'Bumblebee' producer mulls more Transformers movies

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, January 5, 2019
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The Transformers universe could expand even further with its producer considering more movies for the profitable franchise after the latest installment of "Bumblebee."

Director Travis Knight (1st L), actress Hailee Steinfeld (2nd L), actor John Cena (2nd R) and producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura pose for a group photo on the red carpet at the premiere of "Bumblebee" held in Beijing, Dec. 14, 2018. [Photo/China.org.cn]

"We probably will make a 'Bumblebee' sequel, and we want to make another even bigger Transformers movie in the future," Lorenzo di Bonaventura told China.org.cn, after being the producer of every Transformers movie in the past decade.  

"We have an animated movie in the writing stage right now. We are trying to figure out an Optimus Prime movie, while the Beast Wars franchise has the chance, too."

However, the producer stressed this could only happen under one condition: "Bumblebee" must be a success. 

According to the 2016 plan drawn up by Paramount Pictures, at least three Transformers films were to be released in 2017, 2018 and 2019 respectively. However, after the flop of "Transformers: The Last Knight" in 2017, there was no "Transformers 6," as planned, in 2018; instead, "Bumblebee" was put forward.

Di Bonaventura was in Beijing, China on Dec. 14, 2018 to promote "Bumblebee" along with director Travis Knight, actress Hailee Steinfeld and Chinese-speaking WWE superstar and actor John Cena. With the help of China's Tencent Pictures in terms of investment, marketing and promotion, the stand-alone action movie focused on the Bumblebee character hit Chinese market on Friday.

It was an encouraging debut, with a gross of more than 119 million yuan (US$17.33 million) on the opening day ― much higher than its opening day take of US$8.5 million in North America.

This was good news for Travis Knight, the film director, producer and animator of a series of critically acclaimed animated features, including "Coraline," "The Boxtrolls" and the Academy Award-nominated "Kubo and the Two Strings."

The director told China.org.cn that the reason why he decided to take the helm of the new Transformers film was because he loved the "1980s vibes" it emanated. 

"I was incredibly excited to direct this movie because I grew up in the 1980s, the era in which the Transformers were born," Knight said. "I remember watching the cartoon for the first time when I was a kid, and I read the comic books, and I played with the toys.

"So, being able to tell a story ... the original story about the character I've known and loved since I was a kid, is a dream come true."

A still from "Bumblebee" shows Charlie Watson (played by Hailee Steinfeld) interacting with the alien robot. [Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures]

Thanks to Travis Knight's creative genius, "Bumblebee" became a lovable and interesting episode for both critics and average moviegoers. The coming-of-age story relates how the central character meets a human teenage girl Charlie Watson (played by Hailee Steinfeld), bonding through some magical chemistry and various shared adventures, besides the thrilling and violent robot fighting.

This was the same experience involving the boy Elliott and the alien that made Steven Spielberg's "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" so special. The result is quite a favorable one compared to the bombastic and brainless predecessors directed by Michael Bay.

For Knight, the 80s sci-fi classic and other Steven Spielberg's coming-of-age films had a profound influence on him. The director explained that "E.T. was actually the first film that really, deeply, emotionally connected me and moved me to tears. It brought us wonder, laughter, tears and joy, with really strong beating heart in the center of it. That's the kind of feeling that I wanted to capture with this movie."

As the "Bumblebee" is set in the 1980s, it sort of served as a prequel of the first movie of "Transformers" in 2007, and the director added a further sense of 1980s nostalgia by using retro style clothes, sets and his favorite old songs from Bon Jovi's "Runaway" to A-ha's "Take On Me."

However, the most nostalgic element is the shapes of the Transformers: the vivid recreation from Generation One of "The Transformers" cartoon broadcast from 1984 to 1990 in the United States. 

"Because we set the film in the 1980s, the design has a certain look ― cleaner aesthetics, beautiful silhouette, simple color palette," Knight explained. "We want to make sure we pay tribute to the initial generation of Transformers. What's more, when you see the action, because of their shapes and colors, you can always tell what's going on in the crazy battles, you can still find out who's who."

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