Transformers: Rise of the Beasts
Paramount's explosive franchise returns with middling results.
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There was a time when the “Transformers” franchise was pretty much critic-proof. After a promising start in 2007, Michael Bay’s live-action take on the iconic toyline quickly crumbled in quality with “Revenge of the Fallen,” before mildly redeeming itself with “Dark of the Moon,” but not until once again falling flat on its face with its fourth and fifth entries. Despite this, the first four films of the franchise found a lot of success with audiences worldwide, with the third and fourth entries even going on to crack a billion dollars at the worldwide box office. The fifth installment, “The Last Knight,” however was met with such a miserable reception, it not only proved to be a financial disappointment, but it nearly shut down the franchise. That is if it weren’t for “Bumblebee,” the Travis Knight-directed prequel/spin-off reboot, that won back the hearts of fans and critics. With “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts,” Paramount is trying to recapture that magic while bringing along the explosions and massive scope of the original films.
The film opens with the Maximals, a race of animal-like robot aliens fleeing their homeworld before its devoured by the planet-eating god known as Unicron. Our introduction is short-lived as the movie quickly flashes forward to Brooklyn in 1994, where we are introduced to Noah Diaz (Anthony Ramos), an ex-military man and tech whiz, who is struggling to find a job that can properly pay for his younger brother’s (Dean Scott Vazquez) chronic illness. We are also introduced to Elena Wallace (Dominique Fishback) an aspiring archeologist, who interns at the city museum but is constantly being overlooked despite her vast knowledge of the history and various artifacts.
With no alternatives, Noah finds himself having to take a gig from his street-hustling friend Reek (Tobe Nwigwe), to steal a Porsche. Unbeknownst to him, the automobile turns out to be the Transformer Mirage (Pete Davidson), a younger, more carefree Autobot who introduces him to Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen). Noah is then tasked to steal back a device from the museum that has the power to take the Autobots back home, which leads him to cross paths with Elena and the nefarious Terrorcons led by Scourge (Peter Dinklage). Noah and Elena soon find themselves aligning themselves with the Autobots and the Maximal to prevent the Terrorcons from leading Unicron to Earth, as well as finding a way to bring Optimus, Mirage, and the other Autobots home to Cybertron.
“Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” offers very little new to the franchise. For the loyal fans who’ve stuck with the franchise through both thick and thin, there’s plenty to still enjoy from some mostly impressive VFX work and epic-battle sequences, but for nearly everyone else it’ll once again have you questioning why you decided to see another mediocre “Transformers” movie in the first place.
The film noticeably doesn’t run nearly as long as the Bay films, the plot never becomes too convoluted and the film never sinks to the sophomoric and nearly offensive level of humor that some of the previous films had. On a technical level, it’s certainly one of the more competently made films in the franchise. It shouldn’t be too surprising either, Steven Caple Jr. has a clear talent behind the camera when it comes to franchise filmmaking as can be seen with “Creed II,” and he’s also able to really capture the ‘90s quite well on-screen, complete with an impressive soundtrack that includes the likes of Wu-Tang Clan and A Tribe Called Quest.
Yet at the same time, Bay had a distinct touch on his “Transformers” movies that made them stand out from a lot of the other big summer blockbuster films. They unapologetically carried his style and for all of their glaring issues, Bay clearly knew what he was doing behind the camera and wasn’t worried about any hate thrown his way. At a certain level, it was admirable. Caple does a decent job, but “Rise of the Beasts” feels like it falls much more in line with the glut of all the other forgettable blockbusters.
The screenplay is full of all of the MacGuffins and expositional dialogue that have become tiresome at this point, complete with a “sky portal” opening up during the third-act battle. It’s corny and artificial, but it’s not terrible. There will definitely be plenty of audience members out there who eat up “Rise of the Beasts,” and that’s great, this just clearly wasn’t made for me.
Anthony Ramos is a major highlight as the human lead, he carries the same kind of charisma he brought to his other roles and even is able to join in on the action as well. Dominique Fishback is also an enjoyable presence on screen, despite her character being underutilized.
The action itself is plenty entertaining, with the Maximals bringing a new flavor of action as they join the Autobots in their battle against the forces of evil.
“Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” ultimately feels very generic. It will likely satisfy the loyal fans of this franchise, but it won’t convert any non-believers.