Action Adventure

Review: ‘Transformers: Rise of the Beasts’ Relaunches the Blockbuster Franchise with New Heroes, New Villains and an Abundance of ‘90s Nostalgia

June 8, 2023Ben MK

With crowd-pleasing action blockbusters like Bad Boys, The Rock and Armageddon under his belt, Michael Bay was arguably the perfect choice of filmmaker to helm the Transformers movies and, over the course of five bombastically over-the-top entries, helped catapult Hasbro's world-famous robot toy line to the forefront of the global cinema stage. With the 2018 Bumblebee prequel, however, it was finally time for Bay to step down from the director's chair and pass on the torch. And now, with the highly anticipated Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, that torch is being passed once more, as Creed II director Steven Caple Jr. sets out to revitalize the long-running sci-fi action franchise with a brand new cast, new larger-than-life heroes and villains, and a heaping dose of '90s nostalgia.

Set seven years after the events of Bumblebee, in 1994, Rise of the Beasts follows Noah Diaz (Anthony Ramos), a former U.S. soldier who now resides in Brooklyn, New York with his mom, Breanna (Luna Lauren Velez), and younger brother, Kris (Dean Scott Vazquez). But when Kris and his family find themselves in desperate need of money to pay for his medical treatment and Noah, as a last resort, agrees to help his friend heist some high-end cars for quick cash, it inadvertently puts Noah square in the middle of a centuries-long conflict involving an Autobot faction called the Maximals and their nemeses, the planet-eating Unicron (Colman Domingo) and his disciples of evil, the Terrorcons. Hellbent on obtaining the Transwarp Key, a powerful and ancient artifact that would allow him to instantaneously travel anywhere in the galaxy, Unicron has dispatched his right-hand man, the ruthless Scourge (Peter Dinklage), to retrieve the key and obliterate anything that stands in the way. What Unicron and Scourge don't count on, though, is Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) and his loyal crew of heroic Autobots. Yet, even with the mighty Maximals by their side, are the Autobots strong enough to stop Unicron and his army?

Also along for the ride is Elena Wallace (Dominique Fishback), a mild-mannered archaeologist who has recently come across a mysterious relic of unknown origin. Enlisted by the Autobots to assist them with deciphering the cryptic clues that will lead them to the Transwarp Key, she joins Noah, Optimus, Bumblebee, Mirage (Pete Davidson) and Arcee (Liza Koshy) as they all journey from the streets of New York City to the jungles of Peru, where Airazor (Michelle Yeoh), Rhinox (David Sobolov), Cheetor (Tongayi Chirisa) and their leader, Optimus Primal (Ron Perlman), have been hiding out and keeping a low profile since arriving on Earth. With the clock working against them and Unicron's vast network of spies scouring the globe, though, it's only a matter of time before the enemy catches up with them. And when they do, it sets the stage for a climactic confrontation that will see our heroes battling not only for the fate of our planet — but for the fate of countless other planets in the universe.

Written by Joby Harold, Darnell Metayer, Josh Peters, Erich Hoeber and Jon Hoeber, the result is an entertaining introduction to the Maximals and lays the groundwork for future sequels that will hopefully explore more of their backstory and their war with the Predacons. For now, viewers will have to make do with Rise of the Beasts' Autobot-centric storyline, which relegates the Maximals to secondary characters while keeping the spotlight on Noah, his relationship with Kris, and his budding friendship with Mirage. Thankfully, Ramos proves himself more than up to the task of shouldering the majority of the film's emotional weight. And when paired with Davidson, the charismatic duo easily give Shia LaBeouf's Sam Witwicky and Bumblebee a run for their money.

Of course, no Transformers adventure would be complete without some good old robot-versus-robot combat. And with its fair share of spectacular set pieces, Rise of the Beasts certainly has it covered in that department. What this seventh installment in the series lacks, for better or worse, is that trademark Michael Bay flair. And while that may be a negative for those who are ardent fans of Bay's particular directing style, it's an otherwise refreshing change of pace that proves there's still more to this fan-favorite franchise than meets the eye.

Transformers: Rise of the Beasts releases June 9th, 2023 from Paramount Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and language. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 7 min.

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