‘Transformers: Rise of the Beasts’ Review

To expand upon my quick thoughts in the video, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts is a sci-fi action film based on Hasbro’s Transformers toy line of the same name directed by Steven Caple Jr. (Creed II) from a screenplay by Joby Harold (Army of the Dead), Darnell Metayer & Josh Peters (BMF), and Erich & Jon Hoeber (Battleship). Featuring Anthony Ramos, and Dominique Fishback, as well as the voice talents of Ron Perlman, Peter Dinklage, Michelle Yeoh, Liza Koshy, Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, Pete Davidson, Colman Domingo, Cristo Fernández, Tongayi Chirisa, Peter Cullen, John DiMaggio, and David Sobolov; the film is a sequel to Bumblebee (2018) and the seventh installment in the live-action Transformers film series. Based on the Beast Wars storyline, this entry follows Noah Diaz and Elena Wallace as they end up in the middle of a war between the Autobots, Maximals, and Terrorcons.

Deep in space, the homeworld of the Maximals comes under attack from the planet-sized world-eating Transformer Unicron (Colman Domingo). He sends his heralds, the Terrorcons, led by Scourge (Peter Dinklage), to obtain the Transwarp Key, which can open portals through space and time. The Maximal leader Apelinq (David Sobolov) sacrifices himself to allow Optimus Primal (Ron Perlman) and the other Maximals to escape the planet before Unicron devours it. Using the Transwarp Key the Maximals open a portal leading to Earth. Due to his failure, Unicron punishes Scourge and tells him to find them.

On Earth in Brooklyn, ex-military electronics expert Noah Diaz (Anthony Ramos) struggles to find a job to support his mom and younger brother. After being turned down for a security guard position Noah is convinced by his friend Reek (Tobe Nwigwe) to steal a Porsche that’s been sitting in a garage for months. Across town, museum intern Elena Wallace (Dominique Fishback) studies an ancient relic of a falcon bearing the Maximal symbol. After accidentally breaking it open she finds half of the Transwarp Key hidden inside. The key releases an energy pulse that is detected by Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen), who summons the other local Autobots. Mirage (Pete Davidson) is contacted in the middle of Noah’s attempted theft, and after a long police chase, Noah discovers that the car is an Autobot in disguise. In exchange for money, Noah is tasked by the Autobots to recover the key from the museum so they can use it to return to Cybertron.

Growing up I was a huge fan of Beast Wars: Transformers. It’s the main reason I even like Transformers in the first place. Seeing robots turn into animals was a lot more interesting to me than seeing robots turn into vehicles. And the lore was also great with how it connected back to the original television series from the 80s. My next favorite show in the series is probably Transformers: Armada. This series reinvented the Transformers for a new generation. Then the first live-action movie was released in 2008 and everything changed. I remember watching the trailer over and over again just to get a quick glimpse of what they would look like. I loved every one of those movies up until Transformers: The Last Knight. At this point in my life, I feel like it’s safe to say that the magic of a live-action Transformers movie is gone. We are a far cry from what we originally got with Michael Bay and it’s sad to see it.

Starting with what worked in the movie, Pete Davidson was fantastic as Mirage. He was funny and interesting and mostly outright cool. Having an actual voice attached to the role makes him more accessible than Bumblebee; at least at this point in the franchise. Speaking of Bumblebee, his movie should have mimicked what Travis Knight did with the previous film and just made the story about a boy and his car. This story would have been just as interesting if Noah had a small-stakes adventure with Mirage and Optimus just made another cameo at the end. The rest of the voice cast was great, but none of the other robots radiated as much as Davidson did. At a certain point, I wondered if we even needed Ron Perlman, Peter Dinklage, or Michelle Yeoh at all. Their characters could have been voiced by anyone.

What this entry does with the lore of the Maximals doesn’t make sense at all. In Beast Wars the Maximals are descendants of the Autobots and they go back in time to prehistoric Earth to stop the Predacons from changing history. That is why they choose animal forms so that early humans won’t see them as machines. In this movie, however, they already have animal forms on their home planet. (Which isn’t even Cybertron!?) Some of this lore is hinted at like Optimus Primal saying he was named after Optimus Prime, but it’s not explained at all why in the movie as they do not seem to be from the future. The Maximals have also apparently been on Earth far longer than the Autobots which makes it even crazier. Sadly they are also barely used. The Maximals feel like a forced inclusion similar to what was done with the Dinobots in Transformers: Age of Extinction. (Also we don’t even see any Predacons, only their logo.)

The character models and fight scenes felt cartoonish. This is very disheartening considering that I love what Caple Jr. did in the fight scenes for Creed II. When Bay was behind the camera the Autoboots and Decepticons were tearing each other apart. You would see shrapnel flying all over the place. Heads and faces were getting ripped off. Bodies are torn in half. Oil spilling everywhere. The designs were also more realistic. The autoboots and Decepticons were updated and looked more alien. Now they look more like their ’80s counterparts, which is fine and all, but would work better if the movie were completely animated. And after seven movies why do we still not let Bumblebee talk? I hate that this has become his thing now because it’s no longer funny.

If you want to watch a generic action movie this summer from a franchise that has been milked for too long then this might be for you. I give Transformers: Rise of the Beasts a Solid 5/10. Also, there is a scene at the end of this film that reeks of desperation. It connects Transformers to another Hasbro-owned film franchise and the inclusion feels too little too late. At this point, they should let this franchise die and return to animation.

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