By now, a new Transformers film is a comfortable visit with old robot pals. One settles in, accordingly, for the wisecracks and the callbacks and the “surprise” cameos as much as for the hyperkinetic fights.
The formula is the entire point. Director Steven Caple Jr. and screenwriters Joby Harold, Darnell Metayer, Josh Peters, Erich Hoeber and Jon Hoeber know that viewing their movie should be as soothing a ritual as Sunday dinner at your grandmother’s. Moreover, if you watched the TV cartoons as a child, , you’re likely to be swooning from nostalgia.
So we know, going in, what to expect from the seventh instalment in the big-screen franchise, “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” (Paramount). Namely, a story based on the Hasbro toy line about the heroic Autobots battling a malignant plan for world domination.
Set in 1994 (lots of beeping electronics but no internet, and vintage hip-hop on the soundtrack), this outing is the beginning of a new trilogy. Its launch is aided by a couple of savvy and conveniently fearless humans who, over the course of time, learn their inner strengths.
Noah (Anthony Ramos), an ex-military Brooklyn electronics expert who is trying to get a job in security and help the medical needs of his nephew, Kris (Dean Scott Vazquez), becomes desperate enough to steal a Porsche which turns out to be the automobile version of jokester bot Mirage (voice of Pete Davidson). Noah then embarks on some high-speed chases that he inexplicably mistakes for a substantially changed life.
At the same time, museum artifact researcher Elena (Dominique Fishback) comes across a piece of glowing rock known as the transwarp key, which is needed to operate a time/space portal that can be used for global dominion. Elena keeps a notebook full of what turn out to be codes.
This plays directly into the hands of wicked minion Scourge (voice of Peter Dinklage). He aims to grab the transwarp key and eliminate the autobots in the service of his overlord, Unicron (voice of Colman Domingo).
Not so fast. That luminous stone, it develops, is only half of the needed magic totem. This complication sends everyone off to Machu Picchu in Peru for more tumultuous encounters.
Once in Peru, the autobots, headed by Optimus Prime (voice of Peter Cullen), find that they need to enlist the help of the Maximals, animal-themed bots led by gorilla Optimus Primal (voice of Ron Perlman) and peregrine falcon Airazor (voice of Michelle Yeoh).
Optimus Primal’s role, in particular, was developed strongly by Director Steven Caple Jr., who wanted to make a ‘homage to the ‘80s cartoon’, as he explained to collider.com.
“I gave them a pitch for Optimus Primal where they start off in the top of the movie, and I gave them a new villain, which is Unicron and the Terrorcon squad,” he said.
“I just felt like, as a fan, we’ve been tip-toeing around Unicron, and all the other films kind of hinted towards him towards the end, and I just really want to expand the universe, and I felt like he was a perfect source to do so because he tells us there’s another world out there, there’s more Transformers out there, it’s not just Autobots and Decepticons. And then, of course, the exosuit, that was my idea; it was an homage to the ‘80s cartoon.”
There are lessons about cooperating as a team and the importance of sacrificing personal ambitions in order to save the lives of others. But there are also too many sonorous monologues about the clash of good and evil.
As for the battle sequences, they go on so long as to be numbing. The thinking here, however, is probably that the audience is so at home with these characters that no one will mind.
The intensity of the battles makes this an unsuitable choice for youngsters. But children aren’t the real target audience-grownups out to relive their childhood are.
Picture: Poster from the movie “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts.” (OSV News photo/Paramount)