TRANSFORMERS: RISE OF THE BEASTS: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?

Meet Unicron, introduced to us in a booming apocalyptic voiceover as “a VILE god, so large and so powerful.” He’s a massive, planet-sized Transformer who floats through the universe devouring other planets.

Sounds like he’s a lot of fun at parties when he’s not tracking down the Transwarp Key, a stupidass MacGuffin that we’ll hear endless blahblahblah about for the next two hours because it’ll allow him to summon a giant space anus through which he can time-travel in order to eat even more planets, possibly even Earth.

This can’t happen, it just can’t happen, and that’s why there’s a battle on a planet that isn’t Earth, where we meet Optimus Primal, a furry gorilla Transformer that’s strong enough to grab a robot scorpion and rip its spine out, because all Transformers apparently have spines, especially the scorpion ones.

Primal is a Maximal, Transformers who takes the shape of Earth creatures for no explicable reason; among them are his pals Cheetor, a cheetah, and Airazor, a falcon.

They battle against the nasty, nasty Scourge, who’s Smithers to Unicron’s Mr. Burns, and what with one thing and another – read: my attention dropped out for a minute there – the lousy Transwarp Key ends up buried on Earth for centuries.

All that happened a long time ago, and now it’s 1994 for no good reason.

We meet New Yorker Noah Diaz, an unemployed ex-military guy scraping to help his mom pay the medical bills for his ailing little brother.

Across town in a museum, Elena Wallace is an intern who knows a shit-ton more than her pissant boss, who nevertheless condescends to her at every opportunity.

She finds a bird statue embossed with a strange symbol that I recognized from a sticker on a Honda Element I saw recently as the Maximal logo.

Of course, hidden inside it is the goddamn Transwarp Key.

Noah, desperate for cash, sneaks into a parking garage to steal a silver Porsche, when Fate plays its hand: The car is actually a Transformer named Mirage who speaks with Pete Davidson’s voice when it spews craptacular unjokes about how Marky Mark is leaving the Funky Bunch to become an actor, which is HILARIOUS because Marky Mark was in a couple of previous Transformers movies, remember? And so Noah and Elena become embroiled in a megakerfuffle over the freaking Transwarp Key as Scourge and his nasty Terrorcons try to get it and the good-guy Transformers try to not let them get it.

Series bulwark Optimus Prime, who seems really brooding and angry these days, and his pals Arcee and Bumblebee arrive to fight the evildoers smack in the middle of NYC without anybody apparently noticing or bothering to call the cops or National Guard or anything before the brouhaha moves to Peru to maul some different scenery for a change.

OR IS IT? Because Noah and Elena and Optimus Prime and Optimus Primal and Mirage and Bumblebee are going to do something about it! I mean, if they didn’t, what the hell would we be watching this for, anyway? Performance Worth Watching: Ramos is an earnest and likable actor.

He recently shifted from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s stable of Broadway stars to film, leaving an impression with In the Heights before taking on this and two other upcoming high-profile projects, a Twister sequel and a Marvel Cinematic Universe TV series.

Here’s hoping the latter roles are less thankless than Rise of the Beasts.

Memorable Dialogue: You apparently can’t quite take Michael Bay out of the Transformers movies, evident when Mirage admonishes Noah for calling him a “Work friend”: “Work friends? You’ve been inside me.” Our Take: Rise of the Beasts is ineffectual, jejune, and forgettable, which almost makes me miss Bay’s submoronic films, because hey, at least I felt something, even if it was disgust.

The core formula of the Bay’s films is present, with its visually overcomplicated robots, pedal-to-the-floor pacing, and empty characters, albeit minus his gross sexism, fireball fetish, and relentless editing style, which makes you feel like you stuck your face in a helicopter rotor.

So the more generous among us might see Caple’s direction as a refinement and simplification of his predecessor’s style – but with all of Bay’s OTT detestable traits removed, the film has no discernible personality.

I’m left deeply conflicted, for what was once actively, unapologetically stupid is now wallpaper.

It’s as off-the-rack as noisy CGI franchise popcorn waste-of-time midsummer retreat-to-the-air-conditioning blockbusters get.

Everything about the film is half-assed – the writing, performances, and staging of action sequences are executed with a shrug.

Being a transformers franchise fan from the start, I didn’t this film to be like this, I’ll give it a score – of 6.8/10

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