In a packed Hall H Friday, Bumblebee and John Cena stole the show with a little help from Stan Bush.
Most Comic-Cons, Saturday is the day you want to devote your line-waiting energy. With Marvel pulling out, the day is pretty much left for Warner Bros. and the DCEU to dominate. That line started forming, unofficially, Thursday afternoon, leaving Hall H to be an easily attainable destination for the Friday crowd. I walked under the tents at 4:00 AM that morning and scored some decent seats inside without any fuss. A brave new Comic-Con world.
The Friday festivities were an eclectic lot. We were treated to a ten-year anniversary for Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long-Blog, Fear of the Walking Dead, The Walking Dead, Star Trek: Discovery, Halloween, Glass, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Venom, and Preacher. Lots of great moments for the fans, but the day-stealer was Bumblebee, and no one is more surprised by that feat than me.
A few minutes before the panel was to kick off, Hall H filled with smoke. Two massive fog machines were pumping overtime signaling an incoming laser light show. My fellow nerds were giddy when the lights went down. Then the room erupted; Stan Bush ignited his electric guitar suddenly appearing on stage, and launched into an explosive rendition of “The Touch.” Yellow beams cut through the smoke, seemingly tracing the Autobot logo on the big screen.
Stan Bush has never had a more accepting audience than those Hall H geeks. We were screaming our adulation his way, and his face was ready to split with a joyous expression. Those around me were howling, “You’ve got the touch! You got the power! Yeah!” And I found myself joining in.
Eventually, Stan went away, and director Travis Knight was introduced with a Laika sizzle reel. Entertainment Weekly’s Anthony Breznican took a few jabs at the subtle art of Michael Bay and helped ease a potentially abrasive crowd to the nostalgic bliss of this Transformers reboot. No one can deny the beauty on display in the sizzle reel; the idea that the aesthetic that bred ParaNorman or Kubo and the Two Strings would be applied to the descendants of Cybertron is instantly infectious.
Knight’s heart is with the Generation One toys, and every time he even uttered the phrase “Gen One,” a spattering of applause would ripple across Hall H. He certainly knows how to preach to his constituents. When he further assured that his ‘bots would have discernable profiles and recognizable cartoon characteristics, Comic-Con fell into the palm of his hand.
The footage was solid. We caught a little bit more of the opening confrontation between Bumblebee and Blitzwing (sorry, not Starscream folks) that drops Bee into his VW Bug coma for Hailee Steinfeld to discover. We meet the Decepticons Dropkick (Justin Theroux) and Shatter (Angela Bassett) and learn that they’re triple-changers instead of your ordinary one-and-done Transformers. We saw a brief glimpse of a Gen One-styled Optimus Prime in hologram form, and plenty of explosions to keep this film in continuity with previous efforts. Yeah, it went a long way in washing the stink of at least that last two Bay atrocities.
Then John Cena stormed that Hall. The Beastie Boys chanted “Fight for Your Right” as Cena burst forth from one of the side entrances, roared at the attendees around him, and charged around Hall H hyping the crowd to preposterous levels. He circled the audience and eventually made his way to the stage where he owned us via charm and humor. If you were not already on his team, you were now.
When Knight and Steinfeld couldn’t work their way through an awkward Q&A, there was John Cena to save the day with that unbeatable charisma. Who would win in a fight between Bumblebee and another Transformer in the form of an actual giant, robotic bumblebee? Cena has the answer (psst, Bumblebee would analyze and try to reason with the creature unless he was unreasonable, then he would obliterate him through sheer firepower).
The panel concluded with one final question from the crowd. Peter Cullen (the voice of Optimus) took the mic. He wanted to know if the leader of the Autobots would ever get the chance at a solo movie. Knight made him audition for the role right there and then, requiring an example of exuberance from Prime. He growled, “I’m elated.” Knight responded, “You got the job.”
The footage was not what won the day. Bumblebee nabbed the crown for the enthusiasm delivered by its passionate creators. From Stan Bush to Travis Knight to John Cena and Peter Cullen, Hall H got a legitimate promise of redemption for the Hasbro-verse.