As the old expression goes: You can’t keep a $4.84 billion movie franchise about giant robots who change into walking product placements down. Following 2018’s Bumblebee, Paramount has announced the next chapter in the Transformers film franchise during a special online press event, and things are about to get… beastly. Titled Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, this upcoming live-action movie will be directed by Creed II’s Steven Caple Jr. and will finally see characters from the short-lived but popular 1990s Beast Wars: Transformers CG cartoon make their live-action debut.
We’ve been hearing rumblings of a Beast Wars movie for some time now and Caple Jr. was touted last year as directing a Transformers film of his own. Based on the grapevine chatter, those were originally supposed to be separate productions (alongside a new animated film as well) but have seemingly now been rolled into one movie.
As revealed during the event (via /Film), Rise of the Beasts is set in 1994 in New York, taking place after the events of the 1980s-set Bumblebee but before director Michael Bay’s four Transformers films which kicked off the franchise. It’s still unclear if this is a direct prequel to those films, as Bumblebee very clearly changed certain story elements on the timeline, but it’s being billed that Rise of the Beasts will feature Optimus Prime with his Generation-1 look and “will show how Optimus Prime became the leader we come to know in Michael Bay’s original films, as Optimus gains a connection and affinity with Earth.” Peter Cullen will once again be back to voice the character as he’s done throughout its existence.
He won’t be the only Optimus around though as Rise of the Beasts will see Beast Wars’ Maximals debut, led by Optimus Primal. Running from 1996 to 1999, Beast Wars was set 300 years in the future of the Transformers timeline and followed the Maximals and the Predacons, respective descendants of the Autobots and Decepticons from the original cartoon series, as they were flung through time and space during a battle, crash landing on a mysterious planet so rich in Energon, that the characters are forced take on the forms of local animals to avoid the poisonous effects on their robot forms. Taking the form of a huge gorilla, Optimus Primal leads the Maximals, against the T-Rex-inspired Megatron (not the original Megatron) and his Predacons.
Rise of the Beasts will be changing things up though as the Megatron and Predacons are nowhere to be found this time around (at least not in the info provided). Instead, the main baddie of the film will be Scourge, who was a Predacon originally but is now being tweaked to be the leader of the Terrorcons. “What’s a Terrorcon?”, you ask? Well, I’ll let the Transformers Wiki explain:
Born from dead Transformers infused with Dark Energon, the Terrorcons are Megatron’s greatest asset—an undead army under his thrall. Each is powerful and relentless in its own right; en masse, their persistence and Dark Energon they radiate can sap the strength of their Autobot prey until they can pull it down and tear it apart. Thankfully, they are not invulnerable. Energy blasts of sufficient force can deter them, though the best method is to use bladed weapons to slice them to pieces—the smaller the better—as the Dark Energon charge cannot sustain itself within the smaller, disparate components. Simply slicing them in half doesn’t seem to be sufficient, though the method of irradiation may be a factor: The one case known to be prodigiously active despite total bisection was the product of a direct implantation of crystallized Dark Energon; all others to date have been created by absorbing energies emitted over a wide area by a shattered crystal. Unlike other Cybertronians, Terrorcons possess a unique anti-spark that can even survive the destruction of their physical body.
/Film has a detailed breakdown of the various Autobots, Maximals, and Terrorcons that will feature in Rise of the Beasts, but some notable names include Bumblebee, Arcee, Airazor, Rhinox, and Nightbird. Of course, Transformers aren’t just about the giant transforming robots… unfortunately. These movies always have to have human characters and we already know who our two leads are this time around.
Anthony Ramos (In the Heights, Hamilton) and Dominique Fishback (Project Power, Judas and the Black Messiah) will be headlining Rise of the Beasts, the first time the franchise essentially has a double-header. As luck would have it, the pair are actually good friends in real life, so there should be great chemistry between them. Ramos will play Noah, an ex-military hustler with a knack for electronics who returned to his home in Brooklyn to live with his mother and brother “trying to find his way.” Fishback will play Elena, an artifact researcher at a museum whose boss keeps stealing the credit for all her hard work. It won’t take a genius to work out that Noah’s military skills/electronic know-how and Elena’s access to artefacts will probably be what brings them into contact with Optimus Prime and co.
During the event, Ramos – who has been making his name in theatre musicals more than blockbuster fare – recalled an early conversation with Caple Jr. during which the director asked him why he wanted to take on this role in a big franchise.
I thought that was such a good question. It was so direct. And it immediately made me want to bring heart to this character. The number one priority for me was: Humans. Why are they there? Because if not, then you can just make a movie about robots. That’s the goal, right? This character, Noah specifically, his journey, we need that guy. There is no movie without that character. And the same goes for Dom as Elena. We need her. We need Elena. That was my answer to Steven. Bring the heart.
To be fair to Ramos and the other human characters in Rise of the Beasts, Bumblebee showed brilliantly that you can actually have a Transformers movie where you cared about the non-robots. It was why the prequel got the best critical reviews by far in the entire franchise. Unfortunately, it was also the lowest-earning film in the franchise, so maybe people just want Bay’s trademark schtick of throwing CG polygons at each other and blowing things up around the world?
We’ll actually not have to wait as long as expected to find out if that’s true as Transformers: Rise of the Beasts will be debuting in theatres in basically one year from now on 24 June 2022.
Last Updated: June 24, 2021