'Transmorphers' reflected an effort to make the most preposterous, gauche, shallow, flimsy, insipid, and unconvincing rendition of sci-fi action possible, and it achieved just that - but because it fully embraced the inanity and never pretended to be anything else, it was actually modestly fun. 'Fall of man,' a prequel, was deeply underwhelming because it felt too much like everyone involved was just phoning in their contributions, and the result was astonishingly weak. It's safe to say I had mixed expectations for this brand new sequel, but hey, The Asylum surprises every now and again, and in the very least, in its own way 'Mech beasts' was guaranteed to be on par with a major blockbuster produced by Michael Bay, right? Right? Well, there's good news and bad news. The good news is that this is at least illustrates more of a concrete endeavor than can be said of the 2009 prequel, and especially by Asylum standards it boasts pretty decent production values. The bad news is that it's also just not as enjoyable as the 2007 progenitor, and if you thought that was rubbish to begin with, then there's just no hope - and more to the point, the predominant through-line here is unquestionably even worse than what its predecessors gave us.
The pacing kind of varies between fairly rushed and rather lackadaisical, but rarely Just Right. Instances of exposition that aren't forced or rushed instead quite drag on, which is especially unfortunate since there are many such examples. More than that, for what is ostensibly a sci-fi action flick, we're treated to far more pages of dialogue than I ever would have supposed of The Asylum, and more than most major studio films give us; I think 'Altered states' was the most verbose movie I've ever seen, but I sincerely have to wonder if this isn't a runner-up. Presumably the reliance on scenes of dialogue (including heavy-handed technobabble, and reminiscence of "the before times") was a reflection of the film company's infamous low budgets, but with that said, it sure seems like what resources weren't spent on action sequences instead went toward production design, because for better or worse this 2023 picture is one of the best looking that the purveyors of schlock have ever churned out. In fairness, while digital creations like explosions or laser beams are as artificial as ever, the "Z-bots" and "Q-bots" possibly represent the most detailed and capable CGI I've seen outside of first-rate studio fare. But we don't even get to see very much of them, because, once again, dialogue reigns supreme for a vast preponderance of these ninety minutes. I didn't keep track, and I refuse to watch again to find out, but I'm quite sure that the number of minutes devoted to action is only in the single digits.
The filming locations obviously connote what the production had available to it at minimal cost, at best suitably abandoned or worn down to approximate the tenor of a story taking place 20 or so years after a 300-year long war obliterated the surface of the world. Some of these filming locations, and the art direction that dressed them up a little, duly fit the bill. Others plainly betray the inauthenticity, however, as we get glimpses of real-life structures and surroundings (automobiles, entire standing buildings, brand new furniture, a copying machine) that don't remotely comport with what we're told of the setting. Furthermore, even putting aside the lack of action, the sets suggest such enclosed spaces that the feature feels even smaller than it is, and outright claustrophobic, an effect that's only amplified by the small and specific cast of characters. There's imbalance in the narrative as it shifts focus between isolated sets of characters; for all the endless minutes of dialogue that are thrown at us, characters are blandly undeveloped. There are actually very workable story ideas here, and scene writing, but even if these aspects of Joe Roche's screenplay were impeccable (they're not) the fact invariably remains that 'Mech beasts' depends so much on dialogue that whatever else it has to offer plainly gets overwhelmed by the ceaseless flurry of words. That includes the acting; most involved are at least making a discernible effort - though for better or worse, I have to give a shout-out to Tom Arnold for what I think might be the laziest death scene I've ever watched. I'm almost kind of impressed.
I will say that there came a point where I almost started to be entertained. For as unbelievably heavy as the dialogue is in this, I had a moment of realization that maybe that was the intent all along - one big joke, a play on expectations to produce a low-grade genre flick by controverting the norm and becoming the least "sci-fi action" that a "sci-fi action" title could be. Then again, this is probably too clever to assume of The Asylum, and even if it weren't: that thrust might have worked if this weren't as long as it is, because page after page after page after page after page of dialogue wears on for what feels like much more than ninety minutes. Against all odds, there was the possibility that this latest installment in the 'Transmorphers' saga could have been a good time, but no matter how you slice it, that potential is never met. I think it's more earnest than the first film, which is arguably in its favor, and more carefully crafted than the prequel, yet what value this might have had to offer is gradually siphoned away as the word count grows, and ultimately, incredibly, this might be the lowest point of the three movies. It's absolutely still true that there are worse things one could spend time on, and the same production company has made some of them, but one way or another 'Mech beasts' just isn't really worth anyone's time. Check it out if you want, I won't stop you, but even for those who are incessantly curious, as I was, I can't overstate just how much the script's loquacity supersedes anything else. Sigh.