There’s a whole bunch of existing Transformers that director Travis Knight could have picked to drop into his Bumblebee origin movie. But instead, he chose to create two brand new Decepticons expressly for the film – Shatter and Dropkick. The villains of the piece, the pair pursue Bumblebee to Earth, where they intend to grill the yellow Autobot as to Optimus Prime’s whereabouts, then destroy him.
Knight explains why these two characters, above others, fit into his narrative.
“It’s a small cast of characters,” says the animation specialist who is also president of Laika studios and director of the Oscar-nominated Kubo and the Two Strings. “It’s a huge, expansive universe here, a giant canvas they’ve been painting on in the live-action films for the last ten years. And I knew [Bumblebee] was going to be a smallish scale film. We were going to hone in on a corner of that canvas and really get to know one of these characters a lot better; really focus in on the relationships. We still need antagonism, we still needed a threat, it was just going to be a smaller-scale threat, it wasn’t going to be the end of days. But still, you look at [Bumblebee] — he’s a scout, he’s humble, he’s not as powerful as the rest of them, he’s not as strong as the rest of them. He’s a VW Beetle, for christsakes.”
With that in mind, it didn’t make sense to pit Bumblebee against a foe like, say, Megatron.
“I wanted someone who was this cold-blooded strategist, this big throbbing brain in Shatter who is also incredibly capable of violence if push comes to shove.”
“He needed to come up against something that was formidable [though], and so Shatter and Dropkick — they’re essentially characters that we created for the film,” says Knight. “They don’t have a lengthy back history in the franchise. I wanted someone who was this cold-blooded strategist, this big throbbing brain in Shatter who is also incredibly capable of violence if push comes to shove. For her design, I was inspired by this character Nightbird who was in the original series. She was kind of this robot ninja. I just thought her design was always really cool so wanted to see that woven into the franchise here.”
Shatter is voiced by American Horror Story star Angela Bassett in Bumblebee. The character is a Triple Changer, meaning that she can change into a car – a Plymouth Satellite — as well as a Harrier Jump Jet. Nightbird, meanwhile, was a human-built robot built to benefit mankind. She carried nunchucks and was stolen by the Decepticons who adapted her and turned her into a more powerful machine.
Pit Bull on a Leash
Dropkick is the perfect complement to Shatter. Voiced by Justin Theroux, Knight says, “He’s just this big, brutish thug, the brawn to her brains. He’s a creature of great, great violence and you just want to have a sense that he was like a pit bull on a leash; that if she let him go he was just going to rain havoc on everything around him. You just want a sense that if you know these are the gathering thunderclouds on the horizon, if these two find [Bumblebee], he’s in trouble. Particularly in the state that he’s in for much of the film before he’s able to regain all his abilities and his memories.”
If the name Dropkick sounds familiar, it’s because the name has been around for a while – it’s the name given to Decepticon transport drones from the 1980s cartoon. They were a troop of robots that transformed into flatbed trucks, used during energy raids.
“I just wanted a couple of really cool, interesting Decepticons that we haven’t know from the previous films and just have some fun with them,” says Knight. “I think Angela and Justin do a great job, and I just love the way they move; I love the way they look. I think they’re a lot of fun.”
Catch Shatter and Dropkick in Bumblebee when it hits US screens on December 21, Australian screens on December 20 and UK screens on December 24, with UK previews on December 15, 16 and 20.