Director Travis Knight hopes to bring “heart and humor” to the Transformers franchise with Bumblebee: The Movie. After five installments in the mainline Transformers series, Paramount is preparing to release its first solo film/spinoff of the property. Bumblebee is not only the first spinoff movie in this universe, it’s also the first Transformers movie not directed by Michael Bay. Instead, Knight – director of the acclaimed stop motion animated feature Kubo and the Two Strings – will be taking the helm this time.
Knight started at Laika Entertainment as an animator before becoming CEO in 2009. He made his directorial debut last year with Kubo, and is now preparing to try his hand at directing a live-action film for the first time on Bumblebee. Knight’s vision for the Transformers spinoff has been likened to The Iron Giant in the past – and based on what Knight him self has to offer on the subject, that description isn’t far off.
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In an interview with Empire, Knight was asked about his approach to Bumblebee. Whereas the previous five Transformers movies kept upping the ante with each subsequent installment, Knight aims to breathe fresh life into the franchise by going smaller:
I wanted to approach this massive, expansive franchise and really focus in on a tiny corner of the canvas. Everything I’ve tried to do at Laika, searching for an artful blend of darkness and light, intensity and warmth, humor and heart, I wanted to bring to the Transformers franchise.
Much of the Bumblebee plot still remains a mystery, with the only marketing being the first look image that accompanied this quote (see above). What is known is that the film will follow Bumblebee in the 1980s, where a young woman named Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld) becomes his owner. While the Bumblebee synopsis does not give away anything beyond that, there have been reports of other Transformers showing up in the film too. Bumblebee has a smaller budget than the previous Transformers movies, meaning the film shouldn’t be too packed with robots in disguise either way.
Assuming that Knight makes good on his promise here, Bumblebee should make for a welcome change of pace for the Transformers franchise. While Bay’s movies have had some of the elements that Knight mentioned, they arguably haven’t had the right blend. For instance, Bay’s movies never lacked for attempts at comedy, but the execution of those jokes – and how his films went about trying to get laughs – leave much room for improvement. If this is what Knight aims to do with the tone of his film, while focusing on a simple story about a girl and her car, then Bumblebee could turn out exactly as Knight envisions.
Basically, if Bumblebee: The Movie is able to subvert most people’s expectations for the Transformers franchise, then it may yet usher in a new era for the property. And who knows? It might even prove to be the most popular Transformers movie yet.
MORE: Optimus Prime Will Appear in the Bumblebee Movie