The Transformers series is one of the most reliably mediocre franchises of our time. The original was exciting, and Bumblebee was fun. Beyond that, the movies have focused more on finding ways to make the fans go bananas than on telling good stories. Transformers: Rise of the Beasts follows this tradition. The best thing I can say about it is that it’s better than The Last Knight.
The setting is 1994. Discharged soldier Noah Diaz (Anthony Ramos) can’t find a job, leading him to reluctantly agree to participate in a car theft so he can pay for his little brother’s medical care. Lo and behold, the Porsche he tries to steal is an Autobot named Mirage (voiced by Pete Davidson). As Noah is inside, Mirage gets an emergency call from head Autobot Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen). Evil Transformers known as Terrorcons, headed by the ruthless Scourge (Peter Dinklage), are trying to obtain the requisite Magic Object, in this case a special key that will allow the planet-eating god Unicron to turn the universe into an all-you-can-eat buffet.
Obviously, Noah joins in the fight to stop them. The trail leads to the ruins of Peru. In a coincidence of great convenience, the team has previously encountered Elena Wallace (Dominique Fishback), a museum worker who just happens to specialize in ancient Peruvian ruins. Her knowledge comes in handy. If there’s a chief selling point to the movie, it’s the appearance of the Maximals, Transformers that look like a gorilla, a rhino, and other animals. Of course, they’re in Peru and ready to pitch in.
The story in Transformers: Rise of the Beasts is stupid. This is yet another CGI-heavy action picture in which the characters go on a quest to obtain a MacGuffin so the world won’t be destroyed. Nothing original is added to the well-worn formula, aside from animal Transformers. Why would Transformers need to look like animals in the first place? Disguising themselves as cars and trucks makes sense, because they can hide in plain sight. No one is going to mistake a gigantic metal gorilla for a real one, though. Sure, they look cool. So what? Their inclusion doesn’t add anything significant to the plot. The beasts are simply here because fans want to see them.
Aside from the obligatory final battle in which Transformers beat the royal hell out of each other, Rise of the Beasts contains an excess of dopey comedy. Pete Davidson drops uninspired one-liners as Mirage, and Ramos is frequently required to mug for the camera in conveying Noah’s astonishment at coming face-to-face with massive robots. Remember the scene in Revenge of the Fallen where Devastator had two wrecking balls drop from his crotch? Nothing here is that puerile, but all of it is that uninspired. When, for example, Bumblebee plays a clip of Jack Nicholson saying “You can’t handle the truth!” from A Few Good Men, Optimus Prime chastises him for spending too much time at a drive-in theater. What a knee-slapper.
Transformers: Rise of the Beasts is a movie for people who love Transformers and Maximals and don’t care about story, characterization, logic, or anything else that typically constitutes a quality motion picture. Impressive CGI can be found throughout, and watching giant robots fight always offers a bit of amusement. The unwillingness of director Steve Caple, Jr. and his five screenwriters to go beyond that is disappointing.
out of four
Transformers: Rise of the Beasts is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and language. The running time is 2 hours and 7 minutes.