We’re getting our first look at the Transformers spinoff film Bumblebee, as a new image features star Hailee Steinfeld and the titular Autobot hero, who is taking on the form of a classic Volkswagen Beetle just like he did in the original Generation 1 cartoon.

Despite widespread critical derision, the Transformers franchise had been one of the most reliable box office performers of the last decade until this year’s Transformers: The Last Knight, which severely underperformed financially and suggested the alien robot franchise was in need of fresh blood. The first step in retooling the cinematic robots in disguise comes in the form of the Bumblebee spinoff film. The film, directed by Kubo and the Two Strings’ Travis Knight, is a prequel set in a small California town in 1987, with Steinfeld’s Charlie Watson stumbling upon the the lovable Autobot scout. The film will reportedly be jettisoning some of Michael Bay’s excess, aiming for a more family-friendly tone.

Related: Bumblebee Will Have a Much Smaller Budget

The first image from the film’s production is certainly encouraging. Empire has shared an image of Steinfeld’s Charlie standing by a dusty old Volkswagen Beetle in the desert, which you can check out at CBM.

Transformers The Movie   Bumblebee Spike Bumblebee Photo Reveals Hailee Steinfeld With Autobot in Classic Form

Longtime Transformers fans will likely be delighted by this image, as it invokes the memory of the Generation 1 cartoon, where Bumblebee was a chatty, spunky Beetle, rather than the mute muscle car of the Bay movies. The pivot to an 80s period piece also suggests the film will lean into the built-in nostalgia of its earliest source material while still presumably staying in loose continuity with the Bay films – though it might do well to take a lesson from the X-Men films and not get too worried over continuity in favor of telling a good story.

A Bumblebee spinoff by a decidedly non-Michael Bay director makes sense as a course correction for the Transformers movies, which for many had become an easy shorthand for all of the worst impulses of big budget, franchise filmmaking, increasingly consumed by spectacle and mythology at the expense of likable characters and plots that made sense. Reducing the Autobot cast to the most popular hero outside of Optimus Prime – though voice actor Peter Cullen has said he has a role in the film – is a quick and easy way to cut out the increasingly ridiculous mythology and curtail the overwhelming CGI blur of dozens of robots pounding each other in favor of telling an actual story. Transformers deserves to be a fun, respected film franchise, and this feels like a step in the right direction.

More: Transformers: 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Revenge Of The Fallen

Source: Empire [via CBM]

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