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Hailee Steinfeld with Bumblebee in the 2018 film

Although Michael Bay's Transformers films have always been towering, worldwide box office successes, it's been clear for quite some time that the franchise could do with a little less flame bursting and a lot more heart. The upcoming spinoff Bumblebee, about the origins of the lovable yellow Autobot, hopes to do just that as the film tells a heartwarming tale about the bond between a teenaged girl and the robot.

Sounds a bit like E.T. doesn't it? That comparison would be spot on, because as Bumblebee director Travis Knight recently stated, the plot for the spinoff had a lot to do with one legendary filmmaker's input. Here's what Knight said:

The original idea for this film actually was Steven [Spielberg's]. We can thank him for this film even existing.

That's right, Steven Spielberg pulled from one of his greatest films for the latest Transformers film, and the franchise will likely be better for it. Spielberg is an executive producer on Bumblebee and it looks like he took the opportunity for audiences to see a touching storyline throwback, as Travis Knight revealed to Yahoo Movies.

The spinoff is set in the '80s as a nod to when the popular toy first hit shelves, but also pays tribute to the 1982 classic. Travis Knight said when they decided on the era for Bumblebee, he decided he wanted to take the opportunity to acknowledge the films that meant a lot to him as a kid of the time, and much of Spielberg's work is threaded into that time.

The action-flick will center on Hailee Steinfeld as Charlie Watson, who finds an old yellow Volkswagon bug in a junkyard and rescues it, unaware that it's the Autobot Bumblebee. When the Transformer reveals himself to Charlie, the two form an unlikely friendly bond as Bumblebee becomes targeted by government agents, including John Cena as Agent Burns, and Decepticons as well.

Early reactions to Bumblebee have been overwhelmingly positive as critics have gushed about how they think it's the best Transformers film ever -- noting the blend of heart, solid performances, fun action sequences and '80s era influence.

The flick will mark the first of the franchise to not be directed by Michael Bay and seems to tone down the action sequences and have quite a different feel than the films based on the Hasbro toys that started in 2007 when Bumblebee met Shia LaBeouf's Sam Witwicky.

Steven Spielberg has actually served as executive producer on all five Transformers films, but the new director Travis Knight definitely brings something different to the table as he typically works with Laika Studios in the animation department. 2016's Kubo and the Two Strings, a stop-motion animation Japanese epic about family was his directorial debut.

Bumblebee comes to theaters on December 21, and for more holiday releases, check out our guide for movie releases of the season.

Hailee Steinfeld, John Cena and More Talk Bumblebee

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