Warning: This movie review contains spoilers.
Transformers: Rise of the Beasts takes its time to reunite the stranded alien protagonists Autobots, the Maximals from the hit 90s animated series Beast Wars: Transformers, and the planet eater Unicron, a character voiced originally by Citizen Kane director and star Orson Welles for the animated feature The Transformers: The Movie (1986). While the movie is a fantasy dream for those who follow the shapeshifting robots, viewers are also in for a treat as Hasbro dusts off some of the old action figures from their uncle’s toy chest.
Starting as a toy company, Hasbro now owns the intellectual properties Power Rangers, Dungeons & Dragons, on top of its toy lines Rom: Spaceknight, G.I. Joe, and Transformers. Recently, the Hasbro movies are either a hit—Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (2023)—or a miss, Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins (2021). But its intention to bring these characters to the big screen is clear. Hasbro also manufactures licensed action figures based on Marvel Comics and Marvel Studios characters. Hence, it is no surprise that they borrow the concept of a shared universe and start their own.
So while Transformers: Rise of the Beasts is a sequel to Bumblebee (2018), it magnificently sets off as a big bang to a Hasbro Cinematic Universe. There are obvious parallels to Iron Man (2008), the movie that kickstarted the MCU, and even a Nick Fury-like figure that introduces a larger war the world is fighting, expected to recruit skilled individuals from every power sect.
On the downside, the story is formulaic. The human characters struggle to find chemistry and the hinted romance felt a bit forced. The action, car chases, and fight choreography are good enough to keep their target male audience glued to the big screen for two hours.
As far as original stories go, it is likely you have watched a variation of this story. Fantastic Four’s devourer of worlds Galactus comes to mind when Unicron enters the picture. The isolationist thinking of Optimus Prime in contrast with Optimus Primal’s coexistence with humans is a recurring theme in Marvel’s Inhumans and X-Men. Still, you have to appreciate that the filmmakers are adding depth to the Transformers mythos while keeping the Michael Bay-ness of the franchise, at bay.
But as someone who grew up watching Beast Wars: Transformers every Sunday morning on the now-defunct ABS-CBN Channel 2, it was a pure delight to see the Maximals scream their battle cry, “Maximals, Maximize!” The visual cues of the Energon from the old Transformers series bring back good childhood memories. Plus, Oscar winner Michelle Yeoh is really “everywhere, everything, all at once” as she lends her voice to the Maximal, Airazor.
While the story is slow-building, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts ends up mind-blowing. That final scene is one for the books.
Transformers: Rise of the Beasts is now showing in Philippine cinemas. Watch the trailer below.