“Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is.” - German Proverb
This is the kind of movie I have a hard time remaining unbiased about simply because, and I’m just trying to be honest here, for myself the franchise has run aground. I just don’t care anymore. I enjoyed the first Transformers movie, I tolerated the following two and after that, when Wahlberg joined it all went to complete and utter hell. I’m not blaming him necessarily. It just took a turn off a cliff right around the same time. And to be fair the second and third installments aren’t anything to marvel at so that turn they took off a steep decline wasn’t a long trip. Despite not being invested in virtually any of it, I can still see the merits of Rise of the Beasts that make it several steps above its predecessors.
I think its most obvious difference is not being weighed down by Michael Bay in the director’s seat. Much of the action design and computer animation is very much the same but beyond that it feels more stable. I think we’ve finally reached a point with the franchise where the story and its characters (The whole reason we’re even watching. Hasbro.) are finally at the forefront rather than how slick it looks. No more repetitive low angle dutch shots making the five foot nothing actors appear ten feet tall. Oh and the importance of making them look fuckable is gone too, thankfully. I like looking at Megan Fox as much as the next person but it’s once she starts to speak where the issues start to become all too obvious. I want human characters to help propel the story forward, not to overshadow the thirty foot tall alien robots. Leave it to Bay to try anyway.
The next most glaringly obvious positive change is the attempts of making culturally insensitive robot aliens is very much a thing of the past now. But don’t worry, they don’t completely stick the landing when it comes to ridiculous robot characters as they cast Pete Davidson as a pivotal character whose decisions will affect the outcome of planet Earth’s future. Yes, that Pete Davidson and yes he’s exactly the same even when it’s just his voice permeating throughout the movie theater.
Where I tapped out with this franchise is in the visual mess that is an unfortunate by-product of such a property. Try making a movie about giant robot aliens without the entire thing being oversaturated by CGI. You can’t. It’s impossible. So however much they deviate from the original Bay vision with much needed course corrections, they’ll never escape the visual vomit that these kinds of blockbusters demand. It’s the same thing over and over again. Robot transforms. A human witnesses it and is understandably slack jawed. Entire world somehow becomes entirely dependent on that one human’s involvement in trying to save the world. It is the same thing again and again and I am just over it. I don’t care if Optimus Prime dies… again, or Bumblebee dies… again. It’s all a misguided attempt to elicit some empty emotional response to losing a beloved character. Only problem is this franchise has no backbone and refuses to permanently kill off any of its characters, the robot ones at least. So when they die all I have to do is know that before the credits roll they’ll bring that character back to life. Weightless.
I think my biggest gripe with Rise of the Beasts is the interchangeable storyline it shares with the original Shia LaBeouf movie. Take the All Spark cube and replace it with the Trans Warp Key featured in Rise and you have almost the exact same movie. It’s about a no-name young guy with little to no prospects discovering a car that is of course more than meets the eye. He gets entangled in a global battle that has raged for millennia but suddenly the insignificant man baby is the key to everyone’s salvation. He meets a feisty, capable female counterpart that brings him balance and focus at the most dire moments. They have nothing in common at first but through insane happenstance they learn they’re more alike than they previously thought. It’s the same damn movie.
Despite so much of it being rehashed or repetitive it still manages to make its characters more important. Regardless of my indifference I still found the journey to be much more substantial than most of the previous movies. I truly think what works best is the presence of a new person at the helm. With new vision comes something different. While the “different” I speak of might not always be a good thing, I think at the very least it’s a step in the right direction. Perhaps the next one, and yes there will be more, they’ll continue to find their identity beyond Bay and his butchering of our childhoods. Ninja Turtles anyone?
So much of this movie is no different from the original so it’s difficult to explain exactly what makes it so much better than everything since the first. It feels as if there’s more care being taken on both sides of the camera and while it may not be the fire we’re hoping for to start it all again, it may just be the spark to set things off.
Rated PG-13 For: intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and language
Runtime: 127 minutes
After Credits Scene: Yes
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Starring: Anthony Ramos, Dominique Fishback, Pete Davidson, Peter Cullen
Directed By: Steven Caple Jr.
Out of 10
Story: 7/ Acting: 7/ Directing: 8/ Visuals: 8.5
Buy to Own: For fans of Transformers and who haven’t been jaded by the previous entries, yes. If you’re over it, like me, then no.
Check out the trailer below: