As a kid, I loved Transformers. I watched the cartoons and played with the toys. When Michael Bay released the first live-action Transformers movie, I thought it was a fun ride, though his sequels ranged from okay to awful incoherent bloated disasters. 2018’s 80’s set Bumblebee took the series in a refreshingly simplistic direction, thanks to director Travis Knight. A smaller story that still delivered plenty of action and humor. Steven Caple Jr. (Creed II) steps behind the camera for the 7th installment of the franchise and continues in the direction of the previous film. While not the best Transformers film out there, Rise of the Beasts is definitely in the top 3.
Set in 1994, the story centers on Noah Diaz (Anthony Ramos), an ex-soldier who is having trouble finding a job, which he needs as his younger brother is very sick and needs medical treatment. With bills piling up and now the hospital refusing treatment for his brother, Noah caves and decides to help his friend steal a car. The car theft does not go as planned because Noah unknowingly tries to steal a Porsche that is actually an Autobot named Mirage (voiced by Pete Davidson).
Meanwhile, museum intern Elena Wallace (Dominique Fishback) discovers half of the Transwarp Key that was hidden inside one of the statues. The discovery of the key sends out a beacon into space that alerts the planet-eating dark god Unicron (voiced by Colman Domingo), who wants the time and space portal opening device for himself. Sent to Earth is Scourge (voiced by Peter Dinklage), Unicron’s top soldier. He is also more powerful than the other Transformers thanks to the power given to him by his master. While Noah and Elena did not ask to be in the middle of this war, they join the Autobots to try and locate the second half of the key before Scourge gets to it, which would mean the end of Earth.
Rise of the Beasts is also essentially the first Beast Wars movie. By the time the Beast Wars cartoons and toys came out, I had grown out of them. Having said that, there is very little in this film that makes the beasts stand out. Optimus Primal (voiced by Ron Perlman) is definitely a cool looking gorilla transformer and comes across as a strong leader. There just isn’t anything memorable about the rest of his group. I can’t say the same about the Autobots, as Pete Davidson brings his A-game to Mirage, making him the first Transformer to actually stand apart in this series. While earlier films in the series used stereotypes and bathroom humor to try and generate laughs from the intergalactic robots, Davidson uses his on-brand comedic style which seems to work perfectly, especially when partnered with Ramos. For the first time it feels like a Transformer and human are actually friends.
For me, the soundtrack is one of the real stars of the film. Some of the best 90’s hip-hop joins are sprinkled throughout the film and they are used perfectly. A perfect example is Digable Planets’ Cool Like Dat playing while Noah is trying unsuccessfully to sneak into a museum event. Rise of the Beasts is at its best when Noah is interacting with others, whether it’s his family, Elena or Mirage. Other than that, the film is fairly paint-by-numbers, adding very little in terms of originality. The final act is a massive CGI battle, as expected and for the most part is entertaining. I would love to see more interesting human characters thrown into the mix moving forward and the twist at the end may promise just that.
By: Marc Ferman