‘Transformers: Rise of the Beasts’ - More than meets the eye
In five movies, Optimus Prime and his heroic autobots have sought after one all-powerful ancient object after the other. There’s the allspark, the matrix of leadership, the pillars, the seed, and the staff. Each time the journey goes across the globe with devastating effects on the world’s most iconic landmarks.
The sixth entry in the franchise, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, takes that formula and runs with it, sending its heroes to find the Transwarp key in an effort to secure a passage to their homeworld of Cybertron. The only problem is the evil Terrorcons have designs to use the key so the planet destroying Unicron can, well, destroy planet Earth.
To spice things up, the movie throws in the Maximals, a different alien race of transforming robots who turn into animals rather than cars. Why a group of aliens all turn into creatures from Earth is never explained. In fact, Transformers Rise of the Beasts explains very little.
Perhaps that’s because the film-makers know there’s not much to work with. The film is based on a cartoon designed to sell toys, and the movie never deigns to be anything more than that. The dialogue is pointed and obvious and the characters have never been sillier, but also, never quite so distinct.
One stand out is Pete Davidson’s Mirage who combines the wanton aggression of Bradley Cooper’s Rocket Raccoon with the juvenile sensibilities of Ryan Reynold’s Deadpool. The Maximals Airazor and Optimus Primal, a falcon and gorilla, respectively, deliver over-the-top lines about the fate of the world in a way that’s helped drastically by the vocal talent of Michelle Yeoh and Ron Perlman. The robots in disguise feel more like characters than vessels for action sequences.
Those action sequences are present, but better than they’ve been in a long while. With several moving parts, the swift battles are visually interesting while also being steeped in character, and despite concerning bloodless robots, tend to be more brutal than expected.
The humans in the film shine more than they ever have, with Anthony Ramos as the down-on-his luck veteran struggling to provide for this special needs brother, and single mother. Dominique Fishback plays a highly intelligent, yet perpetually overlooked research intern. Their characters are more compelling than any end-of-the world plot the film has going on, and seeing people of African and Latin descent in a giant action film directed by Steven Caple Jr. is perhaps the movie’s best element.
Transformers Rise of The Beasts is somehow both a breath of fresh air for the franchise, while also being par for the course. The trappings of story and dialogue are still present, yet the creative action and devotion to character are strong pluses. There’s more than meets the eye with Transformers Rise of the Beasts, but if you’ve detested the films thus far, don’t expect your outlook to be completely transformed.
Rating: Half Price.
Damian Levy is a film critic and podcaster for Damian Michael Movies.