First look: Bumblebee's VW aims at 'Spielbergian' emotion in Transformers prequel

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Dec 29, 2017, 11:51 AM EST (Updated)

Bumblebee goes back to the ‘80s in a newly released first look at the Hailee Steinfeld vehicle, with the real vehicular star of the show returning to his VW Beetle origins. We’ve met Charlie Watson before, but not in her element -- not like this.

The first standalone Transformers film has a high-octane legacy to deal with, and since it’s the first not directed by Michael Bay, those expectations land on shoulders built for softening.  

Travis Knight, whose work at Laika resulted in the sweet and moving (yet still visually glorious) Kubo and the Two Strings, Coraline, and more, told Empire (who first ran the above image) that “at its core [Bumblebee is] just a beautiful love story between two broken souls who find each other and heal each other.” If that doesn’t sound like typical Transformers, that’s because Knight is pulling from a different pool of references.

“I grew up loving those classic Spielbergian Amblin films,” Knight said, continuing that “we’re trying to evoke that kind of emotion in this movie.” Bumblebee, set in 1987 California, follows the junkyard friendship between Watson and her surprising car. They nailed the dusty sunburnt look, but we won’t know Knight’s success at evoking the E.T. director’s tone until December 21, 2018, when Bumblebee hits theaters.