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Failed attempt to revive ‘Transformers’ saga: Movie review of ‘Who let the beasts out?’

Failed attempt to revive ‘Transformers’ saga: Movie review of ‘Who let the beasts out?’

The latest installment in the “Transformers” franchise, “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts,” attempts to rejuvenate the series by introducing new characters from the deep bench of the franchise’s universe. However, this strategy fails to save the film from its tired and formulaic nature.

Returning to the franchise’s original scope after the smaller scale of 2018’s “Bumblebee,” “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” follows a new cast of animal robots in their battle against the planet-eating Unicron. Unfortunately, the story fails to properly utilize these characters, resulting in a seemingly endless succession of fight scenes that offer little excitement.

Directed by Steven Caple Jr., with a screenplay by Darnell Metayer, Erich Hoeber, Jon Hoeber, and Josh Peters based on a story by Joby Harold, the film attempts to establish a multi-film arc following “Bumblebee” and preceding the first live-action “Transformers” movie. However, similar to its predecessors, the film struggles to balance the human element with the metal.

While “Bumblebee” effectively balanced the two, “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” finds a noticeable gap between the human characters and the giant space robots. Even Optimus Prime, the franchise’s iconic leader, is reduced to his typical drill sergeant characterization, leaving the audience to struggle to connect with the mechanical characters. Only with the introduction of the beasts during the last third of the film does any real emotional connection with the robots occur.

To further bridge the divide, the filmmakers cast Pete Davidson as the voice of Mirage, a wisecracking robot. While Davidson’s performance brings some humor to the film, he ultimately feels trapped within the character and the steel.

The special effects in “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” are visually impressive but sometimes overwhelming. The beasts are beautifully realized, and the villains controlling elements in space and time look cool. The choice to set the movie in 1994 offers nostalgia, but there are some glaring inaccuracies, such as including music that was not released until after the film’s setting.

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Anthony Ramos leads the human cast, playing a Brooklyn ex-military electronics expert named Noah who accidentally gets entangled with Mirage. Ramos’s chemistry with co-star Dominique Fishback doesn’t make it to the screen, with their scenes feeling overly heightened. Still, it’s not entirely clear what their relationship is.

The titular stars of the film, the beasts, don’t make an appearance until too late in the movie. Their characters, including Optimus Primal (voiced by Ron Perlman), Cheetor (voiced by Tongayi Chirisa), Airazor (voiced by Michelle Yeoh), and Rhinox (voiced by David Sobolov), offer a connection to humanity that was missing in the mechanical characters.

While the film is rated PG-13 for its intense sci-fi action, violence, and language, it fails to excite or engage. “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” is a misfire for the franchise and a disappointment for fans.

© 2020 CANDOUR

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