Empire (Australasia) - - 2018 Preview -

There’s a cer­tain buzz in the air for the first Trans­form­ers spin-off

WHEN YOU’VE THREAT­ENED the planet five times, un­leashed a ro­bot with mas­sive wreck­ing-ball tes­ti­cles and fea­tured the line, “How do you say, ‘Get the fuck out of the way’ in Chi­nese?”, there’s only one di­rec­tion to turn the vol­ume dial: down. Hence Bum­ble­bee, the very first Trans­form­ers spin-off movie and one which prom­ises to change the pace in dras­tic ways. “We’ve talked a lot about Lo­gan,” ex­plains ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Chris Brigham. “A great ex­am­ple of a large fran­chise that went small, in a suc­cess­ful way.”

The first fresh el­e­ment: a new di­rec­tor. Af­ter de­liv­er­ing a quin­tet of gi­gan­ti­cally scaled robo-thrillers, Michael Bay is step­ping aside (al­though is still on board as pro­ducer), and an­i­ma­tion dy­namo Travis Knight (Kubo And The Two Strings) is com­ing in, with the am­bi­tion of mak­ing some­thing smaller, sub­tler and sweeter. “I wanted to ap­proach this mas­sive, ex­pan­sive fran­chise and re­ally fo­cus in on a tiny cor­ner of the can­vas,” he says. “Ev­ery­thing I’ve tried to do at [an­i­ma­tion stu­dio] Laika, search­ing for an art­ful blend of dark­ness and light, in­ten­sity and warmth, hu­mour and heart, I wanted to bring to the Trans­form­ers fran­chise.”

There’s also a new time pe­riod. De­tach­ing en­tirely from the com­pli­cated mytho­log­i­cal tan­gle of the pre­vi­ous films, Bum­ble­bee is set in the 1980s, fo­cus­ing on the bud­ding friend­ship be­tween Cal­i­for­nian young­ster Charlie (Hailee Ste­in­feld) and the sen­tient yel­low car she dis­cov­ers one day. Ex­pect slap­stick shenani­gans in­volv­ing the mute ro­bot (Bum­ble­bee is no longer a Chevy Ca­maro, but a VW Bee­tle, as he was in the orig­i­nal Trans­form­ers car­toons), pop-cul­ture call­backs and a sun-baked tale that’s more in­ter­ested in warm­ing our hearts than fraz­zling our eye­balls.

“At its core it’s just a beau­ti­ful love story be­tween two bro­ken souls who find each other and heal each other,” Knight says. “I grew up lov­ing those clas­sic Spiel­ber­gian Am­blin films. And we’re try­ing to evoke that kind of emo­tion in this movie, fus­ing a rich com­ing-of-age story with some sci-fi in­san­ity.”

De­spite the amped-up emo­tion, fran­chise fans should be re­as­sured that the spin-off won’t be skimp­ing on spec­ta­cle. There are still a few das­tardly De­cep­ti­cons on the scene, hell-bent on swat­ting Bum­ble­bee, and though the stakes might be lower, the ac­tion when it comes will be full-strength. You’ve ex­pe­ri­enced Bay­hem — get ready for Dynoknight. NICK DE SEMLYEN

Love bug: Trou­bled Charlie Wat­son (Hailee Ste­in­feld) finds her soul­mate in a sen­tient

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