Bumblebee panel started out with an ’80s-riffic light show set to “The Touch” from the original animated film soundtrack. Interspersed with the line art are shots from the movie.
From there, they bring out moderator Anthony Breznican, who asks how many people grew up with Bumblebee. He says it’s a change from the films they’ve had in the past — a welcome change.
Next, they show footage of Travis Knight working at LAIKA. He discusses bringing the warmth of 80s movies and bringing it to Bumblebee. It’s a coming of age story for both Bumblebee and the lead, Charlie, played by Hailee Steinfeld.
Travis Knight then came out on stage. They discuss the new look of Bumblebee, who is now a VW Beetle. Knight talked about being careful at approaching metal clashing. It can be like “two RadioShacks performing the Kama Sutra.” He wanted to make sure that when they do collide, you can know who they are and that we recognize their distinct silhouettes. He wanted to make sure that it didn’t look like Hailee Steinfeld’s character wasn’t going to get ground up by gears.
From there, Knight compared and contrasted the differences between animation and live-action, where he talks about how much slower stop-motion is, but at the end of the day, Bumblebee is still an animated character, and his performance needed to be committed.
In this film, we get to see why Bumblebee becomes the way he is, and it’s all thanks to his journey with Charlie.
Oh yeah, and we will get to see Cybertron in this film, and “it is awesome,” Knight said.
Hailee Steinfeld then came out alongside co-star Jorge Lendeborg Jr.
Charlie Watson is a typical misunderstood teen who has experienced loss, and is trying to find freedom and love. She sees this “in a car that works.” It’s then a beautiful journey between those two. We also get introduced to Memo, Lendeborg’s character, who likes Charlie’s character. Memo speaks to the inner geek in us all. Knight says Memo’s bedroom looks like his.
We then delve into the bad guys, Shatter and Dropkick — played by Angela Bassett and Justin Thoreaux, who are made out of muscle cars. They turn into both cars and aircrafts.
There is also one bad Decepticon…NOT Star Scream. It’s one called Blitzwing. Knight was sad to break some hearts over that, but assures fans he is cool.
They then start talking about the main human baddie when intro music starts up, and John Cena enters the building, as the best heels do. He then discusses how Agent Byrnes “knows” that he’s right. He thinks if humans help things that aren’t so good, “he would also feel like those humans are…not so nice.”
Knight drives home that Cena’s character is a “gray” character. He is complex and is actually kind of right, especially thanks to his overall perspective.
Optimus Prime showed up in the footage with a slightly different look.
We see Bumblebee running from the army in the forest. He gets shot at and tries to head into a tunnel, only to get knocked down. The military closes in, but are then taken out by a particularly mean Transformer (Blitzwing?). He and Bumblebee get into a big fight that ends with Bumblebee being tossed off a cliff.
We cut to our main character, Charlie. She wakes up. It’s her birthday, and while working at a junkyard, she stumbles across a yellow VW Beetle. She convinces the man who runs the place to let her have it, and she takes it home.
We then get an extended scene from that first trailer, where she sees him transform for the first time. She hears his voice buzzing and names him Bumblebee. It’s a very Spielbergian scene, and clearly has some real E.T. influence behind it. There’s not a lot of dialogue, and what is there is pretty cliché. That being said, Steinfeld sells the hell out of it, and makes the whole scenario quite believable.
The two aforementioned bad machines being played by Angela Bassett and Justin Thoreaux are searching for Bumblebee because he’s a criminal…but why? They seem to be teaming up with John Cena’s character to catch him.
Finally, we get a cute little scene with Bumblebee trying to fit through a doggie door…it goes about as well as you’d expect.
On the whole, it continues to be the first Transformers film I’m excited for since the first one. With Knight at the helm, they really seem to be leaning into the new, smaller, more personal direction, and I couldn’t be more excited.
Lastly, Peter Cullen makes a guest appearance, the footage of which you can check out below.
— LRM (@LRM_Exclusive) July 21, 2018