Transformers: Rise of the Beasts is the seventh film in the live-action Transformers franchise and is a sequel to the delightful Bumblebee which was set in the 1980s.
Directed by Steven Caple Jr, who inserts refreshing humour and energy into the franchise, this film takes place in 1994 and follows an ex-soldier from Brooklyn, Noah Diaz (Anthony Ramos) and archaeological researcher Elena Wallace (Dominique Fishback) who get swept up in a search that takes them from New York to Peru, for an artefact that can open up a space/time portal. They of course join forces with some Maximals and Autobots who must protect the precious item from the evil Terrorcons.
Relying heavily on 90s nostalgia, the film introduces its human characters with references to Tupac Shakur, Wu-tang Clan and Poetic Justice. At one point there’s even a nod to the original creative force behind the Transformers films, Michael Bay and Bad Boys. The soundtrack, too, boasts multiple 90s hip-hop bangers which add a fresh flavour to the giant robot smash-ups, car chases and exploration of the Peruvian jungle and Machu Picchu.
The new additions to this film are the impressively designed beasts or Maximals which feature a star-studded voice-cast that includes Michele Yeoh as wise, winged beast Airazor. There are also a few new Autobots which features a hilarious Pete Davidson (who gets the funniest line in the film) as Mirage – a fancy Porsche 911.
Beneath all the technical wizardry and a remarkably super-charged action and uplifting finale is a screenplay that is focused on the American Dream and what that means to a talented black woman who is shut out of elite institutions and an Afro-Latino man trying to make ends meet and pay for health-care for his sick younger brother. The menace of capitalism and greed and its capacity to destroy not only lives but entire worlds in this case, powers along a narrative that occasionally plods from one set-piece to set-piece. Thankfully the film isn’t overly long and never outstays its welcome, making it great family entertainment.
Transformers: Rise of the Beasts will be in theatres on 9 June 2023. Find more reviews at SciFiNow.