Transformers: Rise Of The Beasts

Review by David Jenkins @daveyjenkins

Directed by

Steven Caple Jr


Luna Lauren Velez Michelle Yeoh Pete Davidson


Spin-off Bumblebee showed there were signs of life in this franchise.


Oh my, oh my… is this the beginning of the end?

In Retrospect.

Bring on the robot overlords. We deserve them.

The extinction of the human race is on the table with this join-the-dots seventh entry to the apparently beloved fighting robot-based mega franchise.

There’s been a lot of nervous chatter lately about the prospect of artists and artisans being usurped by the scourge of Artificial Intelligence. And rightly so, as there are people with a lot of money who, inevitably, are looking to make even more money, and AI offers an intriguing (albeit highly cynical) case for human cutbacks and significant top-line savings.

Why have a human person made of flesh, blood and synapses, who can push back on suggested changes, use words that don’t connect with the intended demographic, assert their authority and jostle for more cash, when you can just sit back, spark up a stogie and hit F10?

In the face of creative genocide (if that’s not too harsh a term for it), we should neither be making nor seeing movies like Transformers: Rise of the Beasts. And by that I mean, films that, per the closing credit roll, were crafted by huge numbers of actual real people, but in every aspect feel like they’ve been made as the result of digital automation and careful exploitation of algorithms and keywords.

In the film it is the job of Dominique Fishback’s massively-overqualified research intern, Elena Wallace, to swiftly deduce whether a range of artefacts up for sale are real or fake. In viewing Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, we too assume that position, of trying to work out whether this gaudy, uninspiring, soulless object in front of us is, indeed, the genuine article or the work of computers.

This is the 7th screen outing for Hasbro’s flagship toy-to-screen property, and it’s not so much a hard reset from the previous era as it is an attempt to pretend the previous films never happened by setting the action in 1994. The film opens on a censored version of Wu-Tang Clan’s C.R.E.A.M., some references to Sonic and Mario are tossed in, and that’s as far as it goes.

It would be futile to bemoan a tale of good and bad robots fighting over a time-travelling McGuffin, as this is the bedrock of classic blockbuster storytelling. Locating the intricate variations is all part of the fun and the creative justification. Yet in this case, every sorry story beat, every cigarette-paper thin “character”, every joke is a callous rehash, made in the understandable hope that our collective memory of the early films would’ve faded enough to justify a full-on Xerox rather than a subtle retooling.

If this film is successful, it could very well act as the damning evidence needed to clear out the human collateral and fire-up the mechanised production line. Which is ironic considering it offers a fervent, sentimental celebration of the human factor, where Anthony Ramos’ Noah Diaz (innocent!) proves to the Autobots (vehicular Transformers) and Maximals (animal-based Transformers) that there’s value in the human spirit, and though we may just be soft tissue and messed up emotions, that’s what makes us unique and special.

As such, this is a film which swoops in for a big bear hug with one hand, but conceals a dagger behind its back with the other. It’s terrifying to think that AI-generated content will inevitably play to stories about human strength and courage, and if we accept them then we probably deserve all we’ve got coming.

Five people contributed to the screenplay for Transformers: Rise of the Beasts. It is a film which contains the line, “Did anyone call for back-up?”. We must do better than this. We must outsmart the machines now, try to be counter-intuitive and work against the grain of algorithmic cliché. The sound design is, once more, a case of someone spamming a button which plays the noise of a backwards slow-motion helicopter rotor-blade starting up. These comfort sounds which connect us to the franchise are all part of a problem in which we tend to cleave to the familiar rather than yearn for the unexpected.

There’s also an insane coda which denounces pay-for-play healthcare in the US, lest all the militaristic petrolhead antics, and ritual destruction of vital ancient history (anyone who would rather not see Machu Picchu rendered into a robot battle field, look away now), give off too strong a political message. At least with the Michael Bay films, you knew where you stood.

And so when AI is finally ushered in as a blockbuster script generator, leading to the decimation of one of the most vaunted creative industries in the world, a robotic monster will stride toward us clutching the severed head with connecting, oil-slicked spinal column of Transformers: Rise of the Beasts and say to us, in vocoder-inflected tones, “We warned you.”

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Published 8 Jun 2023

Tags: Steven Caple Jr Transformers


Spin-off Bumblebee showed there were signs of life in this franchise.


Oh my, oh my… is this the beginning of the end?

In Retrospect.

Bring on the robot overlords. We deserve them.

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Transformers: Dark of the Moon

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Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

By Matt Bochenski

A frenzy of sound and fury that takes Michael Bay’s vision to its final, eye-boggling extreme.


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