Transformers: Rise of the Beasts Review: The Franchise's Most Intriguing Direction in Years

Even decades into the franchise being a live-action phenomenon, Transformers continues to find new aspects of its expansive lore to bring to the big screen. This time around that comes in the form of the Maximals, the sub-titular creatures in Transformers: Rise of the Beasts. Picking up seven years after the events of Bumblebee, the yellow Volkswagen Beetle is once again reunited with his Autobot allies as well as a couple of new faces. Optimus Prime is once again in center stage, but this time around he has Optimus Primal and the Maximals by his side. For fans desperate for that added emphasis on all things Transformers, Rise of the Beasts conquers all.

Unlike past films in the franchise or other kaiju-based projects, the human characters very much take a backseat to the Autobot ensemble. Peter Cullen meets his gold standard as the voice of Optimus Prime and especially shines when playing off of Ron Perlman's Optimus Primal. Seeing two transforming leaders join forces is a sight in and of itself, but hearing how they strategize and command their respective battalions adds an extra layer of appreciation when those battles go down.

And boy do those battles go down.

Transformers: Rise of the Beasts is the franchise's crown jewel of action. The film starts out at full speed and just keeps accelerating. There are enough lulls in between fight sequences for the audience to catch its breath, but director Steven Caple Jr. never stays overstays his welcome in any scene.

The action also has the luxury of playing in some visually stunning locations. Early battles in New York City are appealing, but the real spectacle comes when the crew heads to Peru. There is something awe-inspiring and largely fresh about seeing the Autobots and Maximals interact with such a landscape-heavy environment as opposed to the standard skyscraper-packed city.

While Transformers: Rise of the Beasts will be highlighted by the fisticuffs, the real scene-stealer is Pete Davidson's Mirage. Davidson's flavor of funny is the heartbeat of this entire film, and his comedic timing opposite the Autobots and Anthony Ramos's Noah Diaz is what keeps this film's pace flowing properly. Cristo Fernández's Wheeljack also shines in his limited screen time, providing that same energy that Ted Lasso fans know and love.

Speaking of Ramos, he fulfills leading man responsibilities with ease. Noah feels like a longtime member of the franchise despite being a newcomer in Rise of the Beasts. While his particular arc is nothing to write home about, he succeeds in being the audience's representation within this fantastical world and provides a strong foil to all the Autobots he interacts with. Ramos's costar, Dominique Fishback's Elena, also holds her own throughout, and her particular storyline and its effect on the main narrative is especially compelling.

Regarding that main narrative, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts is far from a completely fresh tale. There is a MacGuffin, a light beam in the sky, and an omnipotent force threatening to wipe out all of existence. Beyond that, Rise of the Beasts is a bit trapped due to it being a prequel as certain tension-filled moments fall a little flat given that audience knows where certain characters are going. While it does not reinvent the wheel, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts succeeds in playing the hits in a big way. There are clear homages to classics like Jurassic Park as well as recent hits like Avengers: Endgame, which promise to leave audiences erupting with applause.

An unsung strength of the Transformers movies has been the franchise's music, and Jongnic Bontemps hits a home run with this film's score and soundtrack. Every action sequence feels grander thanks to the chords behind it, and the '90s tunes selected for montages and fights are crowd-pleasers every time they drop.

Transformers has always been about spectacle, and Rise of the Beasts delivers on all accounts. The action is pulse-pounding. The relationships are heartfelt. The threat is palpable and, most importantly, it leaves the franchise in the most intriguing position it has been in in years. The summer movie season has been in full throttle for just over a month, and Transformers: Rise of the Beasts sends that popcorn blockbuster momentum into full gear.


Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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