Bumblebee Comic-Con

Even though the fan presence for Transformers is high at San Diego Comic-Con, the Paramount Pictures film franchise mostly stayed away from the convention center itself when it comes to promoting its upcoming would-be blockbuster. But it sounds like the studio might have something to prove with their first Transformers spin-off focusing on Optimus Prime’s right-hand Autobot.

Bumblebee takes the titular yellow Autobot, who debuted in live-action in the first Transformers movie back in 2007, out on his own adventure. But this time, we flashback to the 1980s when he encountered a teenage girl named Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld) in a small California beach town, and he was just a beat-up old Volkswagen beetle. The first trailer for Bumblebee gave us some flares of The Iron Giant and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, so did the Bumblebee Comic-Con panel in Hall H get us anymore excited? Find out below.

A Change of Pace from the Usual Transformers Movies

Without being direct, filmmaker Travis Knight throws a little shade at what made Transformers fans less than enthused with the film franchise directed by Michael Bay. Knight said:

“Anytime you have giant hunks of metal bashing into each other, you have to be careful about how you approach it. You don’t want two Radio Shacks reenacting the Kama Sutra. It’s a different movie. One I’m interested in, but not for this movie.”

Knight said he wanted to focus on a smaller cast, still bring some high-octane action, but with definitive character design that allowed fans to easily tell characters apart by silhouettes and colors. That’s why they designed the Autobots and Decepticons to look more like the original G1 designs of Transformers from the animated series, but with some modern flare.

Bumblebee - Shatter and Dropkick

New Decepticon Villains

We’ve already gotten a glimpse of the three new Decepticons who are in pursuit of Bumblebee in the movie. But we learned some new details about them during the Comic-Con panel. While both Shatter (voiced by Angela Bassett) and Dropkick (voiced by Justin Theroux) are muscle cars in their vehicle form, they are also Triple Changers that are able to transform into aerial vehicles as well. Shatter transformers into a Harrier jet while Dropkick turns into a helicopter. That’s why their design is a little more industrial and complex than that of Bumblebee.

However, there’s another Decepticon that’s seen flying through the air in the most recent trailer. While many fans have speculated and hoped that this would be Starscream, this Decepticon is in fact Blitzwing. He gets into a fight with Bumblebee after the Autobot was being chased through the woods by John Cena’s character Agent Burns and Burns’ military unit. After some tree smashing and explosions, Blitzwing shows up and delivers quite the beating upon Bumblebee.

After the scuffle carries up a cliffside, Blitzwing lifts Bumblebee up by his throat and drops him off a cliff. The Autobot is left clinging to life, on the verge of shutting down, but just before he passes out, he scans a Volkswagen Beetle.

Bumblebee Trailer

A Girl and Her Robot

As the footage continued, complete with a classic 1980s Paramount Pictures logo, we see Hailee Steinfeld wake up as Charlie. She tosses on her Walkman, plays “Bigmouth Strikes Again” by The Smiths as she cooks breakfast, and heads off to do some work in a boat junkyard. While digging through some old boats for parts, she stumbles upon the junked Bumblebee in vehicle form.

Upon taking Bumblebee home, we’ve already seen what happens when she discovers that there’s more than meets the eye with the car, which she’s hoping will help bring her some new freedom. But the footage shown at the panel presentation gave us a little more tender moments between Charlie and Bumblebee. Initially, the Autobot is just as scared as Charlie is when he comes to life. He cowers in the corner of her garage after a giant kite falls on his face.

They quickly bond as Charlie asks questions about who he is, and even though he can’t give her an answer, he makes sounds like a bumblebee, which is how she gives him his name. It’s odd that the name given to him by a human is also what the rest of his Autobot compatriots call him, but maybe he just loves Charlie and the name she gave him that much. But I digress.

While Charlie and Bumblebee become fast friends, they can’t just have a good time cruising along the oceanside. Because Bumblebee is being hunted.

Bumblebee Featurette

Bumblebee Coming of Age, Painted as a Criminal

In a reel of footage that resembled an extended trailer, we see Shatter and Dropkick meeting with John Cena’s military unit, as well as John Ortiz in some kind of supervising capacity. The two Decepticons tell them that there is a fugitive hiding on their planet, and the two parties agree to work together to track down Bumblebee.

But alongside the big action chases between Decepticons and this lone Autobot on Earth, there are also some great coming of age moments for both Bumblebee and Charlie. The latter is looking for anyone to have companionship with after a great loss in her life (presumably a parent but that wasn’t specifically explained), while the former likes having someone on Earth who he can trust while he’s all alone. There’s a fun moment where she has him practice transforming so he can hide himself from everyone else except her. In another quick cut, they’re watching The Breakfast Club and Bumblebee shoots his fist into the air like John Bender in the final shot. They’re becoming best friends. And best friends help each other escape from dangerous villains.

In one exciting sequence, Charlie and her friend Memo (played by Jorge Lendeberg Jr.) are inside Bumblebee as a vehicle, but he suddenly narrows his body while driving, and forces himself up the wall of a rounded tunnel to escape their hunters, all while Charlie and Memo are inside trying to keep their shit together.

Transformers - Optimus Prime

Giving Fans What They Want

Travis Knight offered one interesting nugget while the footage gave another that should make fans of the classic Transformers movies that much happier.

First up, we will finally get to see Cybertron in all its glory. It won’t be pieces of Cybertron falling to Earth like in Transformers: The Last Knight. We’ll be on Cybertron for real this time. That’s something fans have wanted for a good while now.

Secondly, during some of the quick flashes of action when the sizzle reel shown in Hall H started to speed up, there was a quick hologram of Optimus Prime spotted, perhaps as a message to Bumblebee. Just like the other Transformers have a more classic look, so did this hologram of Optimus Prime. His color scheme and robot design looked much more similar to the original animated version that fans loved so much. And it just might be a tease for a future where that version of Optimus Prime stars in his own movie.

Here’s the official synopsis for Bumblebee, and you can watch the first trailer over here.

On the run in the year 1987, Bumblebee finds refuge in a junkyard in a small Californian beach town. Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld), on the cusp of turning 18 and trying to find her place in the world, discovers Bumblebee, battle-scarred and broken. When Charlie revives him, she quickly learns this is no ordinary, yellow VW bug.

Bumblebee arrives in theaters on December 21, 2018.

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