Transformers: Rise of the Beasts was unleashed on Wednesday, June 7th 2023 as a special fan event showing across many but not all theaters across the United States. I was there and waiting anxiously in the lobby of my suburban mall movie theatre for my friend to find his way from the food court to my location. Of course, I didn’t want to be late for what could be a disastrous showing of the next in a long line of Transformers live action movies. This fan event might have special freebies for attendees, maybe even toys. My friend, let’s call him Mr. G, casually waltzed up, taking his time meandering through a long empty hall way from the main mall to me, was only there because I purchased an extra ticket in case I could convince someone to join me. Let’s admit, not many moderating successful adults with kids would jump at the chance to accept a free ticket to a Transformers movie after the last six movies. A night away from the kids is a rare treat.
Regardless, the two of us made our way to the ticket counter, received our freebies (a Maximal patch and a non-full-bleed poster digitally printed on standard printer paper), and hit the concession stand. I, of course, wanted the Optimus popcorn bucket tin. At $50, it was a tough pill to swallow but eating popcorn at the theatre is almost a requirement for me these days. The tin was actually incredible, for a novelty souvenir made to drain the pockets of long-time fans. Just don’t forget the straws…
As we watched the humorously simple Transformers trivia screens play out before us prior to the movie start, the reality of the realization that in mere minutes, years of questions, conjecture, and debate would be settled once and for all.
Would Unicron be sealed into Earth at the end of the film, keeping intact the flimsy semblance of continuity the last fifteen years of films had culminated in?
Would the masked villain, Scourge, reveal his actual identity in an ultimate moment of fan wankery?
Most of all, I wanted to know once and for all: Is this film and its predecessor part of the same story as the rest of the “Bayverse” films or do they constitute a new universe or timeline?
The long and short of it is that when the theatre lights came up, the most important of these questions for the franchise at large still remains a bit murky and I have determined this is by design. As frustrating as that is, I’ve found myself coming to terms with the lack of answers surrounding this all-important mystery. For what is a franchise without it’s core mythos and story?
The truth is that the Transformers brand is not a fiction-first entity, like most of its other major pop culture compatriots. Star Wars, Jurassic Park, The Avengers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Game of Thrones… they all come from a fiction-first origin, be them books, movies, comics or otherwise. Transformers was and still is a hodge podge of products that needed a feasible story to sell them and for some insane reason, it worked. Transformers hit the pop-culture jackpot and is a 1 out of 100 Cinderalla story. No matter how we fans crave a single chronology to rally behind and unify our fragment fanbase, we will be chasing a dragon we’ll never catch.
All this being said, my initial reactions to Transformers: Rise of the Beasts were not great, lukewarm at best. Mr. G also carried this opinion, if not to a lesser degree. “This is stupid, but in a completely different way,” was something one of us uttered to the other after about 20 minutes of the film, and the other concurred. I left the theatre feeling a bit empty, and called another compatriot of a previous podcast I recently exited. His review was a bit more glowing. He was genuinely positive about his experience and I asked some probing questions. He felt the action was good, the story was simple but followable, and the robots, God, the robots! They were IN THE MOVIE. This I had to agree with. I listened a lot and soaked up his enthusiasm before I asked some really simple questions that gave him pause, and we both agreed that maybe this story wasn’t meant to be dissected.
I could wax poetic for a while, but I want to transcribe my feelings on this because Transformers means more to me than it healthily should. These initial thoughts did not ultimately prevail as I saw it again the next night with a group of other fans, but kept the fact that I had already seen it under wraps to avoid questions that could be spoilers and wanted everyone’s general reaction.
What I was not expecting was a complete change in my viewpoint on the movie after seeing it a second time. Seeing it again, all the great things about the movie were amplified to the 9’s, and the sillier aspects of it I was able to just ignore. I will dissect all of these details in a succession of future blog posts because ultimately my take is this: Transformers: Rise of the Beasts is an important fan film.
If you haven’t seen it and are reading this, what is wrong with you? This is a movie we can get behind. This is a movie that has heart and some competent people behind it. Some… I for one feel we still have a long way to go, but this Collecticon thinks the sixteen years it took us to get here was worth the wait.
As I colorfully chided the title, it turns out it was a fairly foretelling premonition. Transformers truly was the Rise of the Bests! Get out there Transfans, and bask in the glory. Thank you.