of used-car dealer Bobby B. (Bernie Mac) from 2007’s Transformers, saying the lines, “The cars pick their drivers. It’s a mystical bond between man and machine.”

Only in this movie, it’s girl and machine. Hailee Steinfeld plays Charlie Watson, a teenage tomboy who’s yearning for freedom — and willing to work hard for it. To her, the junker VW Beetle she buys to refurbish is the gateway to a whole new world.

What she doesn’t know until she looks underneath is that this vehicle is a shapeshifting alien robot with a damaged voice-box who is on the run from Sector 7’s chief Transformer-hunter, Agent Burns (John Cena.)

There’s a lot of explosions, some helicopter wrestling, and a menacing-looking Decepticon jet (whose identity has not yet been specified), but the most impressive thing about Bumblebee is the E.T. vibe Knight has managed to capture.

This is a hairpin turn for the franchise, but a necessary one. Here’s hoping they capture the deeper emotion that made these Hasbro playthings mean so much to generations of fans.

For a deeper dive, check out EW’s gallery decoding the Bumblebee trailer.

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