Before The Last Knight or the Age of Extinction, before Decepticons started leveling American cities and destroying military bases, a yellow Volkswagen Beetle sits forgotten in a California junkyard. It’s been neglected long enough that a honeycomb of bees buzzes beneath its wheel well. Seventeen-year-old Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld), takes it home.
She gets more than a car. As Charlie slides beneath her new ride to inspect it, the bug erupts in an intricate flipping puzzle of zinging metal parts, rearranging itself into beloved Autobot Bumblebee.
“Let me tell you something, the driver don’t pick the car, the car pick the driver,” a hauntingly familiar voice-over – it’s the late Bernie Mac, warning Sam Wtiwicky (Shia LaBeouf) in 2007’s Transformers – announces at the trailer’s opening moments. “It’s a mystical bond between man and machine.”
In this case, it’s woman and machine (and a woman, Christina Hodson, wrote the script), but the bond between Charlie and Bumblebee looks as strong as any.
Hailee Steinfeld in BUMBLEBEE, from Paramount Pictures.
The two become great pals. They go to the beach. They go swimming. Charlie goes no-hands through the sunroof down the Pacific Coast Highway, perhaps pioneering the self-driving car in the film’s 1987 setting.
But things get hectic. The military lurks. So does a dreaded Decepticon. Charlie gets banged up. Helicopters fall from the sky.
The film, helmed by Oscar-nominated Kubo and the Two Strings director Travis Knight, promises to wrap this action in a powerful story informed by the Transformers’ heritage. “I wanted to return to the essences of what made the Transformers franchise so impactful right from the beginning: character, emotion, spectacle,” Knight told attendees at April’s CinemaCon.
Which is not to say that echoes of Paramount Pictures’ five previous Transformers films won’t ricochet off the screen. “… and explosions,” Knight continued, “lots and lots of explosions.”
Bumblebee will debut in theaters Dec. 21, 2018. John Cena, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., John Ortiz, Jason Drucker, Pamela Adlon and Stephen Schneider will star alongside Steinfeld.
One of the most shocked-into-silence moments for the audience at Paramount Pictures’ CinemaCon presentation came when Tom Cruise, hero of five previously released Mission: Impossible films, recapped the intensity and challenge of conducting a freefall stunt for the franchise’s forthcoming sixth installment.
“Each take is like running an 800-meter sprint,” Cruise said. “We did 106 takes.”
This blunt understatement captures just one extraordinary moment in one forthcoming film from Paramount, the resurgent studio that over the course of that two-hour presentation unveiled or confirmed new installments to its cherished franchises, sequels to some of its most popular films from new and antique vintage, an aggressive Viacom co-branded slate through its Paramount Players division, a trio of animated adventures, and new films based upon a longstanding and expanded partnership with Hasbro.
“We’re laying the foundation…to deliver to you films for every possible audience for years to come,” Paramount Pictures Chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos, who has spent the past year building a new management team for the studio, told the audience.
As we zoom (buckled up) toward the July 27 release of Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Paramount confirmed that many of its other most beloved franchises will soon get a new installment. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton will return in a new Terminator movie next November. And Transformers, which has delivered five more or less contiguous sequels, will, as previously announced, dogleg off into Bumblebee, which hits theaters this Dec. 21.
Director Travis Knight showed off the first Bumblebee clip at the event, telling the audience, “I wanted to return to the essences of what made the Transformer franchise so impactful right from the beginning: character, emotion, spectacle and explosions, lots and lots of explosions.”
Many other films will get their first sequel, including the recently released hit A Quiet Place,2013’s World War Z, 1988’s Coming to America (look for Coming 2 America), and, as previously confirmed, 1986’s Top Gun, which also stars original Maverick Cruise.
And before he drops a fourth Cloverfield movie on us at some as-yet-to-be-announced future point, J.J. Abrams’ Overlord will transport moviegoers into a bizarro version of behind-enemy-lines World War II on Oct. 26.
Beyond the realm of the sequel, the studio will drop fans into the labrynthian world of Dungeons and Dragons and the sci-fi realm of Micronauts, both through the studio’s partnership with Hasbro (the same partnership behind Paramount’s Transformers and G.I. Joe movies).
Other standalone projects will pit assassin Will Smith against a younger cloned version of himself in Gemini Man, and cast Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne as the overwhelmed adoptive parents of three in Instant Family.
Tapping Viacom’s deep content well to co-produce Paramount films has been a priority under CEO Bob Bakish, and the studio confirmed that one of Nickelodeon’s most resiliently popular characters, SpongeBob SquarePants, will return for his third big-screen adaptation, It’s A Wonderful Sponge, in 2020. The film will be one of three newly announced releases on the animation division’s slate, joining Luck – which exposes the millennia-old battle between organizations of good and bad luck – and Monster on the Hill, set in an alternative world of wrestling monsters. Additionally, the previously announced Wonder Park will debut next March.
Other top Viacom brands are joining Nickelodeon in collaborating with Paramount, through the Paramount Players division led by Brian Robbins and formed to further integrate the brands with the movie studio. In association with MTV, Eli, the story of a boy being treated for a rare disease in a clinic-cum-haunted-prison, will roll out in January 2019. BET will reconstitute the 2000 hit What Women Want with What Men Want, portraying a frustrated female sports agent who gains the power of mind-reading. Paramount Players is also working on Nickelodeon’s live-action Dora the Explorer and Are You Afraid of the Dark, both slated for 2019 release.
Paramount has dropped another trailer for Transformers: The Last Knight, panning over colossal battlefields across epochs and revealing the provocative details of the alien robots’ history on Earth.
“For a thousand years, we’ve kept it hidden, to protect Earth from what was destined to arrive,” narrates a somber voice to images of Transformers drawing swords in solidarity with armored knights around a medieval round table, suggesting the Autobots and Decepticons have been battling it out on our turf far longer than we had imagined.
We zoom from those ancient battlefields to what appears to be a hypnotized Optimus Prime, chained in some vacuum of space’s nether regions, swearing allegiance to a being he calls “My Maker.”
And from there to an armada of insectile alien ships sliced from a nightmare, descending en masse upon an Earth upturned by a state of total warfare. Here, Optimus Prime battles Bumblebee and delivers his devastating verdict: “For my world to live, yours must die.”
Transformers: The Last Knight drops in theaters on June 23.