Genre: Action/Adventure
Director: Steven Caple Jr.
Cast: Anthony Ramos, Dominique Fishback, Tobe Nwigwe, Peter Cullen, Ron Perlman Peter Dinklage, Michelle Yeoh, Liza Koshy, John DiMaggio, David Sobolov, Michaela Jae Rodriguez, Pete Davidson, Cristo Fernández
Runtime: 2 hr 7 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Violence)
Released By: UIP
Official Website: 

Opening Day: 8 June 2023

Synopsis: Returning to the action and spectacle that have captured moviegoers around the world, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts will take audiences on a '90s globetrotting adventure with the Autobots and introduce a whole new breed of Transformer - the Maximals - to the existing battle on earth between Autobots and Decepticons.

Movie Review:

Bring back the Bay-hem! As blasphemous as that may sound, that was the first thought which crossed our minds after sitting through two hours of thrill-less metal-versus-metal action.

Say what you will about the Michael Bay quadrology (we’re leaving out his very last ‘The Last Knight’, because that movie unfortunately was as bad as it gets), but the set-pieces were spectacular to say the least, with scale, scope and stakes to stimulate a genuine sense of peril and awe.

Sadly, that visceral pleasure is sorely missing in this latest entry, whose action is curiously uninvolving. Be it a car chase on the Williamsburg Bridge, or a foot chase within and outside the New York Musuem of Archaeology, or even the final showdown at the ruins of Machu Picchu that looks ripped from ‘Avengers: Endgame’, the way the action is shot keeps you at its periphery. Contrast that to Bay’s films, where the camera moves with the action to bring you right into the heart of it, and the mix of close-ups and long shots convey both intimacy and spectacle.

At the risk of sounding shallow, the reason why we place so much emphasis on the action is that it is the very raison d’etre of any ‘Transformers’ movie – and in the case of ‘Rise of the Beasts’, it is to see the Autobots and the Maximals team up against the Terrorcons. Indeed, as the sub-title suggests, the main attraction here is the robot beasts drawn from the syndicated animated series in the late 1990s, which features such robots as Optimus Primal (Ron Perlman), a gorilla; Airazor (Michelle Yeoh), a peregrine falcon; Rhinox (David Sobolov), which you can guess; and Cheetor (Tongayi Chirisa), ditto.

These Maximals have fled their home to take refuge on Earth following its destruction by the planet-devouring Unicron (Colman Domingo), and after centuries of peace, find that sanctuary broken by a young historian Elena (Dominique Fishback), who unleashes a signal into deep space when she uses a pair of lasers on a recently discovered ancient artifact resembling the Maltese falcon. Within that artifact is one half of the Transwarp key that Unicron is after, and the same signal that summons Unicron’s henchman Scourge (Peter Dinklage) also awakens the Autobots, whose leader Cybertron (Peter Cullen) wants to use the same key to return to his homeland.

The search for the other half of the Transwarp key brings the Autobots and Terrorcons to Peru, where the Autobots will team up with the Maximals to stop Unicron from acquiring the key and therefore the ability to traverse across universes to destroy Earth and other planets. Though five screenwriters are credited, the plot is utterly straightforward, with both story and character meant only to connect the dots between the set-pieces; most egregiously, there is no real sense of danger to the good guys whether robot or human, not even when Bumblebee is impaled and drained of his life force in the Autobots’ first encounter with Scourge.

To be fair, this is director Steven Caple Jr.’s most massive film to date, and the director best known for ‘Creed II’ does a impressive step-up from that boxing drama to a summer blockbuster of this scale. Alas, ‘Rise of the Beasts’ pales in comparison to what Bay had accomplished even with his first ‘Transformers’, and it is difficult to ignore how uninspiring the proceedings are. What Caple does do well is in capturing the mid-90s vibe of the era in which the movie is set, with pop-culture references to the Mario Bros. video games and hip-hop classics from A Tribe Called Quest, Wu-Tang Clan, Diggable Planets, The Notorious B.I.G. and more.

While ‘Bumblebee’ was a fun spinoff, this latest entry to the main ‘Transformers’ franchise fails to convey the same sense of excitement, spectacle and thrill as most of its predecessors. Sure, Bay’s quadrology was hardly perfect, and suffered from many of his gratuitous excesses, but there was never any question that the size of Bay’s canvass was enormous from the visuals that he placed onscreen. On the other hand, ‘Rise of the Beasts’ lacks the same ambition, and ends up being underwhelming whether in terms of scale, scope or stakes. It ain’t bad by any measure, and even with an ending that promises a cross-over with another iconic Hasbro franchise, it sure pales in comparison to what we’ve seen in this live-action series.

Movie Rating:

(Whether in terms of scale, scope and stakes, this latest 'Transformers' pales in comparison to Bay's quadrology, and therefore lacks the same sense of excitement, spectacle and thrill)

Review by Gabriel Chong


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