Paramount is bringing back the Transformers film franchise in a different way and it showed with their exciting and fan-focused panel presentation at Comic-Con International 2018 in San Diego today for Bumblebee.
It even started with a live Stan Bush performance “The Touch”, laser light show included.
The panel began with director Travis Knight (Kubo and the Two Strings) solo on stage, discussing his animation background, love of original G1 Transformers, and how he wanted to do something different and more intimate with Bumblebee. A featurette video played about the process, emphasizing that Bumblebee is a "coming of age" story for both the titular Autobot, and Charlie Watson (Hailee Steinfeld).
Knight explains that coming from background in animation, you start with "blank canvas" and can build entire worlds. With Transformers, he says it can be incoherent visually with all that metal smashing together and so that's why with his designs everything has its own color scheme and silhouette so audiences can better define the characters. And of course, all of the designs harken back to G1 wave of original Transformers. They're a "modernization," a hybrid of old school animated aesthetics and the live-action Bumblebee we’ve known for years.
"You don’t want Charlie’s hand to look like it’s going to be eaten up by all these gears in Bumblebee’s hands."
Bumblebee represents the first live-action film for Knight who says the filmmaking process is much slower in animation, but with similar teams and processes. A huge component on VFX films is the animation so there’s an obvious analog, says Knight who says he treated animators like actors since they bring key characters to life.
Bumblebee is an origin story
Bumblebee is an origin story. He’s always been the one Transformer with the strongest connection to humanity. “This film effectively answers that question,” We'll see why he becomes the character he becomes in the other movies. As for why Bumblebee is on his own here on Earth, Travis slightly dodged that question by explaining that he's an adolescent character. That’s the framework they looked at for this character in this movie.
Do we get to see Cybertron? Yes. “And let me say, it is awesome,” Knight happily emphasized. Bumblebee movie also is written to work for moviegoers who haven’t seen the others.
Haelee Steinfeld and Jorge Lendeborg Jr. then joined Knight on stage, to talk about their chracters who are allies of Bumblebee.
- Charlie Watson (Steinfeld) is a typical, misunderstood teenager who’s experienced a major loss in her life. She craves freedom and friendship. “She sees that within a car that works,” says Steinfeld.
- Memo (Lendeborg) is a geek, loves Larry Bird and Gobots and has a crush on his neighbor Charlie which is how he gets pulled into the Bumblebee alien robot adventure. He’s shy and through the arc we see him develop confidence, sincerity.
More info on Bumblebee's Decepticons
Shatter (voiced by Angela Bassett, red in color) and Dropkick (blue in color, voiced by Justin Theroux) are the two Decepticons after Bumblebee pictured above. And these are different. They’re more complex in design and that’s because they’re triple-changers. They are muscle cars but also flying vehicles, as any fan knows G1 Decepticons tend to be.
- Shatter also turns into a harrier jet - is inspired by Nightbird from G1 era who's a ninja-style Decepticon.
- Dropkick can turn into a chopper - inspired by Megatron.
You can see hints of those vehicle parts on their designs. Look at the shoulders and lower chest of the blue Decepticon Dropkick and you can see helicopter parts along with the muscle car doors stick out the sides of the back. The same goes for jet parts in Shatter's shoulders and above the knees.
Starscream is actually Blitzwing
The funniest part of the panel (outside of everything John Cena said and did) was Travis Knight proclaiming he's going to break some hearts with a clarification when he revealed that the flying jet Decepticon from the Bumblebee trailer and CinemaCon footage isn't Starscream as everyone guessed. It's actually Blitzwing.
As for the other antagonist, but on the human side, we have Agent Burns – John Cena’s character – who thinks he’s right in everything he does. “He knows he’s right” says Cena.
Bumblebee SDCC 2018 Footage Description
The footage begins with military units chasing Bumblebee through a forest as Bumblebee chops down some trees to slow him down. Bumblebee approches a clearning only to see it's the side of a mine in a super tall cliff/mountain wall. It's a dead end and the units surround him as one crashes into him knocking him down. Agent Burns (Cena) is in the back of a Humvee-esque vehicle with a tow cable gun turret and Bumblebee seems prepared to surrender (he turns off his battle mask). And just as this happens a jet fighter flies by in the sky and Burns questions who called in the Airforce.
It's of course Blitzwing who flies in and attacks, seemingly killing most of the soldiers with a barrage of missiles. He crashes into Bumblebee picking him up as they fly up against the side of the mountain, scraping it all the way up. Blitzwing seemingly handles Bumblebee easily and speaks, sentencing him to "death" as he fires machine guns from his arm into Bumblebee. As Bumblebee is about to slip off the edge, Blitzwing grabs him, holds him up - this is where it's emphasized how much bigger the Decepticon is compared to our little hero - and then drops him off the edge.
Bumblebee falls all the way down and seemingly passes out next to a river and we see from his perspective that he's losing his memory core. As he’s shutting down he sees the VW bug at a nearby campsite so that’s how he gets this form.
In the next scene, Charlie (on her 18th B-Day) wakes up in her trailer home - all decked out in '80s stuff - brushes her teeth while listening to a walkman and then goes through a junkyard looking for valuable or useful parts and finds the car under a tarp (after knocking the boats over). She makes a deal with the junkyard owner to work for him for a year if she can get the car to work and keep it. She tells him it’s her B-Day and he lets her have it.
In her garage – as we see in trailer - she discovers he’s a robot who acts like a scared child. It's a touching scene and it's clear how much Charlie is looking for a connection from a friend. Bumblebee can’t speak but can understand her. They bond immediately and Charlie says he sounds like a Bumblebee and that’s how he gets the name (also, when she first found him there was a beehive under one of the wheels)
There are a few other scenes after this, but the key one is Shatter and Dropkick make deal with the military (Sector 7) and telling them that there's a fugitive from their planet that they're hunting (Bumblebee). The Sector 7 leader sees an opportunity to work together with them.
We also see Optimus Prime briefly in a hologram, embracing an awesome G1 design. One sequence even has Bumblebee looking actually like his G1 design while half-transformed inside a tunnel chase sequence. This movie takes place 20 years prior to the first first Michael Bay film. We also get a glimpse of Hoover Dam which connects to the first film as well.
This #SDCC post is brought to you in partnership with Regal Cinemas.
- Bumblebee (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018