A common complaint about the Transformers movies is that the robots take a backseat to the humans. Sam Witwicky, Cade Yeager—these are the main characters of the Transformers movies, not Optimus Prime and Megatron. You might think a spinoff film focusing on one specific Transformer could change that. But don’t hold your breath.
The Hollywood Reporter is reporting that Hailee Steinfeld is in talks to star in the 2018 Bumblebee Transformers spin-off, from Kubo and the Two Strings director Travis Knight. She’ll play “a tomboy who also holds a job as a mechanic after school,” which is both positive and negative. The positive is that I’m a Steinfeld fan. She was amazing in True Grit, gave the best performance of her career in The Edge of Seventeen, and my dirty little secret is I love the Pitch Perfect movies, of which she’s now a star. She’s got a good mix of innocence and confidence that could work well in a big action movie like this.
On the other hand, really? Another story about a gritty young kid who becomes friends with a Transformer? Haven’t we already seen this four times already... and aren’t we going to see this again in the upcoming Last Knight? Let me guess, she and Bumblebee develop a deep friendship and he ends up saving her and maybe the world too?
Now, to be fair, I’m being a bit of an ass about this. I have no idea what the script, written by Christina Hodson, actually entails. But as someone who likes Transformers in general, but not the latest movies, I was hoping the spinoffs would dive a bit deeper into the robots themselves. Doing a movie about Bumblebee, without all the other Autobots, feels like the right place to tell a focused, character-driven story about one of the Transformers—not yet another movie about the relationship between the humans and the robots, which is what all the Michael Bay Transformers movies are about. It’s nice that the star is a young woman this time, but I just hope the differences go beyond that.
Knight is the one saving grace here. He’s a director who has no reason to make a movie like this unless he really wants to. As the head of Laika who has a big hand in the amazing films his company makes, the only reason he’d have to devote years of his life to making a Transformers movie is if he connected with the script. So hopefully, whomever Steinfeld plays, it’s a new spin on what we’ve seen several times before. And maybe, that will include the robots getting a starring role.
The still-untitled Bumblebee movie is scheduled for release June 8, 2018.