Transformers: The Last Knight producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura says the franchise’s first spinoff film, Bumblebee, will have an Iron Giant-like vibe and will be set in the 1980s. With the release of The Last Knight in theaters this week, one Transformers era will end and make way for a new one in the process.
After five films, The Last Knight signals the end of Michael Bay’s involvement as a Transformers director on the live-action movie franchise – and for the first time next year, Bumblebee, under the auspices of helmer Travis Knight, will become the first spinoff film in the series.
For the next generation, effectively, of Transformers films, the franchise is in a way going back to the beginning by setting Bumblebee in the 1980s. In a new interview with Collider, di Bonaventura confirmed the year the film will take place:
“I know we’re doing a spinoff first in the Bumblebee movie, and that is a very distinctive departure from what you’ve been seeing so far… The objective of that movie is to develop more time with less robots in a way, and to go back to 1985 and go back to sort of the original heritage if you would of the Transformers. G1.”
With the distinct time period will come a different vibe the producer says, which will be similar to writer/director Brad Bird’s animated classic The Iron Giant (which di Bonaventura also happened to produce):
“In fact it reminds me a little bit of Iron Giant years ago when I did that movie at Warner Bros. It just reminds me a little bit of that where it was very contained and yet it didn’t feel small.”
Oddly enough, Knight comes from an animated background in stop-motion, as the director of the Best Animated Feature Oscar nominee Kubo and the Two Strings and producer of the Oscar-nominated films The Boxtrolls, ParaNorman and Coraline. And while it might be a coincidence that di Bonaventura compares the atmosphere of Bumblebee to an animated film like The Iron Giant, there’s no question that the emotions Knight employed in his stop-motion offerings played a part in his hiring. According to di Bonaventura:
“There are dramatically less Transformers. We hired purposefully Travis Knight, who is a very distinct filmmaker. You can’t compete with Michael—you’re gonna lose. And also I think the audience wants something different all the time, let’s keep them interested. They’re gonna get a very emotionally complex story, a very tight story in terms of its location and in terms of its storytelling.”
Knight is already making distinct marks on Bumblebee. Chief among them is the inspired casting choice of True Grit Oscar nominee Hailee Steinfeld as the human lead in the film – who, if she signs on to the film, will play “a tomboy who also holds a job as a mechanic after school.” More casting announcements are bound to follow the release of The Last Knight in theaters, along with more story details and reveals of other G1 Transformers that will be part of the story.
Since Bumblebee is set in the 1980s (and before the burgeoning era of CGI), it will be interesting to see if Knight will be implementing the use of any practical effects to help tell his story. He’s obviously well-versed in telling stories with inanimate objects over computer renderings, so with any luck we’ll get a serving or two stop-motion-inspired animation with Bumblebee. If Knight is truly willing to make Bumblebee his own, the setting and the tone of the film that di Bonaventura describes will certainly afford the director his chance.