Sometimes unlikely pairings can work. Whether it’s banana and ketchup or white chocolate and olive, things that sound insane at first often end up surprising you. One that might be just as hard to get your head around is the pairing of the head of Laika studios, whose stop-motion insta-classics are engaging, beautiful and staggeringly difficult to put together, with the shouty explosion porn of Michael Bay’s Transformers franchise. Well, ever since we were convinced try peanut butter on our hamburgers, we’ve learned to keep an open mind.
The Bumblebee spinoff movie has reportedly found a director in Travis Knight, who last helmed Laika’s Kubo and the Two Strings, an astonishing feat of animation that earned him a recent Oscar nomination. Kubo didn’t cover itself in glory at the box office, but it was showered with critical acclaim. The Bumblebee movie will be Knight’s first venture into live action, a bold move for the head of a studio synonymous with stop-motion animation. Laika Studio’s are the people behind Boxtrolls, Paranorman and twisted fairytale masterpiece Coraline. Knight’s animation background is obviously not a problem for the Transformer’s producers, who also eyed LEGO Batman director Chris McKay for the job.
Thus far the rebooted Transformers franchise has been a linear series of sequels but the new film takes a different approach. Branching out from the main narrative of The Transformers and their unending battle with the Decepticons, the film will deliver the story of Bumblebee, the Transformer who first introduced Shia Lebouf to the wonderful world of robots that transform into other things (usually things owned by General Motors. Giant robots are notoriously brand loyal).
Little is known about the plot of the movie, but rumours suggest that it will be a prequel, detailing events leading up to Bumblebee’s fateful meeting with Shia Lebouf. Paramount has it scheduled for release on June 8th, 2018.
The spinoff will be a first for the Transformers series, in that Michael Bay will not be in the director’s chair. Instead, he is taking on a producer’s role, alongside Stephen Spielberg and Lorenzo di Bonaventura. Knight’s involvement could be a shot in the arm for a series that has been frankly average at best, and at worst capable of doing something so heinous it was previously thought impossible: making explosions dull.
Let’s hope this new blood combined with a focus on an individual transformer’s story will work out. Knight is an unknown quantity and while his past work is impressive the Transformer’s project may see him out of his element. We’re hoping that he can bring some of that storytelling ability to a series that has historically been heavy on blowing stuff up and light on plot. Don’t get us wrong, we aren’t asking for fewer explosions, just a better story to string them all together.