San Diego Comic Con happened last weekend, and you know what that means – lots of awesome panels, new announcements, and exclusive merchandise! One of the bigger panels this year was on Bumblebee, a new Transformers movie releasing December this year, with Travis Knight at the director.
The panel was held in Hall H, where the biggest and largest panels happen, and headed the activities on Friday morning. Travis Knight, along with stars Hailee Steinfeld, Jorge Lendeborg Jr, and John Cena, took the stage in leading the panel. Before the panel began, however, attendees were treated to a live performance of “The Touch” from the original Transformers: The Movie complete with fog, lasers, and even Stan Bush himself shredding on guitar and vocals. If you’ve never heard this great piece of the 80’s, check it out:
Once that blast to the past ended, the panel proper began. Knight, who previously worked at LAIKA which put out classics such as Kubo and the Two Strings, talked about his vision for this film and how his experience at LAIKA helped him with tactics such as bringing a world to life. It should also be noted that this is the first live action film for Knight, and that he felt that while there were some similarities between live action and animation, animation seemed to go a little slower than live action. Knight seems to love the Generation 1 look of the Transformers (which seems evident, given the panel’s 80’s-infused introduction), and wants to lean more on the vintage look for the ‘bots and less like Michael Bay’s mechanical grey look seen in the previous films. Knight wants each bot to have their own unique color pallets and silhouettes to make them easier to distinguish during fight scenes so they look less like, according to Knight, “Two Radioshacks reenacting the Karma Sutra.” And if anyone remembers the fight scenes from Bay’s movies, yes that grey mechanical look tended to complicate things and make it difficult to tell who was getting punched in the face.
Knight also says he’s drawing inspiration from the kinds of coming-of-age stories seen commonly in Stephen Spielberg movies, as well as wanting to bring in the combination of light and dark elements seen in LAIKA movies such as Kubo. Knight also wants to make something he feels is, “. . .more intimate and character driven,” diving into the elements such as why people love Bumblebee, and why they should love him. Almost sounds like Knight may be doing a character study of sorts?
The movie is a sort of origin story for Bumblebee, set 20 years before the first Transformers movie, showing how he went from a young Autobot to the hero we know and love him as in Bay’s Transformers flicks. Though as for the reason ‘Bee is on Earth to begin with? All Knight would tell us is that Bumblebee is “adolescent.” Nice sidestep. Knight is also taking newcomers of the series into account – so even if you haven’t seen all of the previous movies, you can still watch Bumblebee and enjoy it. Though series veterans are told that there will be plenty of easter eggs lorewise for them to catch in the film.
Knight says he wants to make something a little more intimate, bringing out that aim of a character-driven movie. He describes the film as being a “love story” of sorts between Bumblebee and Charlie, Steinfeld’s character: Charlie is a young girl going on 18, looking for her place in the world and a sense of freedom, which takes the form of a car for her. Well, enter Bumblebee, and the two hit it off quite nicely, becoming fast, tight friends.
The two set off on an adventure, matching wits with John Cena’s character, Burns, who leads Sector 7 in this movie. Never head of them? Never will. Anyway, Burns is described as a character who will be “morally grey”, as he really, truly believes his anti-Autobot stance is the correct one – which some will probably agree with, given the current state of Earth in the last Transformers movie.
Panel attendees were treated to a nice series of clips showing off various elements from the movie, such as Bumblebee and Charlie’s tender first meeting – on top of how Bumblebee got his name – and several action-packed scenes. There was a screaming jet Decepticon which we were informed was not indeed Starscream, but a newcomer to the movies named Blitzwing. Our dynamic duo will also have to match wits with Dropkick and Shatter, who Knight says are “Triple Changers”, able to transform between three forms: Dropkick shifts between being a muscle car and a chopper, while Shatter shifts between being a jet and a muscle car. Optimus Prime also appeared via-hologram as well.
Other cool elements of the film were teased as well, such as Cybertron, which Knight says we’ll get to see at some point in Bumblebee. Dropkick and Shatter will also apparently strike a deal with Burns and Sector 7, claiming that Bumbebee is a dangerous fugitive that they have to apprehend.
Personally, I’m rather excited for Bumblebee. It’s the first of the Transformers movies not directed by Michael Bay, but Knight sounds like he’s going to bring in his own vision for the franchise while still tying into the Bay movies. We’ll just have to see how well the movie does when it transforms and rolls out this December.