Transformers: Rise of the Beasts is based on the animated series “Beast Wars” from the “Transformers” universe and features robots with the ability to transform into hunting animals.
Let’s say from the beginning that Transformers: Rise of the Beasts is one of the best parts of the franchise started by Michael Bay in 2007 and that it instills some Indiana Jones brand excitement and adventure in a story that practically repeats itself with every sequel. Friday’s premiere doesn’t manage to overcome the feeling of déjà vu or the feeling that the five screenwriters read the Lord of the Rings trilogy cover to cover before starting to write, but hey, at least they sprinkled scenes with destruction, explosions and transformations that… transform.
In the first film, the Autobots and Decepticons fought on Cybertron for the AllSpark, the eternal source of life of their world that miraculously arrived on Earth. And why isn’t this tender premise used again for the Rise of the Beasts sequel? Now the AllSpark is the key to the Transwarp, a precious artifact invented on a jungle planet colonized by Transformers in the past and home to the Maximals, animal-like Transformers. The fact that Transwarp can open portals anywhere in the universe is coveted by Unicron, a gigantic Transformer who feeds on entire worlds and telepathically subjugates his subjects, the Terrorcons led by Scourge (ie Scourge). To prove once again that history repeats itself, the key arrives on Earth (it’s clear, the Transformers use our planet as a value box!), but in 1994 Scourge takes his mark and so begins a new battle between good and evil…
If in the first film the focus was on the friendship between Bumblebee and the earthling Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), now it’s the turn of Noah Diaz (Anthony Ramos), an ex-soldier who desperately needs a job to pay for his brother’s treatment his younger brother, Kris (Dean Scott Vazquez). Pushed behind by financial needs, Noah agrees to steal a Porsche Carrera, only it turns out to be Mirage (Pete Davidson), a transformer who can project holograms to trick his opponents into appearing to multiply. From here to a global adventure to defend the key from the Scourge and prevent Unicron from devouring the entire universe is just a step away.
If you liked all the other Transformers movies, there’s a good chance you’ll like this one, but our feeling is that it’s aimed more at kids. Younger viewers will appreciate the inventive ways (especially in 3D) that the alien characters keep transforming from speed bumps into their more ready-to-fight antagonist counterparts, but viewers who are up-to-date on both The Lord of the Rings and the Marvel Cinematic Universe will asked if Hollywood shouldn’t come up with some new ideas and not endlessly recycle old confrontations between good and evil much more suggestively explored in other franchises.
A plus of the film is the infusion of Indiana Jones-type adventure: in their desperate search to obtain the Transwarp key, Noah and his human partner Elena (Dominique Fishback) arrive in Peru, where they discover a thousand-year-old temple. Again, nothing unprecedented, but a departure from the favorite themes of the Transformers universe. Elena is another plus to the film, especially in times when Hollywood feminism is updating classic characters (see the new Peter Pan & Wendy) to show that women are not at all inferior to men in battle. Rise of the Beasts doesn’t fall into the same trap and Elena impresses with her intelligence and archeological knowledge without being forced to transform from a nerd in her element in libraries and museum warehouses to a Xena ready to defeat Transformers ten times over big like her.
If we talked about pluses, let’s also talk about the minus that has become eternal in Hollywood blockbusters: well, no one dies! What emotional charge does a character’s fate hold when you know that, even if he somehow meets his end, he will be brought back to life in one way or another? Or, if not brought back to life, given a prequel? In Hollywood, characters only really die when the actors playing them get bored of them! In this context, let’s decree George R.R. Martin a real hero, because he taught us how powerful is the irrevocable and definitive separation from a character, a lesson that Hollywood refuses to apply for fear of alienating the viewer (and his money, of course).