Film and TV

Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
Transformers: Rise Of The Beasts

Title: Transformers: Rise Of The Beasts

Describe This Movie In One Clerks: The Animated Series Quote:
RANDAL: What are you, some kind of robot?
MR. PLUG: No, that's just an expression. [New program: kill the human Randal.]
MR. PLUG: That's just an expression too. [A robot expression.]
Brief Plot Synopsis: Maybe Scorsese was right.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 2.5 Animal Mothers out of 5.
Tagline: "Unite or Fall"

Better Tagline: "Kudos to Paramount for releasing a new TRANSformers movie during Pride Month."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Big robots are trying to kill each other. Apparently there's something called a "TransWarp Key" that can open a portal through time and space. Enter Noah (Anthony Ramos), a veteran looking to get a job so he can obtain healthcare for his sick little brother. Meanwhile, Elena (Dominique Fishback) is a museum intern who notices something "off" about a supposedly Sudanese artifact. Noah gets recruited by the Autobot Mirage (Pete Davidson) and his boss Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) to steal the Key, leading to him and Elena getting involved in a millennium-long robot plot that's sure to sell a lot of merchandise.
"Critical" Analysis: A new Transformers movie is always cause for ... well, not exactly celebration. Curiosity? Morbid fascination? The metaphor of slowing down to look at a car wreck is perhaps a bit on the nose when the movies in question involve automobile/robot creatures beating the shit out of each other.

Hasbro's most lucrative toy line not connected to Star Wars (or Fortnite, or Nerf) has plugged along admirably since the first movie. No, not Michael Bay's 2007 effort, but 1986's Transformers: The Movie, which somehow survived killing off Optimus Prime by utilizing the tried and true comic book gimmick of never letting dead characters stay dead.

Rise of the Beasts operates as both a sequel to Bumblebee (Prime chastises the yellow guy for trusting humans too much) and a launchpad for the films that told us the Autobots have been guiding human history from the days of Arthurian legend to the Underground Railroad.

The Transformers movies bend their heavily skewed reality even more to their will. Some Autobots can transform into any vehicle they want, apparently, while the Maximals (MAXIMALS!) are animal-robot amalgams that transform into ... larger animal-robot amalgams. And they have fur and feathers, for some reason.

The movie is both a prequel to the original (Michael Bay) Transformers and a sequel to the '80s early CGI effort Beast Wars, a crew led by a giant robot-ape (OPTIMUS PRIMAL) and Airazor, a falcon-bot voiced by Michelle Yeoh, who you can't even be mad at for getting that paycheck.

The other Maximals are named "Cheetor" and "Rhinox," because none of the movie's five (FIVE!) writers could be bothered to update them.

Rise of the Beasts is the seventh movie in a franchise that — among other things — gave us Mark Wahlberg as a scientist and posited that alien robots aided Harriet Tubman on the Underground Railroad. They apparently did this while conveniently not intervening in the preceding centuries of slavery, when one assumes energy weapons (and also being giant f*cking robots) could have turned the tide on that particular atrocity, so don't look for too much in the way of sense.

Or originality. Rise rips off everything from Raiders of the Lost Ark to Hellboy to the end credits for Iron Man 3. First time franchise director Steven Caple Jr. (Creed II) is really trying to expand the awareness of these movies, as the casting of Ramos and Fishback shows. The two have real (non-romantic) chemistry, but little of this can emerge from the shadow of the ridiculous CGI and yet another peeing robot gag.

There is a pretty nice LL Cool J needle drop, though.

Caple Jr. also seems to have trouble deciding how seriously he wants us to take all this. On one hand, Rise of the Beasts offers some (shallow) commentary on the dismal state of American healthcare. On the other, they've introduced Pete Davidson to shore up Bumblebee's comedy bona fides. The result is probably one of the better movies in this series, which — as compliments go — is about as backhanded as you get.

Transformers: Rise of the Beasts is in theaters today.
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar