Transformers: Rise of the Beasts sits in the shadow of six other movies in the long-running toy franchise. The good thing is that you don’t really need to know or see anything from those other films to enjoy this one. The only events mentioned outside of this film are that of the excellent Bumblebee from 2018. Even then, it’s a passing mention about Bumblebee trusting humans more than Optimus Prime.

Rise of the Beasts taps into that childhood-like wonder that the Hasbro toys bring out. Like the G1 series and later iterations, this movie knows it’s basically one giant toy commercial, and at points, it plays out like one. For people wary of the Michael Bay influence on this film, you’re safe from Megan Fox running gratuitously in slow-motion, protagonists that aren’t remotely personable, and there are explosions, but not an ungodly amount.

Luckily for us, we finally have a human protagonist in Noah (played by Anthony Ramos) that is personable, easy to root for, and not a complete clown like Sam Witwicky was in the previous Transformers films. Rounding out the cast is Dominique Fishback, Michelle Yeoh, Pete Davidson, Luna Lauren Velez, Ron Perlman, Peter Cullen, Peter Dinklage, Colman Domingo, John DiMaggio, and Liza Koshy.

A Time Change And All The 90s Vibes

Transformers: Rise of the Beasts doesn’t take place in the present day. It kicks back all the way to the ’90s. You get all the fashion, music, technology, and more from that era here. It’s a nice juxtaposition with the absolutely advanced technology that the Autobots, Maximals, and Terrorcons use. For fans of Transformers: Beast Wars, you get to see some of the inspiration from that series here, but it doesn’t totally capture the look of that series. It does, however, bring us the best-looking versions of the Autobots we’ve seen yet. Optimus (Peter Cullen), Mirage (Pete Davidson), Bumblebee, Arcee (Liza Koshy), and the crew all look magnificent on screen. The digital effects and battles between giant robots are top-notch.

The movie sees the Autobots trapped on Earth. After Unicron destroys their homeworld, the Maximals (Optimus Primal, Airazor, Rhinox, and Cheetor), along with the Terrorcons led by Scourge, are also trapped on Earth. The prologue explains how the Maximals end up on Earth, and both factions are joined by the Terrorcons. You also have Unicron (voiced by Colman Domingo) orchestrating everything from afar in the galaxy.

The ’90s setting helps the film immensely with the overall feel and look. The soundtrack for the film is exceptional, with some great tracks thrown in and an all-time needle drop with ‘Mama Said Knock You Out’ by LL Cool J.

Where Transformers: Rise Of The Beasts Struggles

Part of the way through Rise of the Beasts, they seem to forget that the audience is here to see Autobots and Maximals. It gets bogged down in melodrama involving families and how that affects people. Luckily, they rebound and get back to what we all want to see, but it’s a jarring section of the film. The dialogue is wooden, and the performers try their best with what they’re given. Also, Dominique Fishback is basically wasted as a researcher/archaeologist that ends up being an exposition machine for the plot. She never gets more to do than that, and it’s disappointing because her character is an interesting one.

There’s also a bit too much exposition in the film in general. They tend to just tell audiences a lot of the details of what’s going on instead of showing it. Speaking of showing it, the film might have that ’90s vibe that was filled with extraneous outfits and bombastic styles, but the color palate here is pretty muted. The film has a lot of grey, brown, and darker colors instead of popping off the screen. It might come down to the fact that the Maximals aren’t as colorful as the Autobots.

The last point here that might disappoint some fans expecting the Maximals to be a bigger part of the film is that they’re not. This is still an Autobots-led movie, and it still focuses a lot on them and their story. So those expecting Beast Wars The Movie might not have as good of a time.

Optimus Prime Being A Savage, Robots Fighting, And An Excellent Third Act

Let’s start off with Optimus Prime. He gets some of the best lines in the movie and some of the most badass and savage action scenes. He and Optimus Primal even get a sort of “Legolas and Gimli” moment near the end of the film; where they compete in absolutely decimating Scorponoks created by Unicron. That third-act fight between the Autobots and Maximals against an army of Unicron’s cronies and the Terrorcons is among the best scenes this series has seen. You get all the hallmarks plus some really emotional, weighty moments.

Scourge might be the “sub-villain” this time around but he’s menacing as hell. He comes across as a massive threat to the heroes immediately. Unicron also might not be the main villain this time around, he’s more like Thanos, waiting in the wings, but the scenes where he’s destroying a planet or reprimanding Scourge for losing a portion of the Transwarp Key are awesome.

Anthony Ramos absolutely steals the show as Noah. In a movie where you’re going into it wanting to see Optimus Prime and robots destroy each other, it takes a lot to upstage that. Ramos does that and more in an incredibly charismatic performance. He also makes the most of a bit of silliness in the third act. As I was mentioning before, the melodrama gets to be a bit too much, but Ramos makes the absolute most of it.

A Good Showing For Transformers For The Future

If this is the direction that the Transformers movies are heading in, we’re in for a good stretch. The film might have some issues with exposition and melodrama, but it more than makes up for it with some excellent action set pieces and strong performances across the board. For fans that have been clamoring for the live-action debut of Unicron, he’s here, and he’s terrifying. The Maximals, in their limited time, are awesome. Transformers: Rise of the Beasts sheds the skin of Michael Bay-led over-bloated films from the past and takes the series into a new interesting direction.

Transformers: Rise of the Beasts releases in theaters on June 9th.

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