It’s no surprise that the human protagonists aren’t that memorable despite the best efforts of two talented young actors – Ramos and Fishback have been better, and will be better in everything else they do – but more disappointingly the robots’ personalities (those lucky enough to be given one) get lost in all the noise as well. Pete Davidson probably fares the best as hyperactive wise-cracker Mirage, and Ron Perlman and Michelle Yeoh make a valiant attempt to add gravitas as Primal and Airazor, but but most of the rest of the Transformer teams are disposable and samey. Much like Hugo Weaving’s voicing of Megatron in the first three Transformers movies, there was little point in getting Peter Dinklage in to play baddie Scourge here, such is the digital distortion added in post to make him unrecognisable. Scourge’s formidability is at the mercy of the plot requirements as well; he’s nigh-on invulnerable and able to easily overpower Optimus until he isn’t any more because the story’s wrapping up.
Nothing really means anything here and there are no lasting consequences. What should be a big moment at the end of the first act has next-to-no impact because of how transparently obvious it is that it’ll be undone before the end of the film. Noah and Elena are potentially interesting blockbuster leads with the former needing to care for his kid brother with Sickle Cell Anaemia and the latter’s work superiors exploiting her talents and knowledge, but neither are given clear arcs, nor do they meaningfully change over the course of their adventure.
Transformers may have started out as a Saturday morning cartoon designed to sell toys to children, but that doesn’t mean that the search for a good movie that does justice to fans’ ideas of these beloved characters is beyond contemporary Hollywood. There are really compelling modern Transformers stories out there, from Bumblebee to a good number of episodes from the three seasons of ‘Beast Wars’, and even a recent example using the same combination of characters in Netflix’s ‘Transformers: War for Cybertron’ miniseries trilogy. Rise of the Beasts is not that. The odd pleasing action flourish to be found in the nonstop melee of the final act, and nostalgia for a beloved childhood property aside, this just isn’t any more than meets the eye.