Transformers: Rise of the Beasts 2023 Movie Review
Let’s face facts. The bar of quality for Transformers movies isn’t very high. Michael Bay’s 2007 original is A-OKAY and 2018’s Bumblebee is solid, but in the 11 years between those, films like Revenge of the Fallen, The Last Knight and the rest are all varying levels of crap. Five years after the last movie, coming back to the world of robots in disguise, the bar is basically “Please don’t suck.” And we’re happy to report that Transformers: Rise of the Beasts does not suck. It’s actually quite entertaining, especially for a Transformers movie.
On plot terms alone, this sequel/prequel is packed with noggin-scratchers. Such as: why do the Maximals, these giant robo-animal-things lifted from a late 90s’ toy line and kids’ toon, have fur and feathers poking out between their metal bits? And if they’re from another planet, why do they bother looking like Earth animals? Even on Earth, it isn’t much of a disguise. How would a gorilla ever mistake the Mighty Joe Young-sized, steel-faced Optimus Primal – yes, that is his actual name and not a typo – for a potential mate? And another thing: if the Autobots have only been on Earth for seven years at this point, why is one of them (Stratosphere, voiced by John DiMaggio, aka Futurama’s Bender) a rusty old World War II cargo plane?
But ultimately, Rise of the Beasts does what every Transformers movie has to do: wrap up with a seemingly endless fight sequence in which big, shiny chunks of metal slam noisily into each other. The smaller and more intimate special effects are more impressive than these massive set pieces; Mirage evolves in a multitude of cool ways that look tactile and realistic, for example. But while this climax isn’t as dizzying and interminable as they so often are, it’s still rather dull compared to the action that came before it.
Alien robot cars and their space battles are concepts with such basic, gee-whiz sci-fi appeal that they’ve worked numerous times across decades of comics and cartoons. And yet there’s little childlike wonder to the Transformers live-action movies, which often stuff their frames with visually oppressive, eyesore conceptions of things that ought to be simple and imaginative. Virtually all of the Transformers movies feel like they’re trying to defeat their audience, but this time, the movie wins.