At San Diego Comic-Con this weekend, Bumblebee writer Christina Hodson gave her reasons for the Transformers spinoff's 1980s setting. It has a narrative purpose, sure, considering it's depicting the early adventures of the yellow Autobot before the rest of his team arrived, but Hodson also had some additional reasons for choosing that era.
Bumblebee takes place in 1987. This puts its events 20 years before director Michael Bay's first live-action film. The hero will have a vintage look based on the early Transformers cartoon, and some new human friends. This is several years before original series hero Sam Witwicky was even born, so Bumblebee is teaming up with some new characters, including Charlie Watson (played by True Grit's Hailee Steinfield).
Speaking to Screen Rant at Comic-Con, Hodson revealed that the main reason for placing the story in 1987 was to pay tribute to the original "Generation 1" animated series, The Transformers. It ran from 1984 to 1987 and, along with the tie-in toys from Hasbro, was a cornerstone of many a young geek's childhood. But the cartoon wasn't the only reason she chose that era.
"Honestly, I want to tell a pretty timeless story with this one," Hodson said. "I grew up on Amblin movies. I always loved the way those movies did kind of feel timeless. They felt like they could exist anytime, anyone in this small town that felt almost like a bubble. And the 80's felt like a natural fit. I grew up in the 80's. It's when Transformers became a big thing. It's when a lot of people fell in love with Bumblebee, so it made sense to do it then."
Amblin Entertainment is director/producer Steven Spielberg's production company. It created some of the most beloved films of the '80s. These include Spielberg's own E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Gremlins, The Goonies, and Back to the Future. Those are among the most must-see movies from the decade, and, like Bumblebee, they're about normal kids having fantastic adventures. The E.T. connection is especially apt, since that film's young heroes had to protect their alien friend from government agents. Bumblebee director Travis Knight shares Hodson's affinity for the era. Also a child of the '80s, he remembers the impact that the Transformers had on his own early years. And he, too, has a special place in his heart for Amblin movies.
"I was around when the first wave of Transformers hit our shores," he said. "I love these characters. The first feeling that I got when I saw the Transformers was wonder. I couldn't believe it. I'd never seen anything like it. I thought they were so completely awesome, but at the same time I grew up, you know, loving '80's cinema and there was nothing for me that was more meaningful than those great Amblin, Spielberg, Spielberg-ian coming of age stories.
The first movie that moved me to tears, was E.T. I saw in the movie theater with my mom and I remember seeing this whole thing transpire on screen and it was this incredibly moving portrait of childhood loneliness. It felt like someone had somehow peered into me and, and seen an aspect of me and put it on the screen.
Even at a very young age, what it made me realize was that that's what filmmaking is. It's a people connecting with each other. It's about sharing aspects of our lives and seeing that response, you know, around the world. It was a moving experience for me and that was the kind of thing that I wanted to bring to this film. That great Amblin vibe and it didn't hurt that our Executive Producer is Steven Spielberg, who was able to help guide us along the way."
Bumblebee was intended to inspire a series of Transformers spinoff films. But after the most recent movie, The Last Knight, failed to impress at the box office, Hasbro's plans for its Marvel-esque film universe might change. Reports have suggested that after this entry comes out in December, the Transformers franchise will "reset." But later statements from Hasbro's brand manager put that in doubt. It's unlikely that a studio would announce a reboot before the latest movie arrived in theaters. Such a revelation wouldn't encourage audiences to line up for tickets. But until it's known for sure, Bumblebee is promising to be a nostalgic ride for fans who are hoping to see more of what they grew up with.
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- Bumblebee (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018