‘Bumblebee’ Spinoff Compared to ‘The Iron Giant’; 1985 Setting Confirmed
With Transformers: The Last Knight on the horizon, audiences are expecting an experience similar to the last four Transformers movies. Lots of explosions, big action, and comedic bits here and there. And while the film aims to expand the Transformers mythology by revealing a new backstory, it’s still a Michael Bay Transformers movie—we have a pretty good handle on what that feels like by now. But Bay says The Last Knight will be his final go-around with the Transformers franchise, and Paramount Pictures now has the first Transformers movie not directed by Bay set for release: a Bumblebee spinoff that’s due to hit theaters on June 8, 2018.
Before Bay committed to directing The Last Knight, he and executive producer Steven Spielberg put together a writers room to come up with story ideas for future Transformers sequels and spinoffs. One idea that came out of that room was a spinoff focused on the Bumblebee character, written by Christina Hodson. Paramount moved quickly, hiring LAIKA CEO and Kubo and the Two Strings director Travis Knight to make his live-action directorial debut, and the film is reportedly eyeing Hailee Steinfeld to star.
But when Bumblebee hits theaters next year, audiences can expect a very different kind of Transformers movie. Collider’s own Steve Weintraub recently spoke with producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura at the press day for The Last Knight, and he teased a distinctive film while confirming that Bumblebee will indeed take place in the 1980s:
“I know we’re doing a spinoff first in the Bumblebee movie, and that is a very distinctive departure from what you’ve been seeing so far… The objective of that movie is to develop more time with less robots in a way, and to go back to 1985 and go back to sort of the original heritage if you would of the Transformers. G1.”
1985 is an important year in Transformers lore—it’s the year after the toy line was first introduced, and the year that the “Generation 1” versions of all the Transformers really took off with the launch of the Transformers TV series. So it’s possible we could see some heavy nods to the toy history of this franchise in this film, and if Knight really wants to have some fun we could see a nod or two to Back to the Future, which was released in 1985.
Di Bonaventura also confirmed that Bumblebee will indeed have a female lead:
“So it has a very distinct idea in it, and then whatever is gonna happen with the chemistry is what’s gonna happen, but it really is a young female lead opposite Bumblebee, and I think Optimus is gonna be jealous that Bumblebee has his own movie.”
As for the “less Transformers” line, di Bonaventura stresses the distinctiveness of Bumblebee, and just focusing on just one or two Transformers in the course of a film will be a very different kind of dynamic from the previous movies:
“There are dramatically less Transformers. We hired purposefully Travis Knight, who is a very distinct filmmaker. You can’t compete with Michael—you’re gonna lose. And also I think the audience wants something different all the time, let’s keep them interested. They’re gonna get a very emotionally complex story, a very tight story in terms of its location and in terms of its storytelling.”
It’s here that di Bonaventura offers his most tantalizing tease yet by comparing the film to the classic The Iron Giant:
“In fact it reminds me a little bit of Iron Giant years ago when I did that movie at Warner Bros. It just reminds me a little bit of that where it was very contained and yet it didn’t feel small.”
Knight is an incredibly talented filmmaker and the idea for a more contained, 1980s-set, female-led Transformers movie is certainly promising. It’ll be interesting to see where the franchise goes after Bay leaves and these massive, $250 million versions take a break, and it really sounds like they’re going to be kicking things off with a bang with this Bumblebee movie.
Look for Steve’s full interview with di Bonaventura on Collider soon.