'Bumblebee' Director on Going Back to the '80s, Visiting Cybertron

"I'm the only dude in a suit at Comic-Con," joked star John Cena, who was making his SDCC debut.
YouTube/Paramount Pictures

The Transformers universe made its first Hall H appearance with Bumblebee. The Comic-Con preview opened in pitch-perfect '80s fashion, with a laser light show and a live performance of "You've Got the Touch" from Stan Bush.

On hand for the presentation were stars Hailee Steinfeld, Jorge Lendeborg and John Cena, who was also celebrating his first Comic-Con, making his entrance to the Beastie Boys' "You Gotta Fight for Your Right to Party." Cena, who rocked a pink neck tie, joked, "I'm the only dude in a suit at Comic-Con."

The first Transformers spinoff is a prequel, set in 1987, that follows Charlie (Steinfeld), a soon-to-be adult trying to find herself when she stumbles upon a battle-scared Bumblebee.

Travis Knight, who is known for his stop-motion animation work as the head of Laika Studios, directed the spinoff, his first live-action feature. Coming from a background in animation, he said he was particularly concerned about the Bumblebee visuals.

"Because it is set 20 years prior, it gave us sole liberty to harken back to those G1 designs," said Knight. "If you want to hug a car, it's a VW beetle."

Knight described the film as both a coming-of-age and an origin story: "Bumblebee has always been the one Transformers with the greatest connection to people, with the most affinity for humanity. And I always thought that was fascinating. This film answers that."

The exclusive footage that was shown expanded on the teaser trailer that came out a little over two months ago, focusing on the relationship between Bumblebee and Charlie. Also seen in the footage were Decepticons Blitzwing, Shatter and Dropkick, the latter two voiced by Angela Bassett and Justin Theroux, respectively.

Because it's an origin story, Knight was asked if audiences will get to see where Bumblebee came from. "Yes, we see Cybertron, and let me say it is awesome," revealed Knight.

Cena talked about his own Transformers history, saying that as one of five brothers, he always prized the toys. "I absolutely loved getting two toys, with only one toy," he said. 

As the film's villain, Cena plays a mysterious government agent, Agent Burns. While he was tight-lipped about how he fits into the Transformers universe, he did offer a tidbit: "He is a complicated man, but damn, he looks good in a suit." 

Bumblebee hits theaters on Dec. 21, 2018.