Transformers: Rise of the Beasts review – Stumble at the starting line

It has been five years since the Bumblebee movie and six since the last Michael Bay Transformers film in the form of The Last Knight, and now Hasbro is back at it again digging up the much beloved Beast Wars characters for another live action movie called Rise of the Beasts.

While Bay has been at the helm of so many of these movies, most fans were hoping that – after all this time – the filmmakers would learn from past mistakes and bring us something fun and new for Rise of the Beasts with the Maximals and Terrorcons here to mix things up alongside the Autobots.

So did they pull it off? Nope. Rise of the Beasts has failed to learn from previous missteps in this franchise and manages to squander the potential that this movie had by moving away from the same, tired Autobot / Decepticon conflict.

So we’ve basically spoiled our final thoughts on this movie but we won’t spoil the movie itself, but let’s set the stage and talk about what this film is actually about.

“Returning to the action and spectacle that have captured moviegoers around the world, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts will take audiences on a ‘90s globetrotting adventure with the Autobots and introduce a whole new faction of Transformers – the Maximals – to join them as allies in the existing battle for earth. Directed by Steven Caple Jr. and starring Anthony Ramos and Dominique Fishback,” reads the official description of the movie attached to the trailers.

The rest of the plot here is about as generic as can be. Listen, we don’t need twists galore of an overly-complex story in a movie about robots punching each other, but we really would have liked a bit more care and originality. If you’ve seen any movie before you’ve seen Rise of the Beasts. At every turn, with every decision and every plot point, the journey is entirely predictable. It’s like the writers were held hostage and not allowed to deviate from standard tropes for fear of execution.

It’s supremely frustrating to sit in a movie and figure out the plot after 30 minutes, just to sit in the darkness of the theatre and see zero surprises for the remaining hour and a half of this movie’s runtime.

Something we can be thankful for is that all the writing – and performance – talent seems to have gone to two characters. Human Noah Diaz (Anthony Ramos) and Autobot Mirage (Pete Davidson) are the only two highlights in this movie.

For whatever reason these two got the lion’s share of the attention in the movie and the overall experience is better for it. Both Ramos and Davidson put in great performances and gave us genuine laughs the entire time.

The quality of these two makes it even more shocking that the rest of the cast is so bad. Some voice actors for the Autobots and Maximals seem like they were given zero direction when recording their lines and the first, bad takes were used every time.

Even our idol Peter Cullen as Optimus Prime sounded confused the entire movie. Not because Optimus Prime is supposed to be confused in the story, but again it seems like there was a lack of direction for everyone not named Ramos or Davidson. The rest of the cast simply swings wildly between tones, inflection and quality.

We’re not sure if this is a case of time crunch where only some characters got the shine they deserve, or pure talent standing out, but this big cast is again mostly wasted.

This situation is even more dire when you read the cast list. Two more egregious examples are Ron Perlman as Optimus Primal and Michelle Yeoh as Airazor. We’re not sure how exactly the filmmakers managed to extract bad performances from these two iconic and storied actors, but they sure did it.

We recently re-watched the original animated Transformers movie from 1986 and even back then the filmmakers knew how to shape voice acting into something better. The best example is Orson Welles who infamously put minimal effort into his voice performance and stated that he only took the job for money. Despite this his voice was digitised and altered into the now cherished and terrifying voice of Unicron.

Now in 2023 they simply put vaguely techno-sounding filters over bad voice performances and called it a day.

If it’s not embarrassing enough that a movie from 1986 did things better than a blockbuster from 2023, the same thing has happened in the CGI department.

There has been endless debate about the very shaky visuals in the trailers and fans hoping that things would be improved by the time the final movie released. We can now report that this has not happened and what you see in the trailers is what you will get in the theatres.

Rise of the Beasts looks markedly worse than the original live action Transformers movie from 2007. Just as a reminder 2007 was 15 years ago. Rise of the Beasts has worse CGI and overall presentation from a movie that was released a decade and a half ago.

To top that off several of the Bay movies can claim to look better than Rise of the Beasts. Even some of the later ones where they just kind of gave up because they were still raking in the money.

Even if everything we’ve mentioned so far doesn’t phase you, and you just want to see the aforementioned punching robots, well you’re still in for a disappointment because the action is plain boring.

At this point we’re at a loss for words. How do you make the Transformers boring? We saw in those later Bay movies that it was possible and we’re again surprised to see nothing learned from the past as the boredom continues. The action has quick cuts so you can’t track what is happening, many of the combatants are nameless drones that you don’t care about, the good guys are basically invulnerable and only take damage for plot reasons… the list goes on.

One positive we can point to is the fact that at least the dialogue is clear. This may seem like a small win (and it most certainly is) but sound mixing for movies has been progressively worse over the years with spoken dialogue barely audible in most. Even amazing movies like the recent Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse suffers from this issue, so at least we can hear what humans and robots are saying in Rise of the Beasts.

Also for audio you may hear praise for Rise of the Beasts using famous hiphop from the 90s as the soundtrack. And while this is true, it isn’t used as much as you’d like with songs only receiving a handful of seconds to shine before being shut off. It’s like the licencing deal was done on a per-second basis and we couldn’t enjoy the tracks for any longer as a cost saving measure.

With a boring story, mostly bad performances, atrocious visuals and who cares action, Rise of the Beasts has truly failed to reignite the Transformers fervour.

With the only standouts in Ramos, Davidson and some clear dialogue to claw back some points, we arrive at this low score.

We can also see some diehard Beast Wars enjoying elements of this movie, which is where it garnered some favour from us. After that you’ll be cringing through the rest.



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