Bumblebee in Transformers: The Last Knight

Michael Bay has helmed every Transformers movie since the property made the jump to live action in 2007, but soon we'll see how another director handles the robots in disguise. Kubo and the Two Strings helmer Travis Knight was tapped to oversee Bumblebee: The Movie earlier this year, which will follow the yellow Autobot several decades before he met Sam Witwicky. Bumblebee also doubles as Knight's live action directorial debut, but Knight will use what he learned on his animated projects as a way to distinguish the spinoff from Bay's Transformers movies. Knight explained:

I wanted to approach this massive, expansive franchise and really focus in on a tiny corner of the canvas. Everything I've tried to do at Laika, searching for an artful blend of darkness and light, intensity and warmth, humour and heart, I wanted to bring to the Transformers franchise.

Along with providing an exclusive image of Hailee Steinfeld's character next to Bumblebee in his VW Bug form, Empire chatted with Travis Knight about the creative sensibilities he's bringing to Bumblebee: The Movie that he absorbed working on Laika movies like Kubo and the Two Strings (which was his directorial debut), ParaNorman and The Boxtrolls. Unlike the previous Transformers movies, which have all been global adventures involving saving the world in one way or another, Bumblebee's scale won't be nearly as large, instead opting to tell a more personal story... well, as personal as you can get with a blockbuster featuring giant robots who turn into vehicles. To that effect, Knight hopes to achieve the same tonal balance he's achieved on his animated endeavors to give the public a Transformers movie which, although will still feel like it belongs in this cinematic universe, won't come off as being too similar to what Michael Bay has churned out the past five times.

The only plot details that have been revealed about Bumblebee: The Movie so far is that the story will see Hailee Steinfeld's Charlie Watson discovering the eponymous Autobot in a junkyard at a small California beach town in 1987. This year's Transformers: The Last Knight showed that Bumblebee has been on Earth for many decades, as evidenced by him aiding United States forces during World War II, but it remains to be seen how he has found himself in this predicament as the '80s are winding down. The spinoff's main cast also includes Jorge Lendeborg Jr., John Cena, Rachel Crow, Kenneth Choi, Pamela Arlon and Jason Drucker. At least one Decepticon will pop in to cause trouble, and we can also expect Optimus Prime to cameo.

Bumblebee: The Movie will roll out into theaters on December 21, 2018, putting it in competition with Aquaman that opening weekend. You can also look through our 2018 premiere guide to see what other major movies will be released next year.

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