Fed up with watching Autobots and Decepticons wrangle and exchange rocket punches? Tired of an 11-year monster slugfest that never ends? You’re in for a treat. The seventh entry in the Transformers movie-verse will forego the usual Cybertronians for their immediate kin in a live-action adaptation of Beast Wars. The cast and crew of Transformers 7 made the big reveal during a live virtual reality event on Tuesday. Optimus Prime and Megatron’s distant relatives, the Maximals and Predacons, will be making their cinematic debut in the film, titled Transformers: Rise of the Beasts.
Every Transformers film, it’s the same old story. The Autobots and Decepticons are locking horns for the fate of the planet and they need the help of a mechanic (and his two or three friends and girlfriend) to determine the winner. While it’s certainly enjoyable to see our childhood heroes battle evil in increasingly mechanized fashion, at some point something needs to shift. Producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura understands this completely. “Exhausting” the well, so to speak, led to conversations about adapting other, more obscure areas of Transformers lore for the mainstream. Beast Wars immediately came up. Anthony Ramos, who plays Noah in the Transformers 7, recalls the moment with childlike elation. “When I read the script and I saw we were gonna have them in the movie, my head almost exploded,” he relates.
Canon characters aside, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts is already shaping up to be quite the notable departure from the franchise. The film is set in New York City in 1994, featuring prehistoric animals with the ability to self-configure into robots. According to Steven Caple Jr., the movie’s director, these creatures traveled from the past to influence the Autobots and Decepticons’ early years on Earth. In the animated series, the beast-like Maximals and Predacons are descendants of Cybertron’s two factions 300 years into the future.
Maximals are derived from bird, mammal, and fish species, while Predacons have more reptilian and amphibian roots. Caple and di Bonaventura didn’t explain the logistics behind the retcon, but describes it as an origin story for the Autobots and Decepticons. Think Bumblebee but on a much larger scale. Optimus Prime (voiced once again by Peter Cullen) still figures into the story; Transformers 7 chronicles his first time visiting Earth and the whys and hows of his future as impeccant leader of the Autobots. Caple enthuses: “I want to discover more about Optimus Prime, get underneath the surface — get underneath the metal, if you would — and explore who he is and his experience on Earth.”
Optimus Prime will feature a more cartoons-accurate “boxy” look in Rise of the Beasts, to contrast with the more maximalist concept designs of Michael Bay’s Transformers movies. He is joined in the fight against Decepticons Scourge and Nightbird (a tracker and a ninja, respectively) by fellow Autobots Bumblebee, Mirage, and Arcee. Anthony Ramos (In The Heights) and Dominique Fishback (Judas and the Black Messiah) serve as their human assists, Noah (a tech expert and ex-military) and Elena (an artifact researcher). Ugly Betty’s Lauren Velez is also involved. As for the titular Beasts, the falcon-like Airazor, rhinoceros-like Rhinox, and gorilla-like Optimus Primal (Prime’s direct descendant in franchise canon) are all confirmed to appear in Transformers 7.
Paramount didn’t originally want a Beast Wars adaptation. Lorenzo di Bonaventura spoke to ComicBook.com’s Meredith Placko in 2017 during a press junket for Transformers: The Last Knight and admitted he personally didn’t get the appeal of replacing cars with animals. “I’m probably not the one to be asking that question to,” di Bonaventura said, “because I don’t get Beast Wars, but you know, thankfully I’m not the only vote on it. I’ve never quite understood, they kind of feel like incompatible to me, you have animals, robots, we’re used to cars.”
The Snake Eyes producer has evidently changed his stance since. While Bumblebee was a “more intimate” take on the Transformers franchise, Transformers 7 is “a spectacle story … in the tradition of the Bay films.” So, expect plenty of explosions with emotional depth at its core. Most of the movie is shot in New York, but one sequence is set in the Incan ruins of Machu Picchu in southern Peru. The cast is currently shooting in Los Angeles. Transformers: Rise of the Beasts has a June 24, 2022 release date.