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Transformers: Rise of the Beasts

Transformers: Rise of the Beasts

Jun. 07, 2023United States
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5.5 2 votes


The Transformers film franchise hits the reset button with Transformers: Rise of the Beasts. Serving as a prequel to the existing movies, this ’90s-set entry introduces new robot factions and human characters to the globe-trotting sci-fi spectacle. Director Steven Caple Jr. captures the right balance of humor, heart and nostalgia to potentially revitalize the brand. While the messy CGI action still strains at times, Rise of the Beasts captures the spirit of Saturday morning cartoons.

We open meeting Brooklyn teenager Noah (Anthony Ramos), a gearhead who stumbles upon an old rundown truck that turns out to be the damaged Autobot scout Bumblebee. As Noah helps fix up Bumblebee, they soon become caught up in an intergalactic conflict between transforming robot factions that lands on Earth. With the noble Maximals, wolf-like Predacons, ancient Terracons and classic Decepticons in play, this planet may never be the same.

The 1994 setting allows Caple Jr. to ground the robot brawls with streetwise style. Baggy clothes and hip-hop beats give the human characters retro flavor that contrasts nicely with the alien CGI. New York also makes for an atmospheric battleground, from graffiti-covered alleys to crowded Times Square. The period detail helps gloss over some of the more outlandish plot beats.

Anthony Ramos’ earnest performance captures Noah’s transition from skeptical teen to brave leader well. His camaraderie with Bumblebee becomes the film’s emotional crux, echoing the boy-and-his-robot bonds of classics like E.T. Dominique Fishback brings charming edge as Noah’s brilliant love interest Elena, also along for the wild ride. A shared desire to do what’s right unites them when worldwide catastrophe looms.

The new Autobots and Decepticons boast colorful designs that translate their beast influences better than prior films’ Cybertronian modes. The noble lion Maximal leader conveys strength, while a rambunctious little gremlin bot provides comic relief. Scenes of the robots conversing also feel more integrated to their surroundings than awkward digital inserts. The animation has subtle but welcome improvements.

As a director experienced with street-level stories, Caple Jr. brings some grit to offset the goofier Saturday morning cartoon elements. Aesthetic and thematic ties to the original ‘80s animated movie and beasts-based Beast Wars series make this dutiful franchise course-correction feel affectionate rather than cynical. Fans will appreciate the retro touches.

Of course, Transformers hinges on the robotic beatdowns, and Rise of the Beasts delivers the CGI metal-on-metal action as enormous as ever. The robot designs do the heavy lifting in providing distinct fighting styles, like a gorilla ‘Con pulverizing with brute force. Set pieces come rapid-fire across various world cities. As before, keeping track of what’s happening in the convoluted busy sequences can be troublesome. But the creative locales and throwback flair give them energy.

While the globe-hopping story follows familiar patterns, the archeologist heroine voiced by Michelle Yeoh (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”) provides welcome mysticism. She ties the odd assemblage of robots and relics to Earth’s real history in an interesting way. And without rehashing franchise lore, the streamlined story works better for newcomers while offering some world-building.

For a franchise that had lost considerable steam, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts unexpected shows glimmers of new potential by tapping into its cartoon roots. Director Steven Caple Jr. marries modern bombast and nostalgic touches for a popcorn blockbuster with wide appeal. The messy robot brawls still frustrate, but this back-to-basics approach provides hope. By the end, it’s easy to get excited for the next adventure now that Transformers has some renewed traction.

Transformers: Rise of the Beasts
Original title Transformers: Rise of the Beasts



Peter Cullen isOptimus Prime (voice)
Optimus Prime (voice)
Ron Perlman isOptimus Primal (voice)
Optimus Primal (voice)
Michelle Yeoh isMaximal Airazor
Maximal Airazor
Pete Davidson isAutobot Mirage
Autobot Mirage

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