The latest live-action entry in the Transformers franchise, Rise of the Beasts, hits theaters on June 9. One of the most anticipated movies of this summer, the film serves as both a sequel to 2018’s Bumblebee starring Hailee Steinfeld and a prequel to 2007’s Transformers starring Shia LaBeouf. However, while Rise of the Beasts is the eighth iteration of Transformers to appear on the big screen (yeah, of course we’re counting the 1986 animated film), it’s the first to be influenced by the Beast Wars franchise.
If you’re a fan of the Transformers franchise but are unfamiliar with this particular iteration, it’s easy to understand why. Released in 1996, Beast Wars came out at a time when fans of the original animated series and film had likely entered their teenage or young adult years and were unlikely to watch a Saturday morning kid’s show.
Conversely, those who first became Transformers fans by watching the live-action Michael Bay films would likely have no knowledge of Beast Wars’ existence, nor would there have been a means to watch it if they wanted to, as there were no streaming options at the time (more on this later).
Therefore, the show’s target audience was primarily children who were in their formative years during the mid-to-late ’90s and were likely to both watch the show and buy the Hasbro action figures. In fact, I can say that with absolute certainty, as yours truly was very much part of said target audience.
Many of my Saturday mornings growing up were spent watching Beast Wars and playing with the transforming action figures. Despite its more niche following, however, the franchise was a commercial success for Hasbro, even spawning a sequel (far less successful) series, known as Beast Machines.
What is the story behind ‘Beast Wars‘?
But enough background information; what exactly was this series about? The story is based upon a pair of Cybertronian factions: the Maximals—who are descendants of the legendary Autobots—and the Predacons—who are of Decepticon lineage.
The Predacons are led by Megatron, who is only a namesake of the original Decepticon leader. The Maximals are commanded by Optimus Primal, a direct descendant of the iconic hero Optimus Prime. The groups are battling for possession of a golden disk, a mysterious artifact that serves as the show’s MacGuffin.
In the midst of their battle, each group sustains damage to their respective spacecrafts and are forced to crash-land on an unknown planet, quickly revealed to be prehistoric Earth. The wrinkle right off the bat is that, despite being descendants of their respective groups, the Maximal and Predacon forces have traveled back in time to before “The Great War” between the Autobots and Decepticons ever takes place.
This anomaly occurs when crossfire damages the Predacon transwarp drive, causing it to explode. It doesn’t take either group long to realize that anything they do in their new present could radically alter the course of their future!
But what puts the “beast” in Beast Wars, since both of these groups are robots in disguise like their predecessors? Well, because prehistoric Earth doesn’t have any Mack Trucks or Camaros around, of course!
More specifically, though, it’s because both the Maximals and Predacons find that the amount of raw energon on the planet has made it inhospitable to their robotic forms for any longer than a few minutes. (We can presume that mankind alleviated this issue for the Autobots and Decepticons by polluting the planet over a few thousand years). As a result, both groups find organic forms in which they can hide out.
Meet the heroic Maximals!
Unlike the sinister Predacons—who decide to choose some more threatening organic forms—the Maximals choose mammals and birds for their respective “beast modes.” The lone exception is Dinobot, who takes the form of a velociraptor shortly before defecting from Megatron’s forces to become a Maximal.
Upon crash landing on Earth, the initial Maximal group consists of Cheetor, Rattrap, Rhinox, and the team’s Commander, Optimus Primal. Dinobot’s defection takes place shortly thereafter; throughout the course of the war, the team adds additional soldiers from stasis pods that crash from Earth’s orbit.
While fans won’t be able to see the entire team of Maximals make their live-action debut in Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, many popular characters will indeed appear. Optimus Primal (Ron Perlman), the Maximal Commander who transforms into a gorilla, Airazor (Michelle Yeoh), who transforms into a peregrine falcon, Rhinox (David Sobolov), who transforms into a rhinoceros, and Cheetor (Tongayi Chirisa), a fan favorite who transforms into a cheetah, will be the Maximals lending a hand to the Autobots. It remains to be seen how much of the group’s established backstory makes its way into the film.
And now, a look at the despicable Predacons…
Contrary to the noble Maximal army, the Predacons choose to adopt more intimidating organic forms for their beast modes, such as reptiles, amphibians, and insects. Although the increasing number of Maximals posed a threat, the Predacons occasionally seized Maximal stasis pods that landed near their base of operations and reprogrammed them to even the odds.
The initial team comprised Megatron, along with Terrorsaur, Scorponok, Waspinator, and Tarantulas. Inferno and Blackarachnia would join the team later after being reprogrammed from Maximal stasis pods.
Unlike the Maximals, who will be represented by four of their members from the Beast Wars franchise in Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, the Predacons will not make much of an initial impact on the big screen. While there could certainly be some surprises in store for fans, the only Predacon confirmed for the film is Scorponok.
This is disappointing, but it makes sense in theory; the Predacon army would likely appear to provide aid for their ancestors, the Decepticons. It’s improbable that they would feel any allegiance to the Terrorcons, as they’re merely a broken-off faction of the main Decepticon group.
What to expect from the Maximals and Predacons moving forward
Although the future of the Transformers franchise beyond this upcoming film is uncertain, it stands to reason that we will see more Maximal and Predacon characters show up in future installments. A number of them, including Rattrap, Dinobot, Terrorsaur, Waspinator, and Tigatron have yet to make their live-action debut—and there are a great deal of Transformers fans who would absolutely love to see them appear on-screen.
Perhaps Scorponok will summon Megatron and his minions to offer support in the ongoing battle against the Maximal forces. We’ll find out soon enough. Until then, fingers crossed! If you’re a fan of the ’90s Beast Wars series and would like to rewatch it for nostalgic reasons, or if you’ve never seen these characters in action, it can be found for free on Tubi. The CGI animation doesn’t hold up too well for 2023 standards, but it was fairly cutting-edge for its time!
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