Things are changing in the new Transformers movie. This December’s Bumblebee has dropped its first trailer, and we’re getting — astoundingly — a more intimate shapeshifting robot tale. There’s new depth in director Travis Knight’s film, but the biggest change is on the surface…
Bumblebee is recognizable from the Michael Bay Transformer films (not that anyone was keeping track of canon there), but he has a cleaner silhouette now. You see the VW Beetle in him, even in robot form. And some of the overly complex clockwork has been pared back.
Can you imagine hugging the Bumblebee from those earlier films? Not unless you wanted to get your hair caught in those gears. This simplification automatically makes Bumblebee a warmer film.
Maybe it’s not as badass as a Camaro, but there’s something so endearing about the VW Beetle version of Bumblebee. There always was. His charm came from being kind of dorky but having the biggest heart, not from being a smooth, sleek muscle car. (Bonus points to Knight for achieving ’80s versimilitude by making the Watson family vehicle a Family Truckster-like stationwagon from National Lampoon’s Vacation.)
Hailee Steinfeld plays Charlie, a tomboy who sees the yellow Beetle as a work-in-progress, something to fix and improve, not unlike herself. Jorge Lendeborg Jr. costars as her neighbor Memo, who becomes aware of the secret identity of her new fixer-upper.
John Cena is the heavy, although if E.T. is an inspiration, he may be a bad guy along the lines of Peter Coyote’s Keys — someone who thinks he’s doing what’s right, but has a lot to learn. He’s working on behalf of Sector 7, which we know from the Bay films as the government agency that tracks Transformers.
There will only be a small handful of Transformers in the film, with only three main Decepticons. Here’s one of them — a Jet whose transformation closely mirrors the design of the ’80s toys. But who is it? The filmmakers aren’t revealing just yet, but fans will know the name well.
How did Han Solo get his name, you ask?
Actually, there are a lot of “bee” references that explain why this Cybertronian soldier on a mission to Earth draws comparisons to a Bumblebee. His battlemask is one obvious example.
Before Bumblebee takes the form of the Volkswagen Beetle, he has scanned another Earth vehicle for his disguise. It’s hard to discern exactly which one, though. It’s probably too optimistic to hope it’s a VW Thing.
The goal of Bumblebee will be to renew affection for Transformers, to deliver a movie that has the kind of heart and affection that have made these characters endure for three decades. But already, they’ve alienated Rick Astley fans. Maybe they can win them back by the time of the Dec. 21 release.