TRAILER REACTION: “Bumblebee”

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Could it “Bee”? Could it really really “Bee”? Alright bad pun but seriously yesterday’s first look at the new “Transformers” spinoff prequel “Bumblebee” turned out to be actually kind of cool and surpassed my expectations greatly. With five films now in the series the “Transformers” franchise needs a shot of quality film making to recapture the awe of the original. The first teaser trailer for “Bumblebee” looks like it might just provide that shot with sneak peaks at the central human character, Bee’s personality in the film and even a somewhat-surprise villain. Let’s break down the teaser trailer for Paramount Pictures’ “Bumblebee”. You can view the trailer at the end of this review. Please let me know in the comments what you think.

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The trailer starts off with what looks like Bumblebee himself, alone in the woods seemingly helpless, alone and potentially battle worn. This glimpse only lasts for a couple seconds as the Paramount logo rolls in and then we get out first glimpse of the human protagonist named Charlie, played by Hailee Steinfeld, who is looking out into the horizon on a cliff. Immediately we get a sense of the connection these two will have in this new movie. It’s subtle but this is a good way for the trailer to showcase the current conditions of the two heroes. Bumblebee is alone and afraid and Charlie seems to be looking for deeper meaning in her own life, something she will presumably find in her adventures with Bee.

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After a quick shot of Charlie riding her bike behind some pretty neat looking classic vehicles she appears to have found herself in a junkyard where she uncovers a classic Volkswagen Beetle which supposedly will serve as Bumblebee’s form for the duration of the film. WE obviously know who she has found but she doesn’t. The cool part here is we get a very familiar voice over as the trailer recounts Bernie Mac’s speech to Sam Whitwicki from the first movie right before Sam was paired up with Bumblebee. It’s a nice nod to the original film and a reminder of the connection Bee has with his human partners. Since Charlie will be paired with him in this movie it’s only appropriate to remind us of this neat little speech to set the tone and I’ll admit I got some goosebumps hearing this line. If it’s not Bernie Mac and instead a re-dub, which is possible, it still sounds exactly like the late actor and in an odd way seems to be more resonant than when it was originally said in the first movie. It sets a tone for the trailer that, honestly, I hope stays with the actual film as it gives “Bumblebee” kind of an “Iron Giant” vibe, something I know I’m not the first to point out. We also see Bee has a honeybee nest in one of his wheel wells which is a nice little touch.

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Charlie finds the keys inside the car and drives off, bringing it back to a shop where she appears ready to work on it before the radio seems to go off on its own, startling her. We then see something pretty neat we had yet to see in a “Transformers” movie. A piece of Bee’s transformed body falls in the undercarriage, revealing the Charlie that there’s more to this machine. She goes underneath to inspect the car and finds the strange mechanical workings and Bee’s face looking right at her before Bee transforms to Charlie’s clear speechless amazement. This is the first time we see how the Autobots or any other Transformer looks underneath the car shining some light on how they conceal their limbs and other body parts in vehicle mode.

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What’s important about the moments that follow is that Bee appears to be a lot more insecure than we are used to seeing him. He cowers in a corner, seemingly frightened by Charlie. It’s also revealed Bee can’t speak, a trait he is known for in the series but some assumed might be a handicap absent from the prequel. Instead it seems Bee’s newest adventure takes place after the event that damaged his voice box. Charlie, who seems to be strangely unintimidated by a robot that just transformed right before her eyes, immediately tries to comfort Bee and we see the two bond for the first time when she touches Bee’s face and asks “what’s your name”. Since Bee can’t talk it could be interesting to see how he identifies himself. Maybe this is where his name comes from if he didn’t have it before he meets Charlie.

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The trailer picks up from there interspersing several scenes from the film, including Bee running from danger in a forest and Charlie with an unknown male character celebrating life through Bee’s sunroof. Overlaying these moments are text commenting on how this is the beginning of a journey for Bumblebee. Among these interspersed shots are a few notable moments including the photo above. That’s John Cena who plays the character Burns, an Agent of Sector 7. If you recall Sector 7 is the same organization Simmons from the original films was working for. So this organization has been hunting the Transformers for some time as of the first film and the trailer hints at viewers getting some more backstory of their history with the robots in disguise with Cena as the leading antagonist. However he’s not the only potential bad guy we see in the trailer.

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One of the coolest Easter Eggs in the entire trailer is what looks to be Starscream with a more toy and series accurate paint scheme of white with red accents. Starscream has not been seen since his death in “Dark of the Moon” but anyone who knows “Transformers” knows his significance to the series. Seeing a Decepticon in the trailer is a huge teaser that hints at the conflict to come. Bumblebee and Charlie will not only have to contend with Sector 7, but also Megatron’s second in command. It can be assumed Megatron won’t be in the movie seeing as the very first live-action film in the series revealed that the leader of the Decepticons was long frozen and kept underneath the Hoover Dam. Seeing as Bumblebee is the second in command of the Autobots it’s only fitting her face off against Megatron’s right hand robot. But why is Starcream here? Is he seeking Megatron or does he have other plans of his own? We’ll find out this December I guess. If nothing else the design is enough to get me excited for what could be a more accurate representation of these robots on the big screen than ever before.

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We get some more action shots and Charlie giving a speech to Bee about his purpose and that “people need you”. It all culminates in a money sot of Bee standing near a wrecked military vehicle during a conflict with his battle mask on and all. He’s either in the middle of a fight, ready to fight, or just finishing a fight and it looks awesome. His design is sleeker than previous adaptations and best of all it appears he will stick to his Beetle design rather than becoming a Corvette so for the first time we may finally see a “Transformers” movie that leans less on the advertising and more on character. The final moments of the trailer offer a look at the humor the film could embrace as Charlie puts in a cassette possibly introducing Bee to his use of sound clips and music to communicate. The song she plays? Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” which was released in 1987, the year this film is set in, and leads Bee to spit the cassette out much to Charlie’s surprise. That’s right folks. The Bumblebee trailer just rickrolled us, but in all honesty this is a neat moment because MAYEB it promises a period accurate film focused on the setting. Again there’s a lot of promise with this trailer.

So what I gather from this first look at the film is that “Bumblebee” is going to be a MUCH different take for the franchise compared to Michael Bay’s five-film series. Not going to lie it’s kind of got me excited. Just judging by the teaser, the tone seems more defined, the characters more developed and the designs of the Transformers we do see, basically just Bee and Starscream, look awesome. I’m always cautious when going into any “Transformers” movie because so far there has been little to enjoy in the franchise, but “Bumblebee” has potential to change all that. The film seems to be going with a less is more approach and it works with the trailer so hopefully it will work just as well in the finished product if that’s the direction they’re going in. “Bumblebee” is directed by Travis Knight, a promising name that led the fabulous “Kubo and the Two Strings” and is the current President and CEO of stop motion animation company Laika Entertainment. It will be released this Christmas.

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