Movie Review: TRANSFORMERS: RISE OF THE BEASTS Starring Anthony Ramos, Dominique Fishback, Peter Cullen
I am convinced Michael Bay is DJ Khaled; every time you think Transformers is done, he says, “Another one.”
I’m just saying, has anyone ever seen Michael Bay and DJ Khaled in the same room together? Do your own research, people.
Okay, that’s not entirely serious. It was announced a while back that Bumblebee was essentially a soft reboot of the franchise, and given how surprisingly good that film was, a sequel was absolutely inevitable. I was hoping somehow Hailee Steinfeld would return; alas, she will simply remain a fond memory in our and Bumblebee’s minds (her character does at least get a shout-out in the film).
But with Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, Bay and Co. are introducing yet another toy/storyline into the Transformers cinematic universe: the beloved Maximals* and from the “Beast Wars” television series. And this sincerely had me pretty excited for the film; growing up in the ’90s, “Beast Wars” was right in my adolescent wheelhouse. I watched every episode intently and got a bunch of the toys (my OG Optimus Primal is somewhere) and I was sad that it only lasted three seasons.
*- in the series, the Predacons fought the Maximals, but they’ve been replaced in the film by the Terrorcons. I was unfamiliar with them, it appears they’ve appeared in previous iterations of the Transformers universe.
I have to admit, even though they look a bit different from the series (CGI has thankfully advanced quite a bit in 25 years), I felt a sense of nostalgia the first time I saw Optimus Primal, Rhinox, Cheetor, and Airazor on screen. I would have loved for them to have gotten the original voice cast to play them again, but the new crew, including Ron Perlman as Primal and Michelle Yeoh as Airazor, did a solid job. They join the Autobot crew of Optimus Prime (the one and only Peter Cullen), Mirage (Pete Davidson), Bumblebee, Wheeljack (Cristo Fernandez, whose voice I immediately recognized from “Ted Lasso”), Arcee (Liza Koshy) and Stratosphere (John DiMaggio) as they face off against giant planet-sized Unicron (Colman Domingo) and the Terrorcons (led by Peter Dinklage voicing Scorn).
It’s a pretty star-studded support cast, and for the most part, they do a great job voicing their roles opposite Anthony Ramos and Dominique Fishback, who play Noah Diaz and Elena Wallace, respectively. Noah is a down-on-his-luck Army veteran trying to find a job so he can help take care of his mom and younger brother, while Elena is a researcher at a museum who inadvertently finds part of the Transwarp key, which both sides want: the Autobots so they can finally go home to their home planet of Cybertron, the Terrorcons so they can bring Unicron to Earth so Unicron can devour its resources.
At this point, if you’re a fan of the franchise and you’re planning on seeing the film, you’ve come to realize that plot and dialogue are not exactly strong points in the series. These little things are essentially meant to hold up the real star vessels, giant-ass robots who shoot and beat each other up and inflict graphic wounds that, if they happened to humans, would receive a very R rating. And once again, the film does a perfectly adequate job of giving the audience what they want.
Although Michael Bay isn’t at the helm anymore, he still serves as a producer, and by this point, they’ve pretty much got the formula nailed down from the first five films in the series. Bumblebee is by far the best movie in the series, but it’s also the smallest, featuring just a few Transformers and focusing on the relationship between ‘Bee and Charlie (Hailee’s character), and it made the least money, so once again the action’s been ramped up. Films like this, realistically you don’t hope they’ll be good; you hope they’ll be entertaining. And I thought it was, for the most part; the dialogue is still awful and predictable, but the action scenes are beautiful to watch, and 2+ hours went by pretty quickly.
On the other hand, much of the audience at the screening I attended loved it. Many people cheered throughout and at the end. I brought my niece with me, and she absolutely loved it. I had anticipated the main audience would be millennials and Gen Xers who grew up watching the series, but there were quite a few children and younger adults in the audience. It has been 16 years since the first film in the series came out, so perhaps they’re trying to draw in younger fans with their most recent entries; if the reception from the screening is any indication, maybe they do know what they’re doing.
And I’ll say this: for at least a moment, I had the strongest urge to go find my old toys and bust ‘em out.
Transformers gets a C+ from me; my niece gave it an A+