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.
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.