How “Bumblebee” Could Save The Michael Bay “Transformers” Universe

Matthew Loffhagen
Paramount Pictures
(Photo: Paramount Pictures)

I am not a fan of Michael Bay’s “Transformers” movie series.

I came to the series late, after “Revenge of the Fallen” (that’s the second film in the series, in case you’ve forgotten) was already on Blu-Ray.

In fairness, I watched both movies more or less back to back, and that might have colored my experience, but very early on I was certain that I did not like Shia LaBeouf’s character.

I also thought that the world was shallow and vapid, and that the Autobots all looked far too generic and overly complicated to be interesting.

The new trailer for “Bumblebee” makes it look as if this new movie is designed specifically to counter all of my concerns about the series as a whole.

What surprises me about this trailer is just how much it fits within the Michael Bay universe. After “The Last Knight” failed to win anyone over, I’d assumed that Paramount might want to distance this new film further from the Bay aesthetic.

There had been talk that this new Bumblebee film might take place in a completely different canon, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

There’s a lot of Michael Bay-ism on display here. Lots of sunsets and lens flares, and plenty of beautiful teens hanging out in garages.

Director Travis Knight is clearly doing his best to make sure that this new film fits within the established series, and that’s commendable, considering how much of this style has become a joke in recent years.

What this trailer introduces, though, is heart.

Emotion Matters

The explosions that define Michael Bay’s directorial style are missing. In their place, this feels like a character piece with a female main character (who is never filmed in a gratuitously sexualized manner) forming a relationship with a silent Bumblebee.

It almost feels like Michael Bay meets “Herbie”, and I’m kind of down for that.

I really like the redesigns. Both Bumblebee and what I assume to be Starscream looks similar to their previous cinematic appearances, but also feel a lot more like the toys we all know and love.

There are bigger chunks of metal left in-tact on their outer shells when in humanoid form. They look blocky and angular.

Bumblebee Trailer
Source: Paramount Pictures

Importantly, both also look like the vehicles that they turn into in the original “Transformers” cartoon. There’s a lot to be said for simply making Bumblebee a VW Beetle.

I think this trailer is deliberately designed to show just how different this film is, while still staying true to the wider series lore and style. We’re supposed to believe that this movie is more about feelings than explosions.

If anything, I’m suspicious that this is more a marketing ploy than a genuine reflection of the movie. It’s easy to make anything look like a thoughtful character piece if you play some slow music and include a few sweeping shots.

Nevertheless, I’m interested to see more.

I’m still not a fan of the Michael Bay “Transformers” world, but if Travis Knight’s plan here is to try to save this universe by making an actually watchable film that softens a few of the franchise’s rougher edges, I’m happy to keep an open mind.