If you're like me—a person older than 10—you might have a hard time getting past the core idea behind the Transformers franchise. A race of ultra-powerful alien robots comes to Earth only to transform into ... firetrucks and Volkswagens? It's almost as if the entire Transformers universe exists to sell toys.
So it comes as something of a surprise that Travis Knight—CEO of Laika, and most recently the director of the Hillsboro-based animation studio's gorgeous, critically-acclaimed Kubo and the Seven Strings—seems to have made a Transformers movie that adults like: Bumblebee, a $102 million live-action spinoff starring Hailee Steinfeld and John Cena. The movie's "charm" has improbably won over large swaths of the critic world: 93 percent of them, according to film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. A Salon reviewer even went so far as to say that Bumblebee, a film about a VW Beetle in disguise, "redeems its beleaguered franchise."
Compared to last year's reception of Michael Bay's much-maligned Transformers: The Last Knight (WaPo called it a "movie that's cut like the world's longest and most tedious trailer"), this is stunning turnaround.
Meanwhile, Laika will release its fifth film, Missing Link next year. What Knight's Hollywood forays mean longterm for the studio is unclear, but it does seem likely Knight will have more job offers pulling him away from Hillsboro. Our suggestion: Maybe Knight can help revitalize Michael Bay's other maligned franchise—the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.