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Transformers: Rise of the Beasts
Review by Rich Cline |
dir Steven Caple Jr
scr Joby Harold, Darnell Metayer, Josh Peters, Erich Hoeber, Jon Hoeber
prd Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Tom DeSanto, Don Murphy, Michael Bay, Mark Vahradian, Duncan Henderson
with Anthony Ramos, Dominique Fishback, Luna Lauren Velez, Dean Scott Vazquez
voices Pete Davidson, Peter Cullen, Michelle Yeoh, Ron Perlman, Peter Dinklage, Colman Domingo, Michaela Jae Rodriguez, Cristo Fernandez
release US/UK 9.Jun.23
23/US Paramount 2h07
Is it streaming?
Following on from the 2018 hit Bumblebee, this adventure takes a similarly character-based approach, blending action, drama and humour in a way that banishes the memory of Michael Bay's four bombastic sequels. While the plot is both simple and absurd, it's underscored by genial wit. Director Steven Caple Jr skilfully resists letting robot-vs-robot action take over. And the brisk pace mixed with knowing gags makes for a thrilling romp.
In 1994 New York, museum expert Elena (Fishback) discovers a relic that summons the villainous planet-devourer Unicron (Domingo), who sends his ruthless henchman Scourge (Dinklage) to grab it. This powerful key also alerts the Autobots on Earth to the impending danger, and another human, struggling young Noah (Ramos), finds himself in the middle of the escalating chaos, working with sports-car Mirage (Davidson), Optimus Prime (Cullen) and others. When they head to Peru to find the other half of the key, they team up with the Maximals, robots that transform into giant animals, to battle Scourge.
As always, Transformers mythology sounds ridiculous as it's recounted in the dialog. But there are strongly internalised motivations woven into each decision, and even the allies sometimes find themselves at odds with each other. So there's a strong message here about seeking commonality and working together for the greater good. And it's refreshing that there's plenty of time in between the outrageous action sequences, which are rendered with first-rate photorealistic effects.
The quality of the digital work gives each robot a personality and yearnings. Davidson gets the scene-stealing role, delivering one hilarious line after another to make the preening Mirage enormously loveable. And we want more of Fernandez's lively Wheeljack too. As Maximals, Yeoh and Perlman both have great moments; while Domingo and Dinklage are superbly vile baddies. Meanwhile, Ramos and Fishback are far more interesting than expected: bright, funny and resilient. And Ramos finds strong pathos in Noah's connection to his little brother (Vazquez).
Even with its silly plotting, the film holds the interest simply because heroes are so easy to identify with and cheer for. The filmmakers even pull off amusing references to both Fast & Furious and Indiana Jones movies along the way, plus Mirage's rather bold innuendo, which elicits huge laughter in a packed cinema. But the best thing about this movie is that the cast and crew simply want us to have a lot of fun. And they make sure we do.
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© 2023 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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