Part-Time Review: Transformers - Rise of the Beasts (2023)

The Transformers franchise is in total creative exhaustion. I’ll pause to let the shock of a franchise based on series of toys feeling creatively exhausted after seven entries wear off. 2023’s entry is another attempt to find a bankable human character that audiences are interested in enough to ground and justify their large scale transforming robot action series. After Shia Lebouf they found some success in Mark Wahlberg but haven’t been nearly as lucky since then. This entry ropes in Anthony Ramos and Dominique Fishback to more lackluster results. I’m sorry, but I don’t think anyone will be too excited or disappointed if either of these characters ever return.

I’m grateful the run time has been tamed with this entry coming in at relatively slim two hours (even if it still felt close to three). The Transformers universe feels so muddled and arbitrary now that I don’t really understand where this entry sits at all. I’ve seen the previous films, some of them multiple times, and I swear that Optimus Prime died several times, and I can’t remember if he stayed dead in any of them. Anyways, he’s back in this one, but the film takes place pre-2001 so how this falls in the transformers timeline isn’t clear to me (or likely anyone who isn’t a hardcore fan).

For anyone who has seen more than two of these films, that feeling of ad hoc writing is one of the most tiring aspects here. Each new entry feels like they need to jam in some new gimmick into the basic template (this one is the Maximals – transforming jungle animals) so they need to come up with some macguffin, throw in a new human grounding story for demographic appeal, then include enough visual effect action to hopefully satisfy a trailer that will sell tickets. If you’ve seen one of these, you’ve seen all of them.

It's a bummer because it all looks very good – they’ve got the sense of action down here, but it all feels so desperate, formula driven, and filled with ad hoc moments. The finale alone feels like it just cribs the basic setup from the finale of a dozen other f/x driven superhero blockbusters (ahem Avengers) and to differentiate it, they desperately throw in multiple needle drop music moments, ad hoc iron man abilities, and more. It all reeks of creatively exhausted mass production that is badly pandering to feel relevant.

If you liked the previous ones, you’ll likely enjoy this one. Personally, I’m sick of them and their uninspired and desperate formula.