2019's "Bumblebee" presented a new hope for the floundering Transformers franchise. After five bloated movies, "Bumblebee" took the Autobots where they had never been before: a well-crafted story with humour and a lot of heart, unencumbered by the bulky scrap metal of prior films. "Transformers: Rise of the Beasts," the seventh entry in this robotic saga, brings all of that progress grinding to a halt. This film is a return to form for Transformers, in all the worst ways. The humans get in the way, the robots are ugly, and the film's biggest selling point (the Beasts) play second fiddle to all the muck surrounding them.
As if it's contractual, every Transformers film has included an actor who is acting well below their skill level for a sizeable paycheck: there's been Sir Anthony Hopkins, John Turturro, John Malkovich, Frances McDormand, and if we go back far enough, the last performance of Orson Welles. Honouring tradition, "Rise of the Beasts" casts Michelle Yeoh, fresh off her Best Actress Win, as Airazor, a giant metallic bird that doesn't even get to transform. This is perhaps the most egregious problem with the film. Even if we accept that the Transformers movies are not attempting to be high art, or medium art, or perhaps art at all, they should at least be fun. The action of this film is blisteringly incoherent, and largely ignores the very verb that defines these robotic behemoths. Instead of transforming, they are mostly gears and sprockets in humanoid forms, clashing against each other in an incomprehensible frenzy. If that wasn't infantile enough, this film then stoops lower, including power scaling tiers, comparing the battle strength of different automatons, before completely ignoring these very rankings in the final act.
Any hope that "Bumblebee" generated for this franchise has been thoroughly quashed by "Rise of the Beasts." It's the same drivel that Bay was pumping out more than a decade ago, but somehow, all the CGI is worse than ever. "More than meets the eye" has been the franchise's slogan for many years. Unfortunately, it seems Hasbro has taken that to mean that the eye ought to suffer. And if this film's post-credits-but-not-during-the-credits-cross-Hasbro-synergy-scene is any indication, there is yet plenty of suffering to come.