Transformers spin-off Bumblebee gets release date, adds John Cena

Contributed by
Jul 31, 2017, 3:43 PM EDT

The first movie to take place outside the main Transformers series is officially a thing that's happening.

Shooting started today (July 31) on Bumblebee, the first official spin-off of the billion-dollar Transformers movie franchise, with the picture also getting a release date of December 21, 2018.

We've been hearing for a while about Paramount Pictures and Hasbro -- the studio and toy company behind the Transformers and G.I. Joe film franchises -- wanting to expand both the Transformers and overall Hasbro movie universes for a while now, and Bumblebee seems to be the first step in that direction.

The film is being shot in California and has added WWE star and actor John Cena to a cast that includes Hailee Steinfeld in the lead role along with Pamela Adlon, Stephen Schneider, Kenneth Choi and others. The movie is being directed by Travis Knight, the head of the excellent animation studio Laika Entertainment and director of that company's acclaimed Kubo and the Two Strings. This will be Knight's live-action directorial debut.

Paramount's plot synopis states:

On the run in the year 1987, Bumblebee finds refuge in a junkyard in a small Californian beach town. Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld), on the cusp of turning 18 and trying to find her place in the world, discovers Bumblebee, battle-scarred and broken. When Charlie revives him, she quickly learns this is no ordinary, yellow VW bug.

Speaking with Den of Geek last week, veteran Transformers producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura described Bumblebee as an "incredibly loved character" and the movie as a "coming of age" story, adding that he saw it as a way to inject new life into the Transformers franchise:

“Our feeling was that we wanted to give the audience a different experience. Bumblebee's designed to be a more intimate movie. There's many fewer Transformers in it. It's set in 1987, so it actually predates all of Michael (Bay)'s movies and therefore is not burdened by the history of those, 'cause it predates it. You have a certain amount of creative freedom.”

In a way the producers and studio have little to lose: Transformers has made billions for Paramount and Hasbro, but the fifth and latest entry, Transformers: The Last Knight, was pretty much a dud in the U.S. and will not earn nearly as much worldwide as its four predecessors. A new spin on the mythology may be just what is needed.

Will you give Bumblebee a chance or do you think the Transformers universe has run its course on the big screen?