'Transformers: Rise of the Beasts' seems to be less than what it appears to be.

‘Transformers: Rise of the Beasts’ seems to be less than what it appears to be.

“Transformers: Rise of the Beasts,” the seventh installment in the toy-turned-movie series that started in 2007 (including the most recent “Bumblebee”), looks back in more ways than one, providing a simple-minded strain of giant-robot conflict. It’s a less-than-meets-the-eye summer-movie machine, and it’s not especially well-oiled.
Aside from the introduction of animal-shaped Transformers known as Maximals, the biggest twist is putting the action in 1994, but the viewer may be hard-pressed to notice it aside from the well-chosen musical soundtrack and a quick sight of the O.J. Simpson trial.

The plot, such as it is, involves the Autobots, led by Optimus Prime (again, voiced by Peter Cullen), collaborating with the Maximals to defeat the evil Terrorcons and Unicron, a world-devouring threat who, for those familiar with Marvel lore, is basically a poor-bot’s version of Galactus.
The unfortunate humans assigned the thankless task of not only saving the world but also spending the majority of their screen time gazing upward with awe are played by Anthony Ramos (of “In the Heights” and “Hamilton” fame) and Dominique Fishback (most recently seen in the Amazon series “Swarm”), both good actors who deserve better. They end up teaming up with the sceptical Optimus in search of a key that, in the wrong hands, threatens to unleash Unicron on an unsuspecting cosmos.
After you get past the celebrity voices – which include Michelle Yeoh, Pete Davidson, Peter Dinklage, and Ron Perlman – the whole thing comes down to the scope and scale of the robot battles, which are impressive in their technical virtuosity if characteristically chaotic.
Unfortunately, the film drags throughout practically every interval, particularly when the humans take centre stage. And, like a number of this summer’s sequels, “Rise of the Beasts” doesn’t seem satisfied to tell a single narrative without laying the groundwork for more, which doesn’t inspire much excitement following a product with this much of an assembly-line feel to it.
Given its origins in Hasbro toys (and the animated TV programme that emerged in the 1980s), “Transformers” has always functioned as a showcase for what 21st-century visual effects can do, and nearly has to be assessed on that curve.
Even by those standards, “Rise of the Beasts” lacks the disarming humour that lifted “Bumblebee,” and the effort to make Davidson’s character, Mirage, into plucky comedic relief falls mainly short.
After directing the first five films, producer Michael Bay turned over the director’s chair to Steven Caple Jr. (“Creed II”) with no obvious shift in tone or approach. The biggest benefit of “Transformers” might simply be that movie has been six years since “The Last Knight,” which could generate some pent-up desire for the franchise among people who celebrate.
Beyond such ardent supporters, though, everything here seems to be a bit beyond its prime.

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