After the mind-numbingly frustrating Bayverse Transformers movie franchise ran its course through exactly a decade, the first movie of the prequel series Bumblebee presented itself as a much-needed breath of fresh air by engaging with the more grounded aspects of human-Cybertronian interactions. Its much-anticipated sequel, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, has been released worldwide and, from the looks of it, has done a decent job of expanding the world-building in a cohesive manner, at the cost of the previous flick’s grounded nature.
Even after being surrounded by big summer blockbuster releases, expectations with this entry were high because of the lore exploration through the introduction of beloved key factions like Maximals, something that long-time franchise fans were waiting to see in live action. And even though their appearance was somewhat limited in the second half, enough plot points have been provided to speculate on the possible course to be taken in future ventures.
Plot Synopsis: Why Did Unicron Attack The Maximals?
The movie opens with a voiceover forewarning about the presence of the ultimate evil, the world-devourer Unicron, and viewers see the ginormous mechanical monstrosity heading toward an unnamed planet. The planet is inhabited by advanced Cybertronians known as Maximals, who have evolved into and adapted animalistic appearances and even a natural integumentary system thanks to their prolonged stay in a prehistoric environment. The Maximals possess the pinnacle of Cybertronian technology known as the Transwarp Key, which can be used to open portals across time and space, thereby sending the user across the galaxy in an instant. Unicron wants to gain access to the key to satiate its never-ending hunger for consuming planets and wreaking havoc in the process. Unicron sends its nefarious subordinates, known as Terrorcons, led by the deadly Cybertronian named Scourge, to obtain the movie’s McGuffin.
The leader of the Maximals, Apelinq, assisted by his valiant troop consisting of Optimus Primal, Cheetor, Airazor, and Rhinox, rushes through the wilderness with the Transwarp key to not let it fall into the hands of the Scourge but soon realizes that they will not be able to stall them for much longer. Apelinq decides to stay and hold back Scourge while providing a chance for his team to escape using the key itself. Apelinq chooses Optimus Primal as the leader of the Maximals in his stead and sacrifices his life while battling the Scourge. Primal and other Maximals manage to escape from the planet just in time, arrive on Earth, and vow never to let the sacrifice of their former leader go in vain—to protect the key no matter the cost. Trapped in this particular galaxy, Unicron devours the former home planet of the Maximals.
The tragic beginning of the movie mirrors the opening sequence of the previous entry, “Bumblebee” as well, where viewers saw the Autobot leader Optimus Prime staying behind in the war of Cybertron to let his comrades escape—to let their race have a chance to go on. While Optimus fought and lived to see the next day, on this occasion, Apelinq was not so lucky, as Scourge is probably even worse than the strongest of Decepticons.
How Do Autobots Find Out About The Transwarp Key?
The scene shifts to New York City, 1994, six years after the events of Bumblebee, and viewers are taken to the Diaz household, where ex-military genius technician Noah is finding it difficult to make ends meet in a family of three consisting of his mother and sickly little brother, whose medical expenses are adversely proportionate to the government’s concerns with public healthcare. Unable to land a promised job, a desperate Noah decides to undertake a car heist, adhering to the suggestion of one of his friends.
At the same time, a starry-eyed history buff named Elena Wallace joins Ellis Island Museum as part of her internship, and on the very first day of her job, comes across a strange-looking ancient Nubian Horus statue whose symbols she can’t decipher. Curious to decode the symbols, Elena accidentally breaks open the relic while examining it after work hours, and the Transwarp key that was inside of it gets activated. The key emits a signal invisible to human eyes, piercing through Earth’s atmosphere and reaching space, which is noticed by the Autobot leader Optimus Prime. Optimus calls for all his comrades to regroup, and one of them is Mirage, the transformed Porsche Noah is assigned to steal.
Just as Noah manages to get inside the car, Mirage receives the transmission from Optimus and rushes off to meet with his team. Noah is taken with Mirage at the rendezvous point as well, and he gets the shock of his life seeing the transforming giant robotic lifeforms, which consist of the Autobots Optimus, Bumblebee, and Arcee. Optimus isn’t too trusting of Mirage’s human company, and a similar sentiment is expressed by Noah as well. However, Optimus states that the Transwarp key can be their final chance to return to Cybertron, and Mirage suggests that it’d be easier for Noah to infiltrate the location of the key and steal it.
The signal from the Transwarp Key alerts the Terrorcons, and Siege arrives on Earth along with his two associates, Nightbird and Battletrap, as Noah reaches the museum and tries to pursuade a clueless Elena into handing him over the key, Scourge, and co. launch a devastating attack. Autobots arrive to defend the humans, and a vicious battle ensues where Terrorcons dominate for the most part. Scourge shows his might as he brutally dispatches Bumblebee and beats Optimus to a pulp. As he is about to deliver the killing blow, an eagle-shaped Maximal and Airazor join the battle and defend the Autobots. With the key already in his possession, Scourge walks away with his Terrorcon comrades to summon Unicron. However, the key is only half of the entirety, which Scourge learns as Unicron tortures him for unknowingly leaving the job half done.
