Rise of the Beasts is the seventh live-action film in the Transformers franchise in 16 years and the second whose events take place before the first five installments. Despite certain screenplay constraints that this imposes, Steven Caple Jr. did not feel too limited artistically. “I wanted to provide new perspectives for the characters and provide obstacles they’ve never faced before. Optimus Prime, for example, is only meant to return to Cybertron and save its people. He does not understand the issues of humans and does not care for them as we are used to seeing him. Indeed, since the first cartoons, Optimus Prime has represented the exemplary father figure. In this film, the leader of the Maximals, Optimus Primal, plays the role of the “old sage”, says the filmmaker.
Born in 1988, Steven Caple Jr. grew up between the first animated series The Transformers, designated Generation 1 (G1), and Beast Wars, which ran for three seasons from 1996 to 1999. “I saw the movie from 1986 first, so I went up the path afterwards. I remember how much I found the story deep and the characters rich. The movie starts with one planet eating another and all these robots dying. It’s kind of sad, he recalls. The universe also seemed huge and populated by different robots. This is one of the reasons why we have Unicron and the Maximals in our film. These are inspired by the Beast Wars series, which marked the end of the director’s childhood. “After G1, Beast Wars took me through my teenage years. I was lucky enough to see both before I was too old,” he laughs.
A constant of anime series – and some movies – is the mess humans end up in. Whether they’re the direct victims of the evil robots or allies who ultimately need to be rescued, humans are mostly within the Autobots’ massive metal paws. Steven Caple Jr. made sure to avoid the cliché. “We purposely made our humans into heroes. At first, we see that Elena (Dominique Fishback) has reached a glass ceiling at her job and that Noah (Anthony Ramos) feels he can’t support his family. In the end, they help save the world and didn’t need Optimus Prime to pick them up and drop them away as he goes into battle. I wanted them to work together. »
Much of the filming of Rise of the Beasts took place in Montreal. As is often the case in cinema, the Quebec metropolis plays the role of New York. “Montreal really opened its doors to us. The technicians and the sets were impeccable, points out Steven Caple Jr. One of the particularities of this story is that it takes place at a time when the Transformers must remain hidden from the world. So thank you Montreal for allowing us to shoot at night and in places where the Autobots could transform into 25 or 30 ft robots without humans seeing them. The first scrap between Autobots and Terrorcons was filmed in St. Helena Island. “Our Ellis Island was the island where there is the Six Flags [La Ronde] for this scene. In the evening, it is rather deserted, which allowed us to stay in the shade. »
As a fan of 1990s rap, we had to thank Steven Caple Jr. for his excellent soundtrack which allows us, among other things, to hear C.R.E.A.M., from Wu-Tang Clan, Represent, from Nas, and Rebirth of Slick, from Digable Planets, in theater speakers. “Usually before I start a project, I put together a playlist to guide my creation and send it to my team so they understand the vibe I’m looking for. Half of the songs were chosen before editing, explains the man who also directed the underrated Creed II. When I told Nas that Represent would be in the film, he was thrilled and that helped him record On My Soul with Tobe Nwigew for us. The Notorious B.I.G.’s smash hit Hypnotize can also be heard on Rise of the Beasts. When the director is told that the song was released in 1997 and that the events of his film take place in 1994, his response is quick. “I know, I know…Hypnotize was a temporary song that we had to replace. But during the test screenings, the audience nodded and it felt good. The studio decided to keep it. So, yes, we cheated, but I think we have the right, because it’s a classic. »