One scene in the new Transformers movie “Bumblebee” finds the title character alone in a house. His teen caregiver (Hailee Steinfeld) has been hiding him in the garage, but he finds his way out, touching everything he shouldn’t and, because he’s giant and metal, causing a lot of inadvertent destruction. This bumbling, charming moment plays out as it might in a classic animated comedy, not in a high-stakes action movie.
A major departure from the Michael Bay-directed “Transformer” movies, this prequel has a lot of moments with an animated feel and a central character that has a different, more sensitive expressiveness than he’s shown before. That was the aim of the film’s director, Travis Knight, who has built his career on animation as the chief executive of the Oregon stop-motion studio Laika and the director of its lyrical film “Kubo and the Two Strings.”
“I’m a child of the ’80s,” Knight said in a phone interview, “and I wanted to try to rekindle that childhood sense of intrigue, wonder and discovery I felt when I found Transformers for the first time.”