Directed by: Steven Caple Jr.
Written by: Joby Harold, Darnell Metayer, Josh Peters, Erich Hoeber, Jon Hoeber
Starring: Anthony Ramos, Dominique Fishback, Dean Scott Vazquez, Peter Cullen, Ron Perlman, Michelle Yeoh, Pete Davidson
Released: June 22, 2023
Grade: B

Transformers: Rise of the Beasts

It may sound like something out of a multiverse but Transformers: Rise of the Beasts is the sequel to the prequel.  We had five movies between 2007 and 2017 (finishing with the godawful The Last Knight) and the franchise was rebooted in 2018 with the 80s-themed prequel Bumblebee.  We now slip ahead to the 90s for Rise of the Beasts which takes place after Bumblebee but before the original Transformers.  Hope that all makes sense!

The likeable Anthony Ramos (In the Heights) stars as Noah, a not-so-wealthy guy from Brooklyn who is in desperate need of employment to pay the medical bills of his sick younger brother (Vazquez).  He considers turning to a life of crime but those plans go out the window on meeting a cheeky Transformer known as Mirage (Davidson), and a frustrated museum intern named Elena (Fishback).

The ultimate baddie is Scourge, a Transformer from another world who wants to get his hands on a “Transwarp Key” which he can use to teleport across the universe and obliterate planets with relative ease.  The key has been hidden on Earth for centuries and now that its location has been exposed, Scourage’s powerful robotic henchman are prepared to destroy all those who stand in their way.  In true action movie style, it’s up to Noah, Elena, Mirage, and some other friendly Transformers to save the world.

Rise of the Beasts isn’t wildly original, but it’s satisfying enough.  I liked the charisma of both Anthony Ramos and Dominique Fishback, there’s some good one-liners (“you’ve been inside of me”), the visual effects are convincing, and you want to see the villains get what they deserve.  The characters’ backstories in the opening act don’t add much (e.g. poor Elena has a terrible boss) but once we get to the meat of the narrative and the fast-paced battles, your attention will be held.

Despite the positive reviews, Bumblebee was the weakest box-office performer in the franchise and with middling hopes for Rise of the Beasts, you get a sense there isn’t much spark left in this cinematic world.  Fans should enjoy while it lasts.