The Transformers return to theaters this December 21 with "Bumblebee," a smaller, more tender flick compared to the exhausting bedlam the series grew into by the time of "Transformers: The Last Knight." Paramount just released a trailer of the most personable Autobot in the tale of his recent history on Earth, and it appears we'll learn how Bumblebee went from pugnacious World War II Jeep-like soldier to a derelict runaway in his 1980's cartoon form of a Volkswagen Beetle.

Set in 1987 on the California coast 20 years before the first Michael Bay film, Hailee Steinfeld plays Charlie Watson — a female, far less frantic, and mechanically-inclined Sam Witwicky. She meets Bumblebee the same way Witwicky did, while looking for her first car. The trailer doesn't explain how a teenager living in a very nice house with an ocean view and a Discovery Channel garage, and no adults anywhere, ends up with a clapped-out 1967 Beetle for her first car. But alas, we digress. Bumblebee can't speak in this movie — as with the first film — so expect a lot of cassette tape action and some Rick Astley.

The pair will take on at least two foes, the first being John Cena as Agent Burns of Sector 7, the 100-year-old secret government agency overseeing alien encounters and alien technology. The other foe flies in the guise of the Decepticon Starscream, who also returns in a form closer to his first-generation shape; that's an F-15 Eagle in the cartoon, although he looks more like an F-4 Phantom in the trailer. The movie's IMDb page credits actors as Optimus Prime and Barricade, so expect some cameos for flavor.

After canceling a seventh Transformers movie, industry reports say Paramount's working on a franchise reboot that will create a shared universe of Hasbro toys — imagine the Transformers mingling with G.I. Joe, M.A.S.K., Micronauts, Rom, and Visionaries. Before that happens, a successful Bumblebee movie could permit the current Transformers universe to tell a few more lucrative stories before lights-out. If it bombs, well, the Allspark was pretty much dead on that world anyway.

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