Let’s talk about Transformers: Rise of the Beasts.
I hated Transformers for a long time. Every film for a film critic was like when you have to go for a regular blood test where the nurse keeps getting the wrong vein. It’s long, it’s painful and lasts for far longer than it should. But then, Michael Bay moved on to other things, like deciding that punching someone so hard that they go unconscious is actually a good enough alternative to anaesthetic. And with a declining franchise, Paramount decided to do a spin off with Bumblebee which seemed very stupid. Surprisingly though, it was a film with a lot of heart and it was the best Transformers film yet. This has given Paramount confidence to do Transformers properly again so here we are with the start of the Beast Wars trilogy.
Noah Diaz is desperate for a job and ends up helping a friend with a robbery as he tries to get money for his little brother’s medical treatment. The car he tries to steal turns out to be an Autobot and he ends up in a battle to get a key that could allow the Transformers to return home to Cybertron. However, that key is also being hunted by the goons of Unicron, a massive planet eating creature.
It’s hard to know where the comparison point should be for this movie. As it is a straight up Transformers movie, should I compare it to the older Michael Bay movies? This would be a very low bar and not giving me a splitting headache would give it a passing grade. Or should I compare it to Bumblebee? That movie proved that it was possible to make this franchise more than just big CGI robots punching each other, that you can make all the characters likable and it can just be a very good movie. But that was quite a low key, personal movie. It’s harder to do all the things that movie did right in something that wants to be more of a spectacle like this movie.
The movie does plenty right. Firstly, the runtime is slimmed down into a much more managable two hours. Considering the bloat of movies nowadays, have you all seen Oppenheimer is going to be over three hours long, what is going on, it’s quite nice to have a movie where you will still have a bit of your popcorn left by the end of it. And it’s so capably shot as well. The biggest problem with Bay’s Transformers was that it was shot like a child who had been force fed sugar through a funnel. It was cut up to pieces and the camera movement meant you missed half of the action. Here, you do get the simple joy of big robots exploding into other big robots. It was so refreshing when early on into the film, you saw a big robot get a weapon out, you saw the weapon, and then he used the weapon to hit another big robot, and then you saw the damage and reaction of the other robot. That is good old dumb fun and when you can see what’s going on, it’s very enjoyable.
It’s a very nippy and light on its feet film as well. This is a movie that doesn’t want to go slow at any point and I appreciate it for it. While there’s some arcs for all the characters, both of a human and Transformer variety, there are pretty rudimentary and basic. But the film seems to know this and instead of spending way too much time on very basic plot points, it gets through them quickly. It does just enough to make you like all the people involved enough that you do not want to see them and their planet get eaten, and then move onto what you paid your ticket for. Which is the big robots smashing into explosions thing. Yes, a better movie would have more in-depth arcs and really make you invested in these characters. But none of the main characters here have a card in their wallet explaining the Romeo and Juliet law hence why they can have relations with an underage girl, so we’ll take this as a huge improvement.
Of course, this is not a particularly great movie. This is far better than any of the other ‘proper’ Transformers movies, but it’s not a patch on Bumblebee. Part of that is because the movie doesn’t have great characters at all as we touched on before. It helps that movie pushes through this and doesn’t think they are great either, but it is also a problem that can’t really be ignored. And there are times when it is so bland and dull that it gets to be offensive. There is a final battle with the main aim being to stop a portal which will allow Unicron to enter and then eat the planet. This is shown throw a big laser beam into the sky! We were done with these when the first Suicide Squad film came out which was back in 2016. To see one in 2023 is pretty staggering. It’s indicative of a movie that doesn’t have too many ideas. It doesn’t even use it’s 90s setting well other than the odd decent soundtrack choice.
Look, you won’t have an awful time with Transformer: Rise of the Beasts. The movie goes at a decent pace, the action scenes are pretty good and there’s nothing much here that will be annoying. But it won’t do too much to inspire either. There is very little original things in this movie from the concept to the set up of the scenes to anything in the script. It is the best live-action Transformers film that has Transformers in the title, but that’s mostly because the bar is so low that even a toddler would be able to get over it with falling down. It’s ok, but not much more than that.