While I tire of a lot of the mass produced studio product this year, TRANSFORMERS: RISE OF THE BEASTS is a rare exception. A pure, fun summer popcorn movie that wears its heart on its sleeve, it was a fun action movie that did decently on its theatrical release but I really wish did better. I also really like how the TRANSFORMERS series is evolving after the 2018 gem BUMBLEBEE with Hailee Steinfeld which was a fun throwback to the 80s.
With RISE OF THE BEASTS it’s a throwback again, this time to 1994, and there’s a lot of fun to be had here to the era of rap music and the then-new tech (as well as a reference to the early 90s classic JUICE with a shot of Tupac Shakir). Even just a shot of a character with a GameBoy made me long for that era. Anthony Ramos (IN THE HEIGHTS) has a lot of fun in the lead role here as Noah who is trying to support his mom and sick brother and winds up meeting Mirage and is dragged into the Transformers conflict. The key battle here is with the Maximals and as always is a very conflicted situation with a lot of battles happening sure to make fans of the series happy.
Or something like that. I’m a real casual fan of the overall series and only played with a few of the Transformers toys as a kid. Even so, what I really liked about this sequel is that unlike the Michael Bay wall of noises of the past, I can actually see and hear everything that is going on, and it’s fun and easy to follow even if you haven’t seen the others in the series. I loved simply looking at all of the incredible design, and there’s also a good human story here with Noah and his family. We also get some good character development with the Transformers and Autobots themselves, leading to one of my favourite shots of the year with a wide shot of a key fight happening that is an image I wish I saw in the earlier movies.
The filmmaker responsible here is Steven Caple Jr, who has made good movies like CREED II and THE LAND, and has a very fun and dedicated style to the storytelling and also gives great weight and dimension to the visual effects. I almost feel like he shared the “Bayhem” issues I had with the earlier movies and wanted a wider, more open visual presentation. Overall, RISE OF THE BEASTS is a better example of a summer studio movie that delivers a fun experience for the whole family and hits a lot of right notes and misses very few.
About the 4k Blu Ray:
Paramount sent over an absolutely stunning 4k Steelbook version of RISE OF THE BEASTS, but more on that later. The 4k, HDR transfer here really is a highlight and looked great to these eyes. Framed perfectly in the original 2.39:1 aspect ratio, I saw the movie theatrically in a really good theatre and while it was shot digitally, the movie did have a strong 35mm look to it throughout with strong color balance and detail. Both the visual effect scenes pop off the screen but the New York City scenes with Ramos and his family also are no slouch either. It really is a stunning look that will make any 4k owner proud. The Dolby Atmos soundtrack here is also a highlight with deep, thunderous bass almost right at the get go and a full, 360-degree sound field. Split surrounds are everywhere, dialogue sounds natural and overall is a terrific sound mix worth an Oscar nomination.
The special features on the Blu Ray disc include deleted and extended scenes and a documentary all split apart in clips, some of which I believe are also available on YouTube. A Blu Ray is also included, and there’s also an Apple TV copy here that also redeems to 4k and contains all of the extras from the disc.
The real highlight here is the deluxe Steelbook edition, with a gorgeous mural-style front and back cover design with a shot of the Transformers as you open the case, along with a sturdy handle for both the 4k and Blu Ray disc. These Steelbook editions usually sell out fast at retailers but is really worth tracking down if you liked the movie.
This disc comes highly recommended for fans of the series and with this and BUMBLEBEE, I love where the series is going and am looking forward to seeing where it goes next.
TRANSFORMERS: RISE OF THE BEASTS is now available on 4k Steelbook, regular 4k, Blu Ray and other formats. Many thanks to Paramount PR for sending along a copy for review.