Did you know that Bumblebee is going to be directed by Travis Knight instead of Michael Bay? I figured everyone did, but a big part of tonight’s Bumblebee panel was making sure we didn’t forget. So much so that they even showed a featurette all about the director before he took the stage that basically went out of its way to show how NOT Michael Bay the guy is.
But before that, we were treated to a live Stan Bush performance of “You’ve Got the Touch” complete with a crazy laser light show while footage affected by ‘80s-rich vector graphics played on screen. They are definitely pushing a happy, fun vibe with the film.
And it works! As weird as it feels to be excited about a new Transformers movie, here I am. Knight’s enthusiasm for the characters and focus on technical specifications while also making Bumblee actually look physically understandable really helps grow enthusiasm for what could be the first legitimately decent Transformers movie.
In that context, Knight’s reveal that the film (a prequel with mostly G1 character designs) will bring us to Cybertron was also cool news. Normally, I wouldn't care much about that, but after hearing Knight talk, I think it’s probably going to look interesting, especially for fans who have been waiting for more recognizable Transformers iconography for so long.
We also learned about the film’s villains. Bumblebee spends the film being tracked by two Decepticons, Shatter and Dropkick. They are triple changers, which means they are muscle cars, robots and a jet and helicopter, respectively. Because of this, they look a bit more like Bay’s Transformers, but I like that there’s a logical-ish reason for it. Meanwhile, there is also a human villain in the form of John Cena who entered Hall H from the back just like it were a wrestling match. The audience, of course, ate it up.
We then got to see some footage from the film. Bumblebee is in a forest running away from a bunch of military jerks. But then a Transformer jerk shows up to kill them and get Bumblebee. The two battle it out, during which Bumblebee is an underdog due to the act that he’s less than half the size of the other Transformer. Bumblebee gets his ass kicked and tossed off a mountain. The last thing he sees before shutting down is a yellow Volkswagen.
The footage then cut to a cute scene in which Hailee Steinfeld purchases Bumblebee from a sweet old guy. She takes him home and pretty quickly discovers she has something that’s more than meets the eye. Her interactions with Bumblee are adorable as his physical reactions to her are similar to that of a scared puppy. He doesn't really have a face, but they manage to make him expressive anyway.
Things got more montage-driven after this, almost like a trailer. Of special note was a hologram of G1 accurate Optimus Prime. Seems like that sort of thing should make people happy.
Overall, Bumblebee looks more like a kids film than anything (they actually had kids ask almost all the Q&A questions), but one that’s attempting to have a genuine heart, which is an obvious change of pace for this series. It may not be successful, and it will ultimately still be a big loud robot movie, but the attempt means a lot, and the panel definitely tried to emphasize how different this film wants to be under the hood.
Then the whole thing ended with Peter Cullen asking the last question as Optimus Prime. It was a perfect goofy Comic-Con moment.