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Ever since the Transformers franchise started, they have existed under the watchful eye of one director: Michael Bay. This has been very good for Paramount, which made a lot of money off of the robots in disguise, but not so great for fans, as Bay's bombastic vision has pummeled a lot of the potential in the Transformers stories. This year, we finally will get to see what another filmmaker does with the series when Travis Knight's Bumblebee reaches theaters, and the blockbuster gave us our first look at footage here in Las Vegas at CinemaCon.
Paramount showed off an entire scene from Travis Knight's film, a "prequel" of sorts that will be set in the 1980s and go a long way towards explaining why we should love Bumblebee in the first place. 'Bee is the yellow Transformer, who -- at the start of this film -- is in the form of a Volkswagen bug. The clip begins on Charlie, a new teenage character played by Hailee Steinfeld. The alarm blares, and she's up in the morning and brushing her teeth, using her Walkman to listen to "Bigmouth Strikes Again" by The Smiths. The tone reminded me a lot of the opening of Back to the Future. When Charlie turns her headphones off, though, the song continues to play... but out in her garage. It's Bumblebee. He's using the music to communicate with Charlie.
Charlie goes out to the garage and starts to inspect the car. Why she's unfamiliar with it has not been explained. But when Charlie, who exudes a bit of a tomboy vibe, gets under the car to investigate, she sees Bumblebee's face looking back at her... and the car begins to transform. The transformation, as handled by Travis Knight and his team, is slow and deliberate. We sense the weight of moving parts -- no surprise, given that Knight is the CEO of Laika Studios and specializes in stop-motion animation and models for films like Coraline and Kubo and the Two Strings.
When Bumblebee is live-sized, he's shy. He can't communicate with Charlie, though she tries to figure out what his name might be. She decides to call him Bumblebee, because of the buzzes that he makes, and also the color of his paint scheme. It's a sweet scene, a tender scene. Words I haven't used in regards to the Transformers franchise yet.
As the panel for Bumblebee moved along, we saw additional footage of the action that's bound to come. This was described to us as a coming-of-age story for both Charlie and 'Bee, and it had that Amblin studio vibe of being nostalgic (shot on grainy film, for real warmth) and yet exciting. Evil forces eventually are going to try and come between Charlie and Bumblebee, and yes, there was a montage of what looked to be explosions and battle. There are even two other Transformers (at least) in the footage that we saw... possible villains.
But everything about Bumblebee, from what we saw, was on a smaller canvas than the Transformers movies have previous worked, and that's a good thing. If this movie can prove that story exists in the Transformers world, than new filmmakers can continue to step in and guide the franchise for years to come.
Bumblebee stars Hailee Steinfeld, Pamela Adlon and John Cena. It opens in theaters on December 21. Hopefully this footage will arrive online soon. Until then, bookmark our Movie Release Schedule for 2018 to see what else will be in theaters soon enough.