Transformers: Rise of the Beasts12¦ 4K UHD, Blu-ray, DVD
With the release of this, the seventh entry in the Transformers series, the Autobots saga rumbles on. And yet there is a case for this franchise to be one of the most disjointed; each one tends to be self contained, with no overall story arc that other franchises tend to have, as well as no continuity in terms of actors from one film to the next.
But what it does have are robots that change into cars, and that appears to be enough, as Optimus Prime and his vehicular changing chums continue their search to get back home.
1994 and Noah Diaz (Anthony Ramos), an ex soldier, is looking for work in NYC. It’s urgent that he finds it too, as money is not only tight, but he also has a younger brother who is seriously ill, and if they don’t have the money to treat him, he doesn’t get treated.
It’s no surprise then that he turns to a life of crime to pay the bills, helping someone in the neighbourhood ‘retrieve’ an expensive Porsche from a car park. But stealing this particular car doesn’t go to plan; Noah realises something’s off when the car not only starts speaking to him, but drives off on its own – with him still in it.
The car is actually Mirage (Pete Davison), a member of the Autobots, a bunch of robots that are trying to get back to their home planet of Cybertron.
Elsewhere in the city, Elena Wallace (Dominique Fishback) finds in her possession an ancient artefact of unknown origin, that she decides to investigate. When doing so, the real nature of the artefact shows itself, which now activated, sends off a beacon as its whereabouts.
This alerts Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen), who knows what the artefact is – a key – that could well hold the power to finally sending the Autobots home. But they aren’t the only ones to see it, as their foe Unicron (Colman Domingo) has sent out a squad of bots, led by Scourge (Peter Dinklage), to make sure they get their mechanical hands on it first, whatever the cost.
This then is almost like a re-boot for the franchise – or re-model if you will – as it’s the first in the main series to not be directed by Michael Bay, who helmed the first five. Surprisingly it’s relative newcomer Steven Caple Jr. helming it, having previously directed only two other features, with the last one being 2018’s Creed II. He does a solid job overall, managing to introduce new elements to the series, whilst still playing lip service to what’s gone before.
This is mostly down to the character Mirage, who hasn’t been a regular up until this point, having appeared in only one other film, 2011’s Transformers: Dark side of the Moon, under the name Dino, in a different vehicular form. This version, voiced by Pete Davison, is pretty much the star of the show, with all the best one-liners and wise cracks. He does enough that it wouldn’t be a stretch to see him enjoy a spin-off, much like 2018’s Bumblebee, as he’s certainly got the personality to pull it off.
And as he appears as a talking car, you kind of have to wonder if Herbie was an Autobot all along. Only time will tell.
It also introduces some other characters, Maximals, which are animal versions to Autobots, taking the physical shape of animals, such a gorilla. It’s an interesting take, that visually works, but the logic of it, or lack thereof, is a niggle; Optimus Prime and his crew transform into vehicles so they can hide in plain sight, but the Maximals are clearly shiny robots shaped as animals, which is a bit of a giveaway. But whatever.
The story itself is also little on the weak side, but aren’t they all, and don’t be surprised if it raises a few eyebrows, especially from Marvel, as the film tiptoes into familiar ground, that sees a man of metal, or Metal Man if you will, that may have Marvel checking their IP documents for infringements.
And on top of that, there is more than a hint that any future sequel may involve a cross-over with another Paramount franchise, which on paper at least, has a whiff of desperation about it, and just simply doing it for the sake of it.
As a standalone film however, which let’s face it, every entry feels like anyway, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts is entertaining enough, as there’s no denying that child-like wonder of seeing robots turn into cars and vice versa.
It would be nice if there was some kind of cohesion, other than the bots themselves, that other franchises manage to achieve, but as long as there’s a fun factor, audiences are likely to continue to strap in for the ride.