Transformers: Rise of the Beasts

The child in me is disappointed and the cinephile is cringing - 4/10

by Jad Sammour

After Bumblebee’s release I got excited for more Transformers movies. Bumblebee was okay, but it had a charm that won me over and I loved what they did with the Transformers as characters – also the prologue on Cybertron was perfect – and it left me with a glimmer of hope that the sequel/follow-up would be fresh and creative approach to the franchise that would ditch the excessive theatrics and create an engaging story that pays homage to the original cartoon and brings something new to the tired formula. The sequel came out and I watched it on opening day, first screening, by myself, in the theater and I was disappointed from start to finish.

The film opens up on a cool prologue sequence that mimics Bumblebee’s almost beat for beat and even recreates specific shots. It established the mcguffin, the villains, and the Maximals. Then the film introduces the human characters, and we spend some time with them to introduce us to them – I barely cared, their scenes went for way too long. Noah Dias, played by Anthony Ramos, is a good protagonist that has a convincing backstory even though he doesn’t act like ex-military as indicated in the film which is my main gripe with him other than the fact that his whole “you don’t know how I am” arc which was annoying – mostly the unnecessary voice over. Dominique Fishback’s Elena feels like a plot device rather than a character with a personality – but the actress still gives a good performance, even with the terrible dialogue that plagues the screenplay. Optimus Prime felt off in many ways: he is still a badass but these moments emerge out of nowhere as his characterization is more of an emotionally worn down leader trying to help his troops – and Peter Cullen is old, you can hear it in his voice and it’s really clear how much he’s struggling to talk. There was an attempt to make Optimus feel like a proper three-dimensional character and allow us to see him change and evolve. Mirage was really the color in this bland blockbuster: his quirky personality is elevated by Pete Davidson’s excellent performance which was slightly brought down by the fact that you hear Pete Davidson and because I am familiar with him on SNL, I could not help but see his face whenever the character – unfair criticism, I know, but that’s my opinion. Bumblebee was sidelined and his role felt like emotional manipulation even though what they do to him factors into a certain character’s arc. I wish we saw more of Arcee. Wheeljack is the least utilized Autobot and Cristo Fernandez’s energy is undefeated, great casting choice even with the Mexican accent which was used in a funny scene in the film. Peter Dinklage’s Scourge was a highlight in my opinion, giving a very menacing and serious performance. Ron Perlman’s Optimus Primal was great, he even rivaled Optimus Prime as a charismatic leader. Some of the transformers designs were very messy in my opinion: Mirage’s design is ugly and Optimus’ mouth looked really weird. Wheeljack looks really different from his Bumblebee design. They are clearly ditching the Michael Bay continuity so why is Bumblebee’s voice still gone? The robots are even significantly smaller now (ever since Bumblebee) so they clearly do not care about continuity – in fact a lot about these two films contradicts the previous installments.

My biggest issue with Rise of the Beasts is that it’s really bland, formulaic and without a sense of identity and shamelessly forces illogical conveniences to guide the story and create roles for certain characters. It’s like a stripped down version of the 2007 film minus the weird humor and the Bayhem. The plot is a McGuffin chase – the good guys need to find something before the bad guys do because if they do they’ll use it for evil… yawn! Everything leads into a final battle with a murky MCU-type backdrop. It’s a deja-vu blockbuster with nothing worthwhile... but hey, the robots are fighting each other? What makes it harder to swallow is the bad dialogue and sloppy writing in dealing with explaining story elements and creating solutions to problems or resolving plot points. Now you may say it’s a Transformers movie about space robots fighting each other, and look, I am a huge transformers fan, been so since I was like 6 or 7 but this film didn’t work for me, it lacked any sense of wonder or excitement. It was lifeless, cumbersome, and unentertaining. The action was very underwhelming except for a scene or two that were really fun and packed a punch, not to mention one big “cheering” moment in the third act. The cinematography was not visually pleasing and some shot-choices made things a bit tedious to follow especially in the robots fighting sequences where the use of low-angle shots made them hard to follow. The song choices were excellent, though, and the CGI was rough: the robots looked really animated sometimes and their interaction with the humans need more polishing. Even their transformations feel like digital morphs instead of mechanical elements coming together in some scenes – the 2007 film which came out 16 years ago had better CGI for the Transformers. The soundtrack was easily the best part of the film – excellent music choices.

Now I have to admit that you could feel the passion and love behind this film from the director but it wasn’t enough to save the film from its generic and predictable nature, repeating the many mistakes of its predecessor and not benefiting from their rare graces.

In the end, Rise of the Beasts was a huge disappointment that may be fun and entertaining if you decide to turn your brain off. Now you may say (if you reached this part of this lengthy review), why then rate it a 4 if the film is terrible? The answer is simple: my love for the Transformers.

Connect with Jad Sammour

View other reviews by Jad Sammour