NOTE: The following review will eventually be moved to a special 'Transformers' page.
When it came to 'Transformers' back in the day, I wasn't all too big on the G1 series. We had a few of the toys, and at least one jigsaw puzzle, and I always thought they were cool. But for some reason, 'Transformers' never really hit me as something awesome until the 90s unleashed 'Beast Wars' (which I also remember being called 'Beasties' at some point or another). Looking back on it now, it's a bit of a mess when it comes to the old CG animation, but bear in mind that at the time, it looked pretty amazing, and was kind of a big deal.
When the trailer for this first dropped, I'm not ashamed to admit that I got a little bit excited. I say it like that because my relationship with these films is rocky at best. Loved the first for being what it was at the time, then it was a bumpy road for me until 'Bumblebee', which seemingly restarted things anyway, and therefore reopened my mind. Beyond liking 'Bumblebee' (the first non-Bay-directed one), and the appearance of the "Maximals" (the 'Beast Wars' Transformers), I was also seeing Unicron (a massive planet-like Transformer who eats planets) and the main Transformer was Mirage (a character I recalled loving from the G1 series, with the ability to cast illusions and throw those pesky Decepticons off).
So with all this hope of a good 'Transformers' movie, was I gonna get one? Well, I will say that with everything going on, it did make for a pretty good mishmash of 'Transformers' material for fans. The problem, however, may lie with the fact that there IS a lot to absorb here from different facets of 'Transformers'. From my perspective, this isn't quite as simple as 'Bumblebee' (which could apply to non-fans) but does carry a lot more for actual fans of 'Transformers' in general. We get a bit of the G1 series, we get a bit of 'Beast Wars', we get a bit of the original animated movie, and I've gotta give the film credit. It brings it all together in a way that seems to make sense (at least to me).
The film opens with Unicron (Colman Domingo) attacking the Maximal's home world, sending his heralds, Scourge (Peter Dinklage) and the Terrorcons; Battletrap (David Sobolov) and Nightbird (Michaela Jaé Rodriguez) to obtain the "Transwarp Key", which can open portals through space and time. Maximal leader, Apelinq (David Sobolov again), stays behind to fight while he allows the other Maximals; Optimus Primal (Ron Perlman), Cheetor (Tongayi Chirisa), Rhinox (David Sobolov a third time) and Airazor (Michelle Yeoh) to escape, using the key, which brings them all to a past-era Earth, where they remain dormant.
We then head to 1994, Brooklyn, where ex-military electronics expert, Noah Diaz (Anthony Ramos) is desperate to support his family, which leads to a tip from his friend Reek (Tobe Nwigwe) about a Porche 911 he can steal and sell. This Porche, however, ends up being Mirage (Pete Davidson). Meanwhile, museum intern Elena Wallace (Dominique Fishback) studies a mysterious bird statue that ends up having half of the Transwarp Key inside of it. The key sends an energy pulse that can be seen by all of the bots and none of us, and it gets the attention of Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen), who calls on all Autobots to meet up.
Eventually, the Terrorcons catch on, and head to Earth to intercept the key for their master, Unicron. If Unicron gets it, it could mean the end of everything as we know it, so Optimus, along with the rest of the Autobots on Earth; Mirage, Bumblebee, Arcee (Liza Koshy) and Wheeljack (Cristo Fernández) team up with the Maximals and the more-useful-than-Optimus-thinks humans to stop it all from happening. I also find it hard to leave out the appearance of rusty old Stratosphere, if only because he's voiced by John DiMaggio and IS one of the more humorous characters throughout the film.
At the end of the day, I tend to pretty much describe this in the same way I'd describe a 'Fast & Furious' film in that it simply is what it is. That is to say, it's a 'Transformers' film, and pretty much everything you'd expect from one by now. I think if you're an all-around fan, it can be a really good time, but if you're not, it's a bit convoluted. I found this to be better than a LOT of Bay's material, but I still might suggest that 'Bumblebee' is actually the better movie for the average person. I'll give them credit for a successful execution of everything they were going for, and further credit for a pretty cool twist at the end that's either gonna lead to something amazing or something awful... time will tell!