Transformers: Rise of the Beasts is a Bay-formers movie without Michael Bay or his stumbling trademarks. It does away with the shaky staging of action and awkward attempts for laughs. For a film with plenty of mechanical carnage, there’s a firmer film in this entry.
That said, there isn’t much here that doesn’t feel like a familiar routine. It’s still another Transformers movie loaded with too much lore to care about and a standard save-the-world plot. While it’d be nice to say this film doesn’t have the same baggage as past entries, plenty of kinks still exist in this armor.
It helps that Transformers: Rise of the Beasts presents human characters who don’t feel like exaggerated cartoons. Noah (Anthony Ramos) is established as an intelligent and confident man. He’s a wizard with electronics and is doing his best to find a job to pay his ailing younger brother’s medical bills.
Elena (Dominique Fishback) is the thankless museum intern that makes the obligatory discovery of Transformer relics. The two of them connect to feeling the sting of their current spots in life. They soon form a friendship around saving the world that is decently portrayed and free of any awkward romantic stumblings.
Another Planet-Saving Adventure
Set in 1994, the plot concerns a Cybertron relic capable of sending the Autobots back to their homeworld. Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen), feeling responsible for marooning his people on Earth, desperately wants to track down this artifact. But it could also be used to bring Unicron directly to Earth.
Protecting the relic for centuries before the Autobots arrived are the Maximals, the animal-themed versions of the Autobots. Having endured the loss of his planet, Maximal leader Optimus Primal (Ron Perlman) is conflicted about working with Prime to unearth the relic. Humans also have reason to want the key destroyed to save their planet.
There’s a decent dynamic worth exploring in this staging. Sadly, since Transformers: Rise of the Beasts is crowded with robots and lore at a firm two hours, much of this gets reduced to platitudes. This leads to many “we’re not so different” cliche dialogs between Optimus Prime and Noah.
Some More Personality
The saving grace of the Autobots is Mirage (Pete Davidson), a cocky machine that befriends Noah. Mirage is far more expressive and has a more charming personality than any mechanical being in this picture. His many scenes with Noah are not too shabby for the few bursts of chemistry.
Sadly, the personality of the robots ends there. Despite Prime getting one or two dry wit jabs, nearly every robot is played up straight or barely played at all. Maximals like Cheetor and Rhinox are pushed so far into the background that they have no personality in Transformers: Rise of the Beasts.
The villains are also a bore. Unicorn is little more than a giant planet-killer with a booming voice. His lead henchman, Scourge (Peter Dinklage), is a generic bad guy who decorates himself with the emblems of his kills. He’s a threat, sure, but there’s little here to differentiate him from Megatron or Starscream.
More Competent Action
For as little charisma as the robots have, they do look good in combat. Characters like the speedy Arcee (Liza Koshy) and the calculative Wheeljack (Cristo Fernández) are easy to read. They have distinct colors and designs, so they don’t look like a mess of moving parts, especially their highly expressive faces.
Per the Transformers movie tradition, there must be a big battle with an end-of-the-world threat and lots of carnage. We get that in this film when Unicron’s arrival requires an ugly metallic structure that turns the land into an ashy battlefield. The battle that unfolds is relatively smooth, where it’s easy to tell which bot is which and who is having their parts gutted.
Compared to previous Transformers movies, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts is far less noisy and nauseating. There was never a moment where it felt like too much chaos was unfolding, and you just wanted to escape from it all. The steadier hand behind the camera makes sequences like the museum fight and the car chase across Peru decent enough to appreciate the assembly.
A Mechanical Heart
There are a lot of moments in Transformers: Rise of the Beasts that are meant to be sad. Noah’s family can’t afford healthcare, Optimus Primal has to make a tough call when he’s unable to save a friend, and Optimus Prime is saddened by losing more of his dwindling Autobots. Yet there’s hardly much of a tear that gets drawn from these many earnest moments of somberness.
These scenes reveal the limitations of the Transformers formula. These films can look neat and find an uneasy balance between intense action and humor. But when it tries to tug on the heartstrings, the lack of character development reveals little emotion behind the more emotional scenes.
Conclusion: Transformers: Rise of the Beasts
Despite some massive improvements, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts is more of a passive action-adventure movie than a mess of VFX. There’s clearly a better vision present in this film with an improved script and better-shot sequences. That being said, it’s missing a few more parts to make this film more than just an assembly-line blockbuster.
Did you see Transformers: Rise of the Beasts in the theater? Was it better than the other Transformers movies? Let us know in the comments below.
Transformers: Rise of the Beasts is currently playing in movie theaters.