Transformers: Rise of the Beasts movie poster

Transformers: Rise of the Beasts

In theaters June 9, 2023



127 minutes

Directed by:

Starring: , , , , , ,

We’re not going to spend a lot of time on Transformers: Rise of the Beasts (2023) because this isn’t a film that requires any great mental discourse. It’s robots trying to kill each other and humans are the helpless idiots and collateral damage. I mean, we just live here but feel free to take what you need.

It’s 1994, and Noah Diaz (Anthony Ramos) is trying to find a job to help his mom (Luna Lauren Velez) pay the bills and his little brother, Kris (Dean Scott Vazquez) be strong in the face of his critical illness. The illness isn’t critical to the plot or anything, it’s just useless clutter in an already convoluted plot, but if you need sympathy, I suppose an incurable childhood disease is a way to go. Unable to find an honest job, Noah turns to Reek (Tobe Nwigwe) a Twizzlers chewing conman who does a little auto theft on the side. The car in question appears to be an abandoned Porsche, and there are mild shenanigans in gaining access. In reality, the car is Mirage (Pete Davidson), a dormant Autobot, a race of alien tech stranded on Earth and searching for a way home but hiding in plain sight in the meantime. Essentially kidnapped, Noah meets the remaining Autobots: Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen), a semi, Arcee (Liza Koshy), a Ducati, and BumbleBee (a bunch of radio stations) which becomes any manner of yellow car. They convince Noah that he needs to do one more sketchy job at the Museum and then they can all go home.

At the same time across the City, Elena (Dominique Fishback), a researcher working at that very Museum is trying to determine the origin of a stone bird artifact that more learned colleagues have mislabeled, accidentally triggering its beacon and bringing a convergence of all manner of alien robots, both hostile and only slightly more friendly. Elena’s artifact is a key that can trigger an interstellar gate that can get the Autobots home. It can also bring forth Unicron (Colman Domingo), a mechanical planet-eater with designs on M-class planets. Unicron’s henchmen, the Terrorcons, Scourge (Peter Dinklage), and others -I’m sorry, I couldn’t keep them all straight because I stopped caring – are charged with getting that key and bringing him through. Scourge likes to collect the emblems as trophies for his kills because, sure, why not.

Anyway, they have to go to Peru. Elena helped with that part because she’s all learned and stuff and writes things down. It requires some travel on a B-52 Bomber, Stratosphere (John DiMaggio).

Oh, but wait, just when you think you’ve seen this all before, like in the previous four movies where the Autobots battle Decepticons and other similarly named villains, we’re introduced to the Maximals – which are like the mostly peaceful Autobots, except they’re mechanical animals. There’s a Gorilla, Optimus Primal (Ron Perlman), a Cheetah, Cheetor (Tongayi Chirisa), a Rhino, Rhinex (David Sobolov), and a Hawk, Airazor (Michelle Yeoh). (Pinpoint the moment when Hasbro stopped caring about naming things.)

There is some mild colonization, so brace yourselves.

Everyone meets on the top of a volcano to stop Unicron from coming through and destroying the world. Let the pew-pew begin in earnest.

Is Transformers: Rise of the Beasts awful? No.

Is Transformers: Rise of the Beasts great? Also, no.

It is loud, chaotic entertainment that lasts about 30 minutes too long. I won’t deny that it’s a better-crafted popcorn movie designed to tap into the adolescent in all of us who like watching large creatures beat the crap out of each other. But there is a lot going on and it adds minutes that pad rather than progress. In an effort to bring humanity to a story where humans stand to lose everything, it is Elena and Noah that provide the critical clues to solving everyone’s dilemma, leaving advanced overpowered technological wonders standing around whining about a missed opportunity home. It’s incongruous and a little silly. Optimus Prime, for all of his constant mistrust of humans, can’t do a whole lot without them and it’s a plot hole exploited in film after film.

Part of the issue is Transformers: Rise of the Beasts has five screenwriters, which is probably four too many considering there isn’t a single sparkling plot point that couldn’t have been pulled from the 98 episodes of the 1984 animated series. It plods along exactly how you think it will, complete with destruction, unrecognized manslaughter, and impossible world-building. Setting aside in-universe easter eggs, a bumping soundtrack, and eye-catching CG, there is extra upon extra and it’s a little exhausting. Do we need to know that Noah is ex-military with a focus on special electronics? Since none of his actions in any way draw upon that experience, probably not. I won’t give away a spoiler, but for it to make sense, you need to stick around for the single mid-credit scene. You will laugh and groan because we all did and ultimately, you might die a little inside.

It’s okay, we’re here for you.

In conclusion (843 words later), Transformers: Rise of the Beasts is a Michael Bay film with lots of explosions, some tender humanity, senselessly cruel robotic deaths, and Pete Davidson, which depending on how you fall either helps or hinders. At 127 minutes, it’s overlong but necessary if Hasbro thinks it wants to launch a franchise with action-figure tie-ins.

Hasbro – please don’t.

Transformers: Rise of the Beasts is a popcorn movie, so eat some sugary cereal, bring your inner 10-year-old, or borrow one, I won’t tell, and relive your childhood Saturday mornings with an open heart and empty head. You’ll have more fun that way.

Transformers: Rise of the Beasts (2023) is rated PG-13 for mild swears, explosions, deaths (or permanent deactivations, I dunno know how it works), exploitation of indigenous peoples, destruction of a few bridges and buildings, and veiled racism.

Transformers: Rise of the Beasts is streaming now on the following services:
Movie Reelist Contributor: MontiLee Stormer
MontiLee Stormer is a writer of horror, dark and urban fantasy. She’s also is a troublemaker, concocting acts of mayhem and despair for her own selfish pleasure. An avid movie watcher, she prefers horror but will see just about anything if you're buying. Poltergeist (1982) is her favorite movie and she actively hates The Shining (1980) due to its racism, misogyny, the butchering of the source material. She could host a TEDtalk on this single subject. Writing about herself in the third person is just a bonus.

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