Review | Transformers: Rise of the Beasts | 2023

Say what you will about Michael Bay's Transformers movies, and I've certainly had a lot to say about them in the past (both positive and negative), but at least they have a personality and a strong authorial voice behind them, which is more than the latest entry, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts can say.

Despite their flaws, there was something tangible about Bay's films, a kind of mad grandeur that made stories about alien robots having epic battles seem like the stuff of ancient myth. Rise of the Beasts, on the other hand, feels like a lame attempt to course correct from the at times convoluted direction taken by the later Bay films like Age of Extinction and The Last Knight. What we get instead, however, is a lot of dull action sequences and subpar visual effects that look like the kind of generic gray sludge that populate Marvel movies now. 

The plot is fairly straightforward. A kind of prequel to the Bay films, Rise of the Beasts finds Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) and the Autobots teaming up with Optimus Primal (Ron Perlman) and the Maximals to prevent the evil Unicron and his minion, Scourge (Peter Dinklage) from obtaining a key that will unlock a portal in the universe allowing him to devour as many planets as he wants. 

It feels a bit like a retread of the original Transformers movie, without the vision or directorial flair that made it such a thrilling adventure (I'll defend the original Transformers till my dying day). Rise of the Beasts just doesn't have anything new to bring to the table. And while it's clear that director Steven Caple Jr. (Creed II) is trying to distinguish his Transformers take from Bay's (much like Travis Knight did in the superior Bumblebee), he just doesn't bring anything new or exciting to the table. Bay's world felt grounded and tangible, even at its silliest, whereas Caple's feels overly polished and safe. Bay, at least, wasn't afraid to take chances. Rise of the Beasts, unfortunately, feels as though it's trying way too hard to color in the lines. The problem is that the lines just aren't that interesting. Add that to a truly silly late breaking connection to another Hasbro toy property, and you have a blandly conceived 7th entry in a series that feels well past its sell-by date.

GRADE - ★½ (out of four)

TRANSFORMERS: RISE OF THE BEASTS | Directed by Steven Caple, Jr. | Stars Anthony Ramos, Dominique Fishback, Peter Cullen, Ron Perlman, Peter Dinklage, Michelle Yeoh, Pete Davidson | Rated PG-13 intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and language | Now playing in theaters nationwide and streaming exclusively on Paramount+.


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