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Not only will Bumblebee — the upcoming Transformers prequel, centering around the fan-favorite robot in disguise and starring Hailee Steinfeld and John Cena — be set in the 1980s, the new trailer has underscored that it’ll firmly appeal to fans of that Transformers from that era, as well.
Before the release of the new trailer, everything about Travis Knight’s movie appeared to suggest that Bumblebee would be a different type of Transformers movie on a number of levels, not least of which the audience it was targeting. With a teenage girl as the (human) lead and a first trailer that provoked a sense of wonder and adventure that had more in common with Steven Spielberg’s 1980s output than the sturm-und-drang of Michael Bay’s earlier movies in the franchise, the impression given was that the franchise was, well, transforming itself into something skewing away from the hardcore fan base that supported the earlier movies, and toward something more broad and, arguably, younger.
There’s all manner of upsides to this approach, not least of which the obvious appeal of revitalizing the franchise after Bay’s Transformers: The Last Knight had exhausted the existing formula pretty comprehensively. Given the success of the series to date — Last Knight aside, each of the previous installments had been in the top 10 box office earners for their years of release — Paramount could be forgiven for getting a little nervous about repositioning the series entirely, losing the audience that made it a success in the first place. If only there was some way of managing to maintain appealing to a new generation and keeping the older generation excited …!
The new trailer demonstrates a surprisingly simple way of doing so. For those unfamiliar with the Transformers franchise, or only a passing familiarity with it, it’s precisely the continuity-light coming of age with robots movie that the first trailer teased, with the friendship between Bumblebee and Steinfeld’s character at the core even as the fate of the world hangs in the balance. For fans who grew up with Transformers toys, comics and cartoons, however, it’s something else entirely: It’s the return of the original Transformers of old.
The character design of Bumblebee — once again, a Volkswagen Beetle as he was in his original toy form — might have been a clue for those paying attention, but the new trailer introduces “new” movie designs for Optimus Prime, Soundwave and Shockwave — no relation — that are less adaptations of their original toy and animation designs as they are straight-up recreations. To underscore the nostalgia element, the trailer also includes a scene where Soundwave ejects Ravage from his chest, who transforms with a variation of the sound effect that accompanied such scenes from the original 1980s animated series.
Bumblebee, then, might turn out to be the ultimate Transformers nostalgia trip for old-school fans, in addition to a makeover and stealth reboot of the series for everyone else. It might not have something for every fan of the franchise — sorry, Beast Wars lovers — but the new trailer makes it clear that two different audiences are being simultaneously targeted. Will the finished movie manage to appeal to both, and grow the Transformers brand moving forward? We’ll find out in December — but don’t be surprised if it includes a version of this song, just to seal the deal:
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