If you’ve read my previous reviews of the live-action Transformers films (my review of the recent steelbook set can help out), you’ll note how the franchise started off strong with its exciting blend of action, drama, and humor, only to devolve into a lifeless product churned out as the next “summer blockbuster” event, with diminishing results.
After the success of 2018’s Bumblebee it seems Paramount Pictures has taken a step back and rethought how best to bring back the fun and sense of adventure of the earlier Michael Bay directed films, and with Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, they mostly succeed. While not the best entry in the series, it’s a Transformers-sized step in the right direction.
Things start off thousands of years in the past where ancient animal transformers known as the Maximals are busy trying to fight off the planet-eating Unicron (Colman Domingo), who finally makes his big screen appearance since Orson Welles iconic performance in the original 80s film.
It doesn’t help that the Maximals are protecting the Transwarp Key, a powerful artifact that can open portals between various timelines and universes (seems like Hollywood is stuck on this multiverse kick). When the Maximals leader sacrifices himself to hold off Unicron and his number one follower named Scourge (Peter Dinklage), it falls to Optimus Primal (Ron Perlman) and his team to escape with the Key.
Fast-forward to the 1990s where we enter the life of Noah (Anthony Ramos), an ex-soldier going through hard times looking after his sick younger brother without a steady income. So when the opportunity to steal a Porsche to sell off for some quick cash arrives, Noah attempts to do so out of desperation.
Meanwhile, we learn that the Transwarp Key has been split in two, and that an artifacts researcher named Elena (Dominique Fishback) has found one half and accidentally activates it, alerting the Autobots led by Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) who sees this as a chance to get him and the Autobots back home to Cybertron.
When Noah tries to steal the Porsche, it turns out to be an Autobot named Mirage (voiced hilariously by Pete Davidson) that quickly shuts down Noah’s big money plans. It also doesn’t take long for Elena to come across them and get chased by Scourge and his Terrorcons aka animal Decepticons.
Once Mirage introduces Noah and Elena to Optimus Prime, they decide to team up and find the other half of the key in Peru, only to come across Optimus Primal and the Maximals whom they form a shaky alliance with to protect the key from Scourge and the Terrorcons, no matter the cost. Yeah, I said it.
It’s been a long time since I had a good time with the live-action Transformers, and I’m glad Rise of the Beasts finally brings back some of the fun that was long missing from the later entries. It also helps that I’m a big fan of the classic Beast Wars series, so it was awesome seeing them debut on the big screen as well.
Steven Caple Jr. (Creed II) does a fine job taking the robotic reins of the franchise, and I would’ve never thought I’d say this, but Pete Davison as Mirage was a nice treat as he kept things funny without getting too carried away. I also enjoyed seeing some of the classic Autobots such as Arcee (Liza Koshy) and Wheeljack (Cristo Fernández) along for the ride as well.
Also having Peter Cullen as Prime facing off against Peter Dinklage’s Scourge was a treat for the ears as both play their characters well. The action and special effects were also pretty good and easy to follow, which hasn’t always been the case in previous Transformers films. I also have to give credit to its brisk pacing that managed to keep the multiple storylines and characters interesting and humming along without wasting a lot of time, which is always a plus. Oh, don’t forget to stay for the end credits which reveal perhaps the biggest bit of fan-service outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
So if you’re wondering if it’s safe to enjoy your favorite robots in disguise again, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts takes a much needed and welcomed step in the right direction of bringing the spark back to this franchise. Fans of the original trilogy of Micheal Bay films, as well as the later soft-reboot Bumblebee, are sure to enjoy this adventure that’s more in line with the beloved G1 generation of characters than later entries. Only time will tell if they can keep the fun rolling out in the next entry.