The big news about the new Transformers movie (not a line I envisioned when I went to journalism school) is that this seventh installment shows the first appearance of the Maximals on the big screen. Whether or not that information means anything to you will determine whether or not you’re the target audience for it Transformers: Rise of the Beastsa de facto follow-up to that of 2018 Bumblebee which features enough rock ’em, sock ’em robot action to thrill the faithful, while engaging performances from Anthony Ramos and Dominique Fishback as the symbolic humans on hand.
Set in New York City around 1994, the story provides ample opportunity for the soundtrack of classic 90s hip-hop songs to complement Jongnic “JB” Bontemps’ thunderous score. We meet Noah (Ramos, In the Heights), a former Army soldier and tech who tries to make ends meet by setting up illegal cable boxes for his friends. Noah urgently needs money to support his hard-working mother (Luna Lauren Velez, Right) and to pay for the extensive medical needs of his devoted little brother (Dean Scott Vazquez), who suffers from sickle cell anemia.
Transformers: Rise of the Beasts
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The other major non-robotic character is Elena (Fishback, Judas and the Black Messiah), a talented researcher who works at an archaeological museum on Ellis Island, trying to discover the lineage of a recently discovered ancient artifact resembling the Maltese falcon. She gets more than she bargained for when her nightly examination of the piece virtually destroys it, revealing a mysterious object within.
Meanwhile, during a failed petty crime attempt, Noah hides in a Porsche 911 which soon turns out to be Mirage (the ubiquitous Pete Davidson), an Autobot low in town along with his fellow Transformers, including Optimus Prime (series badass). and MVP Peter Cullen), Bumblebee and Arcee (Liza Koshy).
It turns out that the object Elena discovered is an interplanetary beacon capable of summoning the terrifying planet-sized Unicron (Colman Domingo), the leader of the Terrorcons who want to destroy both the Autobots’ homeworld and Earth . Needless to say, it all leads to a massive amount of violent mayhem as the Autobots team up with the Maximals to defeat the Terrorcons, who are led into battle by the very cantankerous Scourge (Peter Dinklage). Noah and Elena also get caught up in the conflict and accompany the Autobots to Peru to help save the world.
The Maximals, for those who don’t know, stem from a syndicated animated television series that ran from 1996 to 1999, featuring Transformers taking on animal forms. Fan-favorite robot beasts include Optimus Primal (Ron Perlman), a gorilla; Airazor (Michelle Yeoh), a peregrine falcon; Rhinox (David Sobolov), which you can guess; and Cheetor (Tongayi Chirisa), ditto. This race of Transformers with real-looking fur, skin and wings is a nice contrast to the vehicle brand we’ve become accustomed to.
The film takes great advantage of the locations, including New York City (and Montreal replaces the same) and especially Peru, including the beautiful historic city of Cusco and the ruins of Machu Picchu, which have not received as much attention since. the profile of virtually anyone on a dating site.
Director Steven Caple Jr. (Creed II) steps up to the plate nicely, with this huge production representing a significant departure from the smaller films he has directed before. (Of course, it helps to have Michael Bay and Steven Spielberg among the producers.) The many, many action sequences are spectacularly conceived and executed, including a car chase on the Williamsburg Bridge that probably still captures downtown traffic.
Let’s be honest, looking at those Transformers transform itself never grows old. These Hasbro action figures, and their on-screen incarnations, are capable of reducing even the most mature, jaded adult into an awestruck kid who just wants to lay down on the floor and play with them. Late in the film, the character of Ramos becomes a Transformer himself, and you can almost sense that the toy manufacturers are trying to find a way to get a home version in stores by the holidays.
As for the story, well, that turns out to be less interesting, although the five, count them, five screenwriters try to infuse the proceedings with real human emotion. While the subplot involving Noah’s little brother battling illness feels like something even Pat O’Brien would have found too corny in a 1930s melodrama, the growing friendship between Noah and Elena – sparked by their shared Brooklyn roots and desire to save the world without dying in the process – proves effectively sweet. Ramos invests his performance with a dynamic enthusiasm that’s sure to work for younger viewers, while Fishback, so impressive in the recent Prime Video series Swarmis equally recognizable.
The voice talents are also impressive, with Perlman and Dinklage using their stentor delivery in a suitably imposing manner and Yeoh proving perfect as the falcon Maximal because, as everyone knows, she can actually fly in real life. The only misstep is Davidson as the wisecracking Mirage; the comedian-actor’s voice is distractingly recognizable, delivering lame Marky Mark jokes and moans like “Cojones muy grande!”
The movie ends with a teaser hinting that the Transformers franchise will subsequently be merged with another. No spoilers, but if you’re thinking about corporate synergy, you’re not far off the mark.
Production Companies: Paramount Pictures, Skydance, Hasbro, New Republic Pictures, Di Bonaventura Pictures, Bay Films, Entertainment One, Allspark Pictures
Distribution: of utmost importance
Cast: Anthony Ramos, Dominique Fishback, Luna Lauren Velez, Dean Scott Vazquez, Tobe Nwigwe, Peter Cullen, Ron Perlman, Peter Dinklage, Michelle Yeoh, Liza Koshy, John DiMaggio, David Sobolov, Michael Jae Rodriguez, Pete Davidson, Colman Domingo, Cristo Fernandez, Tongayi Chirisa
Directed by: Steven Caple Jr.
Screenwriters: Joby Harold, Darnell Metayer, Josh Peters, Erich Hoeber, Jon Hoeber
Producers: Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Dom DeSanto, Don Murphy, Michael Bay, Mark Vahradian, Duncan Henderson
Executive Producers: Steven Spielberg, Brian Goldner, David Ellison, Dana Goldberg, Don Granger, Brian Oliver, Bradley J. Fischer, Valerii An
Director of Photography: Enrique Chediak
Production Designer: Sean Haworth
Music: Jongnic “JB” Bontemps
Costume Designer: Ciara Whaley
Editors: William Goldenberg, Joel Negron
Visual Effects Supervisor: Gary Brozenich
Casting: Wittney Horton, Ruth Lambert, Robert McGee
Rated PG-13, 2 hours and 7 minutes