From the beginning, ‘Bumblebee’ has had kind of an odd relationship to the rest of the live-action ‘Transformers’ movies. Though I suppose that’s what happens when you’re tasked with hitting a moving target. You see, the film was originally meant to serve as a starting point for the expansion of what Hasbro and Paramount envisioned as a full-blown ‘Transformers’ cinematic universe. Of course, that was before ‘Transformers: The Last Knightt’ (which laid the groundwork for ‘Bumblebee’ and the franchise expansion that was to follow) embarrassed itself at the box office. That’s when the question of just what ‘Bumblebee’ was began to emerge.
As its release date approached, ‘Bumblebee’ was positioned with unfailing ambiguity as a sorta-kinda-maybe-softish-reboot, essentially striking a balance between a film Paramount hoped to sell on its own merits but which also possessed unavoidable links to the Michael Bay series. When ‘Bumblebee’ finally arrived, it faced unexpectedly stiff competition from the likes of ‘Aquaman‘ and ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse‘. But while it didn’t exactly set the box office ablaze (its performance could probably best be summed up as “good enough”), it did garner by far the best critical reception of any movie in the series. Granted that’s not exactly a high bar, but the movie cleared it with room to spare.
But what did that mean for ‘Bumblebee’? Had it just reignited the extant franchise or kick-started a new one? That’s what we’ve been trying to figure out – and what the powers that be have been pointedly not telling us – for the last couple months. But now we finally have an answer. In the course of the Hasbro Product Presentation at this past weekend’s New York Toy Fair (h/t: TFW 2005), Hasbro their first official word on the subject. To that end, ‘Bumblebee’ was described as the start of “a new storytelling universe.” So there you have it. With the cloak of ambiguity now discarded, ‘Bumblebee’ stands revealed as a full-fledged reboot.
So now we finally know where ‘Bumblebee’ stands in relation to the rest of the franchise. But there’s still a lot we don’t know about where things will go next. Producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura has stated that a sequel is on the way, but whether that means another solo film or a something… bigger remains to be seen. But whatever form it ultimately takes, it’s safe to say that the future if going to look more like ‘Bumblebee’ than any of the Michael Bay movies.