The Movie Guru: ‘Transformers: Rise of the Beasts’ a sweet, fun return to the franchise
Transformers were better in the old days.
That’s definitely the case with the movie series, where the movies set in earlier eras have proven consistently better than the ones set today. The first to start the trend was 2018’s “Bumblebee,” set in 1987 and so far the best of the new Transformers movies. Second in the rankings is the new “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts,” which hits theaters this weekend and takes audiences back to 1994. Though it follows a lot of the same formula as other Transformers movies, a good cast and real sweetness make it worth the watch.
In the new movie, the Maximals show up on our planet when theirs is destroyed by a world-eating villain. Arriving with them is a dimension-hopping key both the bad guy and Optimus Prime desperately want. Prime is still mistrustful of humans, but he may need to rely on them if he wants to save both our planet and theirs.
The info card at the screening I attended asked audiences not to post spoilers when they talked about the movie. At the time, I joked that would be impossible since all Transformers movies had the same plot.
It turns out I was wrong. Turns out “Transformers” can still surprise me occasionally, offering up an entertaining little twist in the final moments that I won’t spoil.
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Still, there’s plenty here to talk about. Though the plot follows along familiar Transformers lines, there’s a warmth to it that some of the more dramatic productions lack. The relationships feel genuine, enough so that we feel it if something happens to the people. The world gets saved, just like always, but it feels like there’s more of a personal stake. The Maximals, imports from the late 1990s animated series “Transformers: Beast Wars,” are also better integrated than I would have expected.
The “human” portion of the cast does wonders for the movie’s appeal. Anthony Ramos is fantastic as Noah, bringing a ton of nuance to the character that wasn’t necessarily in the script. His relationship to the Transformers had a lot more layers than the series is used to, and his connection to his little brother Kris (Dean Scott Vasquez) was truly touching. As Elena, an assistant with dreams of being an archeologist, Dominique Fishback made her character feel delightfully real.
The Transformers were a mix of familiar and new voices. Peter Cullen once again voiced Optimus Prime, and Ron Perlman brought a suitable amount of gravitas to Optimus Primal. Pete Davidson wouldn’t have been my first choice for Mirage, but he keeps up with some of the movie’s more serious moments. No matter how you feel about Davidson, this is definitely the least annoying he’s ever been.
Altogether, it’s a worthwhile trip into the Transformers universe. Even if the Michael Bay movies burned you out, “Rise of the Beasts” might be just enough to make you come back.
Grade: Three stars
Jenniffer Wardell is an award-winning movie critic and member of the Denver Film Critics Society. Find her on Twitter at @wardellwriter or drop her a line at email@example.com.