The World Will Know What You Did Here: Transformers: Rise of the Beasts (2023) - Reviewed

Images courtesy Hasbro

It was just five years ago that the Transformers film saga got a soft reboot in the form of a one-off solo movie about Bumblebee. The movie was a reset that sidelined the massive planet destroying themes of the six Michael Bay films and seemed to right the course for the franchise as a whole. The movie added a bit of heart that had always been lacking and brought a story based on a toy line back down to ground level that was heavily inspired by the Spielberg movies of the '80s while it also borrowed many elements from Brad Bird's amazing animated film, The Iron Giant

Here we are, one pandemic and numerous delays later with another Transformers movie that just doesn't add up. The first act of the Rise of the Beasts visits some familiar thematical territory by using music as one of the main characters. Much like Bumblebee, the soundtrack sets the tone for the movie, bringing us back to the mid-'90s with classic hip-hop tracks. In line with the excellent music choices, we're initially offered a plot about a family that's down on their luck with a sick little boy that needs his older brother's help and guidance. All the markings are there for another reprieve from the Michael Bay explosion fests and unending CGI nightmare fuel. But it all changes at a frenetic pace. 

Director Steven Caple Jr. (Creed II) has an obvious respect and love for the G1 Transformers. It's nice to finally get a proper Arcee on screen and a cool as ice Mirage doing his best to bring some balance to the action and mayhem. Sadly though, this latest offering from Hasbro quickly devolves into Bay-Lite action and destruction that misses the quality of its 2018 predecessor. Bumblebee was such a relief from what Bay had done for years that it was expected that Rise of the Beasts would follow suit by being a more character driven vehicle. Unfortunately, it's another step back for the Autobots and their enemies, the Decepticons. 

We're back to massive level interplanetary warfare that involves a giant laser in the sky that revolves around another new MacGuffin that's been hidden away somewhere on earth. The two warring factions and their human counterparts must find the device to either destroy the Earth or save it. Then we're set back down in a nondescript battle between the two where we can't make rhyme or reason of what's going on other than another grandiose speech from Optimus Prime about good versus evil. It's straight repetition that doesn't understand what its audience wants or needs. And we haven't even mentioned how unlikeable Optimus is in this movie. 

The main issue with Rise of the Beasts is that instead of making further strides into Bumbleebee territory, it resoundingly plants its feet in the universe of purified Bayhem, awful CGI and all. The core characters are eventually manifested as cardboard cutouts that really have no skin in the game other than to move from point A to point B to move the pointless story along. Sure, there are some fun moments and the human cast does a fine job with the little bit they're given to work with. But overall, it just feels like a retread that none of us really wanted or needed right now. 

There are far too many other great movies to see. Perhaps, the gloriousness of Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse has stolen any luster that this toy flick may have had. But coming off that high, this is a reminder of the lowest dregs of the Michael Bay Transformers series. There is certainly some good in here, but it's just too little too soon during a summer that's just getting started.