Transformers: Rise of the Beasts saves the franchise and sets it on a bold new path for the future.
TRANSFORMERS: RISE OF THE BEASTS REVIEW SCORE
After five movies, all of which disappointed long-time fans of the Transformers, 2018’s Bumblebee breathed new life into the franchise by going into the past as a soft-reboot. The opening sequence on Cybertron, featuring classic cartoon designs for the first time, excited fans over what a Transformers movie could be. Now, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts builds off of everything Bumblebee started, bringing in the fan-favorite Maximals, classic villain Unicron, and a healthy amount of 90s hip-hop that all blends together into the greatest film in the series.
Under the watchful eye of director Steven Caple Jr. (Creed II), Transformers: Rise of the Beasts respects the history of the long-running franchise while adding new twists. Mirroring the setup of the 2007 film, the story starts off in 1994 Brooklyn with Noah Diaz (Anthony Ramos), a former soldier that stumbles across Mirage (Pete Davidson), a classic Autobot disguised as a Porsche 911 Carrera, while jumping back and forth from the other new human character: Elena (Dominique Fishback). Elena, a museum intern, is investigating a strange new statue with bizarre engravings.
Anyone that has suffered through the original Michael Bay films has been disappointed in the human/Transformer ratio of past films, well rest assured, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts has the best human characters yet, with the most screentime for the giant robots to date. Elena and Noah are also integrated into the overall plot, involving a quest for a Warpkey that goes from New York to Peru, in a more organic way than any previous movie. There are no drawn-out scenes with Anthony Hopkins dropping exposition on how human history has been integrated with the Transformers since the dawn of man.
Instead, the writing, which has improved to the level of a Saturday morning cartoon, doesn’t point out every reference and detail for the viewer, letting the images on screen speak for themselves and tell the story. The result is both a predictable plot, and one that’s fun, outside of a bit of a drag in the middle before Optimus Primal (voiced by Ron Perlman) makes his entrance. Correcting the worst part of Age of Extinction, there’s no waiting for the last 15 minutes to see the Maximals in action, and in fact, the closing battle proves that Transformers: Rise of the Beasts has learned from every other clunky, hard-to-follow fight in the previous films, with the best combat sequence yet.
Transformers: Rise of the Beasts makes the Autobots, Maximals, and Terrorcons are all easy to pick out on screen, with the use of bright colors and unique designs, especially the new Transformers, Arcee (voiced by Liza Koshy), Wheeljack (Cristo Fernandez), Stratosphere (John DiMaggio), and Airrazor (Michelle Yeoh). Regrettably, two of the Maximals, Cheetor and Rhinox, get the short end of the screen time, but they still have more than Ironhide from the first film.
Finally, for long-time fans of the franchise, the inclusion of Unicron (voiced by Colman Domingo) is cause for celebration. The villain of the classic 1986 animated movie isn’t reimagined, he’s a massive planet, and best of all, his theme from his first appearance comes back. It’s a small detail, but Transformers: Rise of the Beasts respects nostalgia in the same way that Bumblebee did and in every way that Revenge of the Fallen did not.
Yet, the very last scene of Transformers: Rise of the Beasts will be the most important for the franchise moving forward. In one moment, it becomes clear that this is only the beginning of what comes next for the franchise that was once a laughingstock. It’s not a perfect film, the runtime is a little long for the story being told, the middle section does drag, and it embraces the “advertisement for toys” spirit of the original Generation 1 cartoon, but yet it manages to soar above even the low expectations everyone had for it.
Just as the heroes are fighting to save two planets, the film saves two franchises. Transformers: Rise of the Beasts is the best of the series, yet it ends with a promise that the best is yet to come.