Alliance Of The Cybertronians
Meanwhile, Airazor explains to Optimus and co. that Maximals have been living on Earth in seclusion for millennia, and in order to protect the Transwarp from falling into Unicron’s grasp, they have divided the key into two segments. She also states that being the last surviving member of her kind, she doesn’t know where the other half of the key was kept hidden by her associates. Optimus, who already blamed himself for the uprooted condition of his comrades, is riddled with guilt over his most proficient comrade’s death and states his determination to return home by joining two parts of the key.
Using her knowledge regarding antiquities, Elena contemplates the other half of the key being in Peru, as the symbols in the key holding relic resembled a particular sun temple of the Inca civilization. The team prepares to leave for the location; Elena joins them purely out of her curiosity, while Noah secretly contemplates destroying the key if given a chance, as he only prioritizes the safety of humankind and his family.
Boarding the elderly cargo plane transforming into an Autobot named Stratosphere, the team reaches Peru and gains intel about the place from the local Autobot comrade, Wheeljack. To gain access to the key, Noah first offers to infiltrate the location, but as he and Elena venture inside the temple, they find part of the key missing from its designated place. Scourge and his associates, who were observing the Autobots and their human allies, sent Freezer (Seeker Terrorcons) in search of the humans, and as Noah and Elena tried to flee through the underground mazes of the temple, both Autobots and Terrorcons joined the chase. Once again, a fight breaks out among them, and Airazor’s timely interference saves the Autobots from undergoing much damage. This time, before leaving the battle, Scourge shoots Airazor with a Dark Energon blast, a corrupting attack that is sourced from Unicron’s life force.
As Elena and Noah get out of the underground maze, they confront Optimus Primal and all the other Maximals, consisting of Cheetor and Rhinox, and the Autobots, unaware of their history, almost start another battle until Airazor recognizes her old comrades. After initial exchanges, Primal shows that he has entrusted his human friends, an ancient Inca tribe that has existed as long as Maximals have lived on the planet, with the other half of the key: surprising Optimus in his trustfulness regarding the humans. Noah once again shares his plans about destroying the key with Elena, who points out the similarity between him and Prime regarding their cynicism of each other and the fact that both of them are trying to save their family and, in the process, are losing themselves.
Ending Explained: Did Optimus And Co. Manage To Stop Unicron?
As her wound worsens, Airazor starts showing symptoms of being manipulated by the Scourge and attacks Elena. As Primal tries to subdue her, Airazor, who is unable to break free of the mental hold, reminds him about the vow. Primal is forced to end her life. Almost at the same time, Noah becomes desperate and tries to destroy the key but is stopped in his tracks by Optimus, who requests that he not sabotage the only chance of the Autobots going back home, Cybertron. Upon locating the team, Scourge attacks and gains access to the other half of the key. Joining both halves, Scourge prepares for his master’s arrival.
Finally realizing that they won’t be able to stand against Scourge without joining hands, Optimus and Noah make amends, and as they discuss their future course against Scourge, the portal to Unicron’s galaxy opens. Both the Autobots and the Maximals, led by Optimus Prime and Optimus Primal, respectively, ‘roll-out,’ and Noah and Elena are once again tasked with deactivating the key. Even the combined might of Autobots and Maximals seems comparatively weaker against the Terrorcons and Unicron-sent Predacons, and Mirage sustains fatal injuries while protecting Noah. However, the shockwave of the portal’s activation supercharged the raw Energon and resurrected Bumblebee, whose timely arrival in the battle soon turned the tables in favor of the noble Cybertronians. Mirage fuses himself with Noah’s body, creating an external battle armor, and joins the battle against the Scourge along with Optimus.
Optimus manages to end the Scourge once and for all, but with the key’s control panel destroyed during their battle, he offers to destroy the key by himself and to sacrifice himself, as well as the last chance to return home in the process for the sake of Cybertronians and humans. As he breaks the keys, the portal collapses and creates a gravity influx, which starts pulling everything inside. Fortunately for Optimus, Primal and Noah save him from getting sucked inside, and the team regroups from afar. They wonder whether Unicron’s threat has been averted permanently, and Primal opines that the solution is merely temporary, to which a now-reinvigorated Optimus replies that together they will put an end to whatever adversity comes their way. The teams part ways and Optimus’ voiceover can be heard in the legendary Peter Cullen’s voice, who has started to see humans in a new light thanks to his recent experience and is hopeful about their co-existence in their new home. Later, it is shown that Noah managed to fix his friend, Mirage, in his garage.
Post Credits Scene Explained: What Did The New Alliance Signify?
As the movie reaches its conclusion, we get to know that Elena has been acknowledged as the discoverer of the Inca temple in Peru, and Noah has been reunited with his family. During one such job interview, Noah meets an official who seems to have knowledge about everything that happened in Peru and also about Noah’s personal life. A confused Noah gets recognized for his service to the country by the official, who offers him a job at the covert government organization known as G.I. Joe.
The post-credits scene teased a massive crossover between two very different franchises: Transformers and G.I. Joe, both massively popular toy lines. As both of them have the same parent company, Hasbro, a crossover was always a possibility, but the timing will surely seem shocking to fans, as Rise of the Beasts is only the second movie in the prequel series. With the potential expansion of Transformers lore in live-action already being so massive, the inclusion of another IP might work either way for the parent company. In the context of the movie lore, with both Unicron’s and Decepticon’s threats looming larger on the Autobots, Optimus will need all the help he can get, and the most elite troops the Earth has to offer can surely aid him in the worst of times.