Transformers: Rise of the Beasts film poster and movie review

Movie Reviews

Transformers: Rise of the Beasts

Reviewed by:
Luke Bonanno on June 6, 2023

Theatrical Release:
June 9, 2023

No amount of nostalgia for the 20th century's fondly recalled final decade can fully pull attention from the glaring creative shortcomings of "Transformers: Rise of the Beasts."

Running Time127 min


Running Time 127 min


Steven Caple Jr.

Joby Harold (story & screenplay); Darnell Metayer, Josh Peters, Erich Hoeber, Jon Hoeber (screenplay)

Anthony Ramos (Noah Diaz), Dominique Fishback (Elena Wallace), Luna Lauren Vélez (Breanna Diaz), Tobe Nwigwe (Reek), Dean Scott Vazquez (Kris Dias), Michael Kelly (Recruiter), Peter Cullen (voice of Optimus Prime), Pete Davidson (voice of Mirage), Liza Koshy (voice of Arcee), Cristo Fernández (voice of Wheeljack), John DiMaggio (voice of Stratosphere), Ron Perlman voice of Optimus Primal), Michelle Yeoh (voice of Airazor), David Sobolov (voice of Rhinox), Tongayi Chirisa (voice of Cheetor), Peter Dinklage (voice of Scourge), David Sobolov (voice of Battletrap), Michaela Jaé Rodriguez (voice of Nightbird), John DiMaggio (voice of Transit), Colman Domingo (voice of Unicron)

Transformers: Rise of the Beasts (2023)

by Luke Bonanno

You know a franchise has overstayed its welcome when it’s not even clear how to categorize or number the latest installment. Nothing about the live-action Transformers movie series has ever seemed to justify its existence, except for the behemothic box office numbers that have somehow consistently dwarfed the colossal costs. The Steven Spielberg-produced, Michael Bay-directed saga adapted from the 1980s Hasbro toy line of the same name peaked commercially in 2011, with a worldwide gross of over $1.2 billion on the third installment, subtitled Dark of the Moon. But try finding someone nowadays with a modicum of intellect who would extoll the virtues of that threequel or any of the noisy adventures that preceded or followed it.

While the budgets continued to rise, the returns took a big hit on 2017’s The Last Knight, the fifth movie in the line and the second to move on from Shia LaBeouf’s human lead Sam Witwicky. Instead of letting the diminished series disappear, Paramount and Hasbro went a new direction the following year, with the release of Bumblebee, the first live-action Transformers movie not directed by Bay and the first to leave the word “Transformers” out of the title. Was Bumblebee a prequel, a spin-off, or a reboot? Despite being the first Transformers movie to receive widespread critical acclaim, moviegoers weren’t all that interested in solving that mystery and the seemingly standalone Hailee Steinfeld-led adventure set series-lows at both the domestic and worldwide box office.

If you thought that meant an ignoble yet understandable end to Transformers movies, you must not be familiar with modern-day Paramount, a studio which desperately wants to thrive on brands and tentpoles, but has struggled to do that since Disney took away superheroes from them with their 2009 purchase of Marvel. With DreamWorks Animation jumping ship and Indiana Jones joining Marvel at Disney on account of the Mouse’s Lucasfilm purchase, Paramount’s surest paths to global interest (and revenue) have involved two brands beginning with the letter T. One of those is Tom Cruise, whose Mission: Impossible movies keep coming and keep raising the bar on jaw-dropping, death-defying stunts. Last year, Tom gave the studio its second biggest hit of all-time with his seemingly untimely Top Gun: Maverick sequel greatly exceeding all expectations.

The other T brand of major interest to Paramount is, of course, Transformers, which the studio simply refuses to let die. The newest movie is called Transformers: Rise of the Beasts and I’m no surer of how to classify it than I was prior to seeing the movie. This one is set in 1994, which appears to make it a sequel to the 1980s-set Bumblebee and a prequel to Shia’s trilogy and Mark Wahlberg’s pair.

Alien robots that are giant wild animals join the usual alien robots who turn into cars in the inane "transformers: rise of the beasts. "

Unsurprisingly, Beasts doesn’t expect viewers to enter with full retention of storylines past and future. Instead, it introduces a centuries-old class of Transformers that are part alien robot and part animal, the most formidable of which is a giant gorilla/alien robot named Optimus Primal (and voiced by Ron Perlman). In ’94, ex-military electronics expert Noah Diaz (Anthony Ramos) is struggling to find employment, while he and his mother are struggling to either get or afford medical treatment for his younger brother Kris (Dean Scott Vazquez), who is battling sickle cell anemia.

Rejected before a “formality” interview for a security job over a problematic profile painted by his former commanding officer, Noah reluctantly turns to crime to provide for his family. Alas, the car he tries stealing from a museum parking lot is a Porsche that turns into an Autobot named Mirage (voiced by Pete Davidson). Like it or not, Noah is now smack in the middle of age-old conflict, which threatens planet Earth amidst an abundance of ’90s hip hop interludes.

In peru, noah (anthony ramos) dirties a pair of 1993 air jordans that would be worth hundreds of dollars today.

No amount of nostalgia for the 20th century’s fondly recalled final decade can fully pull attention from the glaring creative shortcomings of Rise of the Beasts. None of them are new or unique to whatever you want to classify this installment as. I have always failed to see the appeal of Transformers, with their ludicrous concepts, idiotic narratives, and piss-poor presentations. With Creed II and The Land director Steven Caple Jr. at the helm instead of Bay, who merely produces, the presentation is not as plagued by hyper editing and haphazard visuals. But it’s all still just a parade of big dumb loud metallic creatures swinging at one another and occasionally cracking wise.

Noah and our leading lady Elena (Dominique Fishback), a smart and thoroughly underappreciated museum artifact researcher, lead their giant transformative new Autobot friends to Peru in search of the key that can send the alien robots home. In theory, that may or may not stop the angry god Unicron from devouring our planet via his team of “Terrorcons” led by the fierce Scourge (voiced by Peter Dinklage). To go into any more detail than that would make my head hurt worse than it already does. But I have a sneaking suspicion that people generally do not watch these movies for their stimulating stories.

You've heard of optimus prime? Well, this is, uh, optimal primal.

Why, then, would one watch Rise of the Beasts? That’s a wonderful question and one I do not have an answer to. The audience at my screening rewarded the film with some chuckles and responded with “oohs” and “aahs” when the final scene set up a Hasbro crossover event movie that’s about 35 years too late for me to care about. Is there anything worth admiring in the action and visual effects that gave this a reported production budget of $200 million? Nope. Is there anything in the performance of Ramos, a suitably charismatic lead in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights to inject some much-needed humanity or personality? Not really. It’s hard to even appreciate the soundtrack of ’90s rap, which is as appealing a chapter as any in the history of pop music because the Wu-Tang Clan and, anachronistically, Notorious B.I.G. deserve better than this.

There is virtually no redeeming value to any of this, but at least Caple has the decency to keep this around two hours as opposed to the 2½-3-hour runtimes Bay himself usually opted for. Still, I’d be surprised if there is a less rewarding way to enjoy an air-conditioned movie theater this summer.

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