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Bumblebee director Travis Knight talks classic 1980s robots, Cybertron, Amblin movies and mythology. Can we marry him?

September 25th, 2018 by Marc Comments

We think it’s fair to say we’ve been giddy over the two new trailer for the upcoming Bumblebee movie.

Why? Well, despite it being apparently set in the same universe as the Michael Bay movies, it features proper Generation One (the original animated series) versions of characters such as Optimus Prime, Soundwave, Ravage and Shockwave AND the Transformers’ homeplanet of Cybertron looks exactly as it did in the animated series many of us grew up with some 35 years ago.

The whole way through the Bay movies – and don’t misunderstand, we liked much about those movies – we begged for proper robot designs like the ones we grew up loving but they never came.

Until now.

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Now director Travis Knight – who directed the fantastic Kubo And The Two Strings – talks about his approach to the movie and making it something the fans could really identify with, being one himself.

“The Transformers film mythology is massive, it’s expansive, it’s huge. This film is an opportunity for us to focus in on one aspect of that canvas and that is Bumblebee. He has his Autobot family, he has these baddies that he goes up against. That is an aspect of his story but fundamentally it’s about his relationship with this girl Charlie and how essentially they find each other and make each other whole. There are other layers at play but that is at the core of the story.”

Unlike the first five instalments, this movie is set in the 1980s which is when Transformers first arrived in the lives of many fans, myself included and it seems that Knight gets that:

“That was when I was first exposed to the Transformers. I loved those characters, I loved their designs and I introduced my kids to Transformers and the first thing I showed them was the Transformers cartoon and they loved it as much as I did. Part of it is the beauty and simplicity of the design, so when we were trying to bring a new perspective to this franchise we went back to the beginning and asked how can we bring that to a modern era but still pay tribute to the wonder and magic of those original designs.”

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This man is speaking our language!

John Cena plays Agent Burns, a man who is driven to make sure earth isn’t destroyed in an intergalactic conflict that has nothing to do with them: “Agent Burns is less a villain and more of a grey area character — I don’t think moustachio-twirling baddies are particularly interesting,” says Knight, “certainly he is somebody who puts the screws on our heroes but he does so for reasons we can understand. In fact on some level he’s probably right. He’s a heavy guy, he’s not someone who you’d want to run afoul of, but we also as an audience can understand where he’s coming from.”

The movie, from what we see so far, looks like it really extends on the original animated series with a host of fun, familiar faces: “I grew up with these Transformers and the story that I wanted to tell was something that was resonant and evocative of those original wave of Transformers stories. I loved those things so much. They were new, they were magical, they were wondrous. They connected with me emotionally and they were exciting to watch. That’s the kind of film I wanted to make here.”

He goes on: “If I was going to make a Transformers film I wanted to give nods to some of the things that I loved most about the series to begin with and for me seeing those original designs on Shockwave and Soundwave and Ravage and Wheeljack and all those different characters was a really exciting opportunity to take the audience back to that initial wave of Transformers and to evoke the same feeling that they evoked in me. I was pretty giddy bringing those guys to life.”

Wait, Wheeljack!? We’ve not seen Wheeljack yet… and it really seems like Knight has tapped into the real fan favourite ‘bots! We sort of want to see no more from the movie before its release now in December!

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And this movie brings us two new characters, Shatter (Angela Bassett) and Dropkick (Justin Theroux) who just happen to be triple changers (bet the toy designers love that!).

Shatter is a Harrier Jump Jet and a red Plymout Satellite muscle car and Dropkick is a blue AMC Javelin car and a Bell AH-1 SuperCobra attack helicopter.

So why are we getting triple changers? And why are they new? “The triple changer aspect was something we leaned into just because I thought it was cool,” McKnight said.

“I wanted to showcase how formidable an opponent could be if they have those kind of abilities and putting our main character up against something like that was really exciting.”

So we get the classic robots in disguise and almost as excitingly, we get to go to Cybertron: “We do go to Cybertron, yes, and I have to say it’s pretty awesome! That’s where the Transformers started and while it’s not heavily featured in our film it is an aspect of it. I absolutely embraced the opportunity to see Cybertron the way I saw it when I was a kid.”

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So it seems like the movie will take a franchise that’s had comics, books, cartoons, movies, games, toys and so, so much more in a fresh direction: “In this film we see how Bumblebee takes this gift [the ability to Transform] that these characters have and how he uses it in a way that we haven’t seen before.”

Finally, one of the things that Bay’s first movie at least tried to do – but sadly the others forgot all about, was add a little 1980s wonder… you know, the ET, Goonies or Gremlins magic.

However, it seems Knight is planning to go full Spielberg on this movie: “Growing up in the eighties, the most powerful stories were the Amblin stories. They had a thinking brain; a strong, beating heart; and a poetic soul. They evoked wonder and laughter and tears every single time. So knitting those two things together: my love of Transformers and my love of Spielberg and Amblin, was something I really wanted to evoke in this film. And it didn’t hurt that Steven Spielberg was an executive producer on the movie! Having this guy who has been an icon for me my entire life and being able to collaborate with him and make this film in a way that evokes what was so special about those movies to me as a kid was a joy.”

So, that was pretty much everything we’ve ever wanted to hear about an upcoming Transformers movie. You had our interest nut now you have our undivided attention!

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BUMBLEBEE is produced by TRANSFORMERS franchise veterans Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Michael Bay, along with executive producers Steven Spielberg, Brian Goldner and Mark Vahradian. Chris Brigham (ARGO, INCEPTION) will also executive produce. The screenplay is written by Christina Hodson (UNFORGETTABLE).

Directed by Travis Knight (KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS, CORALINE), the film stars Hailee Steinfeld (EDGE OF SEVENTEEN), Pamela Adlon (BETTER THINGS, LOUIE), John Cena (DADDY’S HOME 2, TRAINWRECK), Stephen Schneider (Comedy Central’s BROAD CITY), Jorge Lendeborg Jr. (SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING), Jason Drucker (DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: THE LONG HAUL), Kenneth Choi (AMERICAN CRIME STORY), Ricardo Hoyos (DEGRASSI: NEXT CLASS), Abby Quinn (LANDLINE, THE SISTERHOOD OF THE NIGHT), Rachel Crow (DEIDRA & LANEY ROB A TRAIN), and Grace Dzienny (ZOO).

Opening Dec. 21st, 2018, Bumblebee: The Movie also stars John Cena, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Rachel Crow and Pamela Adlon.

Source: Empire

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Marc is a self-confessed nerd. Ever since seeing Star Wars for the first time around 1979 he’s been an unapologetic fan of the Wars and still believes, with Clone Wars and now Underworld, we are yet to see the best Star Wars. He’s a dad of two who now doesn’t have the time (or money) to collect the amount of toys, comics, movies and books he once did, much to the relief of his long-suffering wife. In the real world he’s a graphic designer. He started Following the Nerd because he was tired of searching a million sites every day for all the best news that he loves and decided to create one place where you can go to get the whole lot. Secretly he longs to be sitting in the cockpit of his YT-1300 Corellian Transport ship with his co-pilot Chewie, roaming the universe, waiting for his next big adventure, but feels just at home watching cartoons with his kids….