Transformers: Rise of the Beasts (2023)
Transformers: Rise of the Beasts (2023)

Genre: Sci-Fi Adventure Running Time: 2 hrs. 7 min.

Release Date: June 9th, 2023 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Steven Caple Jr. Actors: Anthony Ramos, Dominique Fishback, Pete Davidson, Ron Perlman, Peter Dinklage, Peter Cullen, Liza Koshy, Michelle Yeoh

 


 

W

hen the power-hungry, world-eating monstrosity Unicron (Colman Domingo) arrives at the Maximals’ homeworld, the pernicious being realizes it needs the Transwarp Key – a highly advanced portal-creating conduit – in order to continue feeding its insatiable desire for devastation. But the Maximals’ leader, Optimus Primal (Ron Perlman), vows to protect the device no matter what the cost, transporting himself and the last of his kind, including Airazor (Michelle Yeoh), Rhinox (David Sobolov), and Cheetor (Tongayi Chirisa), to Earth to keep the Key safely hidden away. Meanwhile, in 1994 New York, former soldier Noah Diaz (Anthony Ramos) struggles to find work to help pay for his younger brother Kris’ (Dean Scott Vazquez) medical bills. In a moment of weakness, he agrees to boost a Porsche from a guarded parking garage. When it turns out that his score is no ordinary sports car, but rather an alien Transformer named Mirage (Pete Davidson), Noah is thrown into a race against time to uncover the final resting place of the Transwarp Key. With the aid of ancient artifacts expert Elena (Dominique Fishback) and Transformer leader Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) and his brethren, including Arcee (Liza Koshy), Wheeljack (Cristo Fernandez), Bumblebee, and Stratosphere (John DiMaggio), the intrepid fighter must wage a desperate war against Unicron’s feared Terrorcons and their ruthless leader, Scourge (Peter Dinklage).

They may be aliens from many galaxies away, but they still take the forms of creatures from Earth (such as a gorilla, eagle, rhino, cheetah, scorpions, and more), duplicate their sounds, and mimic their movements, as if those animals readily exist on other planets, or those aliens have visited (or studied) Earth before. It’s also helpful that they speak English. And it’s certainly disadvantageous that a portal through time and space can be manifested for malevolent forces to invade and consume intergalactic resources; it’s curious that this particular technology only exists within a single device, apparently cannot be reproduced, and starts off in the hands of the ethically peace-loving Maximals.

But none of the specific plot points matter much; this entire movie was essentially designed around these monstrous automatons dueling one another – smashing their metallic components together, unloading weaponry with unlimited ammunition across landscapes, and rearranging their body parts to form various tools for evasive maneuvers or destruction. The combat sequences still look exceptional, as do all the hyper-complex transformations (which involve doors and windows and tires shifting across and folding into humanoid-shaped entities to form vehicles, and back again), even if they’re incredibly repetitive – not just in this chapter, but as seen in every one before it. After all, this is the seventh film in the series. And the car chases are similarly still amusing, largely done better than in other recent, speedy-cars-and-loyal-families pictures like “Fast X.”

The special effects are such a selling point, in fact, that the producers didn’t bother with wasting their money on stars; there’s hardly anyone in here who could command much of a salary (including the voice actors) – evidenced by the promotional materials in which they’re either excluded altogether or relegated to a corner as an afterthought. The attention to the human characters is so minimal that they’re merely cookie-cutter stereotypes, each given the entirely expected qualities and social positions required to provide limited commentary on the lack of support for military veterans, on poverty (and its consequences on the American healthcare system), on minority labor (and the way they’re treated by the wealthy, primarily with racism), and on criminality (again, tied to systemic financial distresses). It may be an attempt to balance out the hi-tech robo-battles, but the human roles become a considerable drag, especially when these realistic societal strifes occur within a world of technologically-advanced alien behemoths. Noah and Elena may be extreme (if naturally easy) underdogs, but their situations (chiefly involving groan-inducing familial or workplace interactions) are difficult to take seriously amid the godlike powers of extraterrestrial leviathans.

It also doesn’t help that the humans are so weak and ineffectual; they’re wholly unnecessary in clashes with towering golems. What exactly can they do, other than to fit into tight spaces, which are always conveniently positioned during uninspired missions? If Scourge was actually interested in accomplishing his goal, he’d simply annihilate crowds of people, rather than waiting for when they disperse, appearing as if he wishes to minimize casualties. His minions aren’t as opposed to frequent jump-scare moments of torment; yet they’re equally as inefficient when it comes to actually slaughtering what should be defenseless, harmless bags of flesh. As a result, regardless of the amount of tension-filled near-misses, there’s no real sense of danger.

By the end, the continual running and fighting grows monotonous; when the two lead humans can’t die, and the collection of hero Transformers seem impervious to virtually everything (their limitations aren’t evident – sometimes a sword through the torso is critical, other times it’s a mere scratch), the stakes are too low to muster emotional investment. And just when the scenario looks grim enough, an absurdly contrived solution is conjured from nothing. “There’s gotta be a way to stop this dude!” Of course, once that resolution is met (neat and tidy as always), a potential continuation is comparably defined; a decisive conclusion is a thing of the past. “Evil can never be vanquished completely.”

– The Massie Twins

  • 3/10