The Transformers franchise is back with a new film. Will it give the franchise the necessary spark? Well…somewhat. Rise of the Beasts takes place in the 90s (after the Bumblebee film) where we meet Noah Diaz. He is struggling to find work, deciding to take a criminal heist for extra cash. But when the vehicle he steals reveals itself as an alien robot, he’s thrust into a battle between the Autobots and the Terrorcons. Can Noah and the Autobots convince a hidden group of Transformers (The Maximals) to help save the world?
Rise of the Beasts serves as a soft reboot of the Transformers franchise, moving on from Michael Bay for a fresh take. I always had a soft spot for the Bay films even though they are riddled with quick edits and confusing mythology. But the action and CGI were top notch. Same case here, the CGI is on the better side of modern special effects. Each piece of the Transformers movements are swift, with the voice acting matching the robots. Other modern blockbusters could learn a thing or two from the Transformers franchise. The action was loud, boisterous, and a ton of fun! There’s no shortage of intense battles, especially in the third act. A new group of Transformers was introduced in the film as well (The Maximals). To my surprise, they were awesome. Their backstory was interesting and they make for a nice bridge between the humans and the Autobots. But I can’t forget about Peter Cullen voicing Optimus Prime. He is truly one of the most well voiced characters in film. Every time Optimus Prime takes the screen, his presence is felt thanks to Cullen’s committed performance. I continue to believe Optimus Prime is one of the best protagonists in modern blockbusters. Speaking of Prime, his value as a leader was explored in a new way. He grapples with loss, motivation, and the uncertainty of his team’s place in the world. I enjoyed this as it makes him a more complex character.
Although Rise of the Beasts is a new start for the franchise, it retains some of the negative qualities form Bay’s films. While the action is crisper and clearer in the film, the story and stakes are not. There’s nothing unique about the story that we haven’t seen before (in a Transformers film or otherwise). This goes for the presentation of the human characters as well. While the leads are fine, they aren’t game changers. We spend a large portion of the film getting to know about Noah’s background. While sharper characters are welcomed, I think it took away from the central story. This could have been explored in a more efficient manner. But even so, once they are united with the Transformers, they take a back seat…making the first half feel a bit moot. Soundtrack choices were also a mixed element. I feel as though it lacked the energy and impact that the grander scores of the previous films had. Instead, it felt more like the director’s preference rather than a fitting stylistic combination. The end credit scene will also be a make or break depending on your investment in these characters. Some of my audience seemed thrilled, but others puzzled.
Rise of the Beasts is a solid enough entry in the Transformers franchise. It lies somewhere in the middle for me. The action, CGI, and introduction of the Maximals were all great. But the characters and story were pretty generic. I don’t think this will win over those uninvested in the franchise. But for audiences who are, I’m sure they’ll be satisfied.