Transformers: Rise of the Beasts

Year: 2023
Studio: Paramount
Director: Steven Caple Jr
Producer: Michael Bay/Steven Spielberg/Lorenzo di Bonaventura
Writer: Joby Harold/Darnell Metayer/Josh Peters/Erich Hoeber/Jon Hoeber
Cast: Anthony Ramos, Dominique Fishback, Peter Cullen

What do you do when you have a spare $200m and Hasbro says they'll market the sh#t out of a new Transformers movie if you make one but the old story was not only wrapped up, it petered out with a bit of a whimper in Transformers: The Last Knight in 2017.

You hire a director who's proven his chops directing action at a much smaller scale (Steven Caple Jr, of Creed II fame) and lock four or five screenwriters in a room until they come up with a new pitch teenagers will love. And the idea was this; it's transformers, but animal transformers.

For some reason it's the 90s rather than the present day – I assume it had something to do with the mythology of the franchise that involved the characters Shia Lebeouf and Mark Wahlberg played, but can't remember why.

The hero is the same streetwise, urban, cool kid on the brink of poverty who'd do anything for his family (a little brother with sickle cell anaemia) you've seen in a hundred other superhero or alien invasion blockbusters.

In this case it's Noah (Anthony Ramos) – a Latino character that makes you glad they're still showing diversity on screens but which the cynic in me thinks is a lazy grab for the Hispanic demographic in America.

Noah is an ex military electronics prodigy but he's having trouble getting a job because of his chequered past, so in a moment of weakness he agrees to help a sketchy friend steal a car for a big payday.

During the getaway, it reveals itself to be a transformer, and while Noah's terrified inside as the car controls itself, wondering what he's got himself into, it receives a message from its commander, Optimus Prime (once again voiced by Peter Cullen).

Optimus is summoning his forces scattered around Earth from in hiding because he's detected an energy signature from a mysterious and ancient object, one that's recently been revealed by museum intern Elena (Dominique Fishback).

The object, a MacGuffin called the Transwarp Key, will let Optimus and the Autobots go home to Cybertron after years in hiding while stuck on Earth.

But it attracts other parties too – the terrorcons. They're not the Decepticons, they're another race of evil robot beings who work for an entity called Unicron that eats entire planets.

The Transwarp Key will let it move through time and space to consume its favoured dish faster, so they want it for their boss as badly as Optimus wants it to get he and his friends home.

Noah and Elena are dragged into the middle of a pitched battle at the museum where Elena was working when the terrorcons descend to swipe the prized trinket, but everyone's surprised by the arrival of a giant bird transformer thing.

She explains that there's a whole other race of transformer beings who've been hiding on Earth for millennia (and by this time you'll be wondering exactly where a whole species of five-storey high robots have been stashed away throughout history), and the autobots have new allies in the fight.

It all ends with a gargantuan tower appearing on top of a volcano in South America – Unicron's entry point to eat Earth – while robots and tiny humans fight it out on the plains and structure of the thing below.

Cinematographically and narratively it's nothing you haven't seen before in a three act CGI slugfest, and it's distracting and loud enough to please kids.

But the most interesting aspect was the IP crossover-setup scene where Noah thinks he's going for a job interview with a seeming middle manager (Michael Kelly) but is actually being recruited to a top secret spy army called the GI Joes.

The guy tells Noah he's getting a place in the elite organisation for saving the world, and as part of his reward they'll pay his brother's healthcare costs. It's amusing (and slightly tragic) but that's America, where the ultimate reward for saving the world isn't untold riches or glory but having your crippling medical bills paid.

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