When the first trailer dropped for the upcoming Bumblebee, fans of old-school Transformers found themselves starting to get a little excited for one of the movies again. After five movies that were so aesthetically different from anything in the series, Bumblebee was the one that was looking a bit more like something more classic. After five movies there needed to be a change, and even producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura, who spoke to Entertainment Weekly, knew that without change the series couldn’t continue.
“If you don’t change up, you’re also taking a risk,” di Bonaventura says. “It’s one of those things where there is no simple answer. You’re taking a risk no matter what you do when you make a big expensive movie, so why not change the formula completely and really hang in there?”
While Transformers: The Last Knight still made over $600 million at the worldwide box office, everyone seemed to know that the formula wasn’t working anymore. Di Bonaventura has been a producer on all of the movies, and after it became very apparent that they were losing the audience, everyone involved knew it was time for a change.
“The fifth one was definitely down,” di Bonaventura says. “The audience looks for something new at some point in time, but it’s so hard to judge when. I think the lesson was, after the fourth movie, that was the when. But we didn’t see the fatigue. We didn’t see the signs that they wanted us to change up how we were presenting it.”
The idea of a Bumblebee spinoff movie has always been in the cards, but now that di Bonaventura and company could see that the audience wasn’t showing up anymore, they knew that spinoff was happening sooner rather than later.
“We were headed down the Bumblebee path well before the release of the last Transformers,” he says. “We had felt that with the fifth movie, we had sort of run out of room with where to take it.”
One of the things you think wouldn’t be a huge deal was the decision to make Bumblebee a VW Beetle in this new movie. In the original movies Bumblebee was a Camaro, but that wouldn’t fit in the 1980s setting that they were going for. It also wasn’t the tone they were going for either.
“That was probably the most hotly contested thing, simply because: ‘Wow …. um, and the Beetle can go fast? Ooookay,’” di Bonaventura says. “But I’ve screened [a rough cut] three times, and there has not been a single comment from the audience that they didn’t like the fact that we made it the Beetle. The warmth of it certainly helps us, but also, the sheer freshness of it is really fun.”
A Camaro is the car of someone cool, but a Beetle is the car of someone cute. It makes Bumblebee feel smaller and younger — maybe even easier to relate to.
“Psychologically, you’re absolutely right,” di Bonaventura says. “It’s kind of funny. A metal guy made out of a Camaro, or Bumblebee … is one is weaker than the other? I don’t know, but it is how you feel. It is what your experience is of it, in a way.”
This is, at the heart, the story of a robot trying to find his way home and a girl trying to find her place in the world.
Summary: On the run in the year 1987, Bumblebee finds refuge in a junkyard in a small Californian beach town. Charlie, on the cusp of turning 18 and trying to find her place in the world, discovers Bumblebee, battle-scarred and broken.
Bumblebee, directed by Travis Knight, stars Hailee Steinfeld, John Cena, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Rachel Crow, and Pamela Adlon. It will be released on December 21st.