It’s not so subtle product marketing, but even if it weren’t, the frequent presence of American Candy fave Twizzlers in the latest Transformers movie might also be the film’s way of tipping audiences off to its tone. Sure, after a while, it gets a bit much, but for the most part, it’s a tasty, sweet, and satisfying comfort food.
The latest movie based on the classic ‘80s toy line, the first after a long succession of Michael Bay-directed blockbusters that wore out their welcome around hour 4 of the second sequel, was a reboot that changed gears more times than its title character, Bumblebee. A cute, wholesome, coming of age adventure-comedy about a teenager’s unlikely bond with an alien robot, Bumblebee was a gorgeous throwback to Spielbergian Amblin films of the 80s. Suitably too, considerably it was set in.
Transformers : Rise of the Beasts, while not so much a sequel to it as it is a spin-off (though it does feature Bumblebee in a supporting role; the focus here does strangely fix on one character again, ‘Mirage’ voiced by Pete Davidson), is set in the next decade – which might be why it, possessing a rather different tone to its predecessor, it mostly resembles one of the teen-skewed family blockbusters of the mid-90s.
The convoluted plot sees Optimus Prime (Transformers staple Peter Cullen) and the Autobots – including the aforesaid Mirage and Bumblebee – take on some bad boys, who are intent on destroying the planet. While on the hunt for a McGuffin that could give them an edge over the enemy, the Autobots and their human accomplices (promising newcomers Antony Ramos and Dominique Fishback) encounter another faction of the Transformers, the Maximals, who they ultimately form an alliance with.
Here, the warmth and humour of Bumbeblee has been swapped out for an eye-popping, globetrotting thrilling adventure yarn that combines the tried-and-true staples of the Jurassic Park-style summer blockbuster of the time – great SFX, teen-friendly humour, wholesome themes of family, and a fast-paced tone that only lets up to cue the odd well-timed needle drop (interestingly enough, one of those is a killer moment featuring the aforesaid yellow car itself).
If Bumblebee was the E.T of Transformers movies, Rise of the Beats Is the Indiana Jones of the Transformers series – a successful, family-friendly mix of high-spirited adventure and humor. And while teen girls would’ve been the most pleased target market on the Bumblebee test score, young teen boys will be in Valhalla with this one.
At around the three quarters mark, it does start to feel a little long in the tooth (though never quite as long as those Michael Bay Transformers movies felt), and the screenplay (credited to no less than 5 writers) doesn’t have the ingenuity or broad appeal of the last instalment, but as a Transformers film is there more than meets the eye here? There certainly is.
Bring on the next one, Joe.