I couldn't imagine caring about SPOILERS for a Transformers movie, but if you don't already know what's coming - scene after scene of mindless action, lame jokes, awful characters and zero stakes - then be warned: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS.
Specifically, the "stinger scene" during the end credits will be spoiled. You've been warned. *** SPOILERS AHEAD ***
There's a tinge of jealousy and shock when I think that "Transformers: Rise of the Beasts" is now the SEVENTH big-screen Transformers movie. Raised in the 80s, I always thought The Transformers were lame, especially in comparison to their Hasbro Toy counterpart, G.I. Joe. G.I. Joe was superior in EVERY fathomable way...even if you played with Transformers, there is no question that the G.I. Joe animated series was simply in a different category than the far inferior Transformers cartoon.
So yeah, it's not like I am rooting for these Transformers movies to fail. I just can't believe there have been more effort and more overall attention given from Hollywood to the lesser of the two Hasbro franchises.
But I digress. Someone out there must love these movies. As mentioned, "Rise of the Beasts" is the seventh overall film, and it chronologically fits as a prequel to the first "Transformers" movie, taking place some years AFTER the last installment, "Bumblebee."
We are introduced to the "Maximals," which are essentially Transformers who change into animals instead of vehicles. A massive space alien called Unicron wants to digest the Earth, and even though he has the power to send all of his minions, he is not able to enter Earth's atmosphere without this magical (MacGuffin) artifact. The artifact was split into two and safeguarded by a robotic monkey, Optimus Primal (I kid you not) and his other Maximal friends, who are the lone survivors of a different planet that was eaten by this terrible space creature.
Led by chief minion, Scourge (voiced by Peter Dinklage), there are two humans that get caught up in the battle. Noah Diaz (Anthony Ramos), a former soldier who is unsuccessfully looking for work as a security guard, and scientist intern Elena Wallace (Dominique Fishback), who is an expert in hieroglyphs and ancient artifacts. Noah comes across a new Autobot named Mirage (voiced by Pete Davidson), a wise-cracking Transformer who can project mirror images of himself, and who acts as the film's comic relief.
Of course, fearless Autobot leader Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) and fan-favorite, Bumblebee, are back in action. Introduced are Airazor (Michelle Yeoh), and Maximals in the shape of a bird, a rhino and a cheetah...all of whom receive such little screen-time, that you almost forget that they're even there.
The movie's simplistic "save the world" plot is tangled up in the over-complicated mythology that these movies have created since Michael Bay's 2007 original "Transformers" film. At this point, you might need a flow-chart to keep track of when and where things are happening, but it's all meaningless mumbo-jumbo. We get endless scenes of over-the-top CG action, and we know exactly where things are going to end up. Will Unicron succeed in eating the Earth? Now that would be a massive twist, given that there are still five Transformers movies that already exist on the chronological timeline following this movie. With zero stakes and even less plausibility, "Rise of the Beasts" just feels like filler. Interesting then, that this film is the supposed basis for a trilogy of "Beasts/Transformers" films to come.
SPOILERS AHEAD...FINAL WARNING!
That brings us to the final, cringe-worthy "stinger scene." Other than "Snake Eyes" (a movie that I actually LOVED), is there anything worse than a recent G.I. Joe movie? Apparently, there is: A G.I. Joe movie that shares a cinematic universe with the Terd-formers. When Noah Diaz finally lands a job interview, we learn he is secretly being recruited...by a covert operation...known as G.I. Joe.
This scene was met with a mixture of groans and laughs in the theater that I was in. It was final confirmation that Hollywood still has NO IDEA what to do with the G.I. Joe franchise, a saga that is so rich in characters and history that it should be a crime that it is being fumbled so horribly.
You can't wash the stupid off of the Transformers franchise at this point, so the idea that G.I. Joe will be a part of this mythology is truly criminal.
Here's hoping that the eventual "crossover" movie begins with Cobra eliminating every last Transformer from the face of the galaxy, so that it can get on with its own stories. Amazing, that with a single scene, "Rise of the Beasts" managed to destroy a different film franchise, other than the one it is currently a part of. But it still hasn't been able to transform itself into anything deserving of the audience's eyeballs.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi.
Run Time: 2 hours 7 minutes.
Starring: Anthony Ramos, Dominique Fishback, Dean Scott Vazquez, Luna Lauren Velez, Peter Cullen, Peter Dinklage, Ron Perlman, Michelle Yeoh, Pete Davidson, Lize Koshy.
Directed by Steven Caple Jr. ("Creed II," "The Land").
"Transformers: Rise of the Beasts" is in theaters on Friday, June 9th, 2023.
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