Directed by Travis Knight (Kubo and the Two Strings) and written by Christina Hodgson, Bumblebee looks to be a necessary de-escalation from the last time the robots in disguise hit the big screen, 2017's Transformers: The Last Knight. That fifth Transformers film established the heretofore unknown 'hidden history' of the Cybertronians on Earth: they have been here for thousands of years, influenced in key historical events like World War II, and that Earth itself is secretly Unicron, the greatest enemy of the sentient robots of Cybertron. Ultimately, The Last Knight exhausted audiences and Bay's fifth and final Transformers movie ended up as the lowest grossing of the series at the box office.
By contrast, Bumblebee looks to be a conscious effort on the part of the filmmakers to return to what made the original Transformers film in 2007 such a hit in the first place. Bay's inaugural effort wasn't without numerous flaws, but audiences a decade ago took a shine to seeing the good and evil robots of Cybertron go to war on Earth, with Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, and soldiers led by Josh Duhamel and Tyrese fighting alongside Optimus Prime and the Autobots.
Here's how it's already evident from the teaser trailer that Bumblebee is addressing some of the biggest problems fans had with Michael Bay's Transformers:
- This Page: The Robots In Bumblebee Look Better
- Page 2: Bumblebee Has a Smaller Scale and More Heart
The Lack of Color And The Uniformity of Bay's Transformers
Probably the most pleasing fan service moment in the teaser is the sight of Starscream transforming, and that the wannabe leader of the Decepticons is in his Generation-1 mode as a red and white fighter jet. Even these scant few seconds of Starscream pop, and that's because Bumblebee's color scheme appears brighter than in Bay's films. Throughout the previous five Transformers, much of the robot vs. robot action takes place at night, while the brightest daylight shots showcased the vehicles rolling out (but not transforming into their robot modes). With a few key exceptions, most of the robots appeared indistinguishable and interchangeable. The Last Knight especially bled out a lot of the color during post-production, creating a more metallic sheen to the images.
Bumblebee is notably going for Steven Spielberg-style 1980s' warmth and that includes letting the movie be more colorful and feel more real. Bumblebee's gleaming yellow and Starscream's colors appear brighter and, by limiting the number of robots in the movie, it will be easier to invest in them as characters as opposed to the one-dimensional (and frankly racist) stereotypes Bay leaned into.
The Robot Mechanics In Bumblebee Look More Real Than Ever
In the trailer, Charlie Watson (Hailee Steinfeld), who is a mechanic, slides underneath the chassis of the yellow Volkswagen beetle she brought home from a junkyard and is surprised to see what looks like a robot face. She's even more surprised when the face's eyes light up and the car transforms into a frightened robot. The visual effects here look flawless and the physics, physical scale, and movements of Bumblebee look more realistic than ever before. CGI has come a long way in the decade since the first Transformers and Bumblebee looks the best he's ever looked.
Much of this has to do with the prequel dropping Michael Bay's robot designs (which is one of the many controversies sparked by the director) and instead adopting the simpler and beloved Generation-1 look of the Transformers from when they hit American toy shelves and TV screens in the early 1980s. Not only is Bumblebee a Volkswagen, but the way he transforms in the prequel very closely resembles how his original toy would transform, with his head swinging down into the bottom of his chassis when he's in vehicle mode.
Similarly, Starscream's look is pleasingly a G-1 design (though he is an F-4 Phantom II in Bumblebee and not an F-15 Eagle). Between his white, red, and blue color scheme and how he also transforms just like his original toy does, Starscream looks like Starscream, which will go a long way to winning over longtime Transformers diehards who rejected the Bayformers designs.
- Bumblebee (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018