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Know Your Transformers: What Is The Difference Between Maximals And Autobots?

"Transformers: Rise of the Beasts" is the seventh installment in Paramount's ongoing blockbuster franchise based on the Hasbro action figures. This latest film will also be based on "Beast Wars," the first CGI cartoon in the "Transformers" animated catalog. Alongside the Autobots and an assortment of loosely relevant human characters, "Rise of the Beasts" is set to feature the Maximals, a faction of Transformers who shift between a humanoid form and an animal form instead of the more typical vehicle form. It's also set to feature Predacons and Terrorcons, animal-themed Decepticons, and zombie-themed Decepticons, respectively. For now, let's focus on the Maximals.

Aside from transforming into gorillas, rhinoceroses, eighteen-wheelers, and Camaros, are there any substantial differences between the Maximals and the Autobots? The quick answer is no, not really; they're all cool robots who do the whole superhero thing on planet Earth. But the slightly longer answer is that "Beast Wars" comes packaged with its own lore, which defines the Maximals as their own entity separate from the Autobots. What's known from previous media about the Maximals won't provide a perfect understanding of what they will be in "Rise of the Beasts," but it never hurts to have a little extra base knowledge to build upon. Let's start with how the Maximals came to be.

The Maximals are descendants of the Autobots who fled Cybertron

In "Beast Wars," the Maximals are the crew of a starship that lands on prehistoric Earth. Apparently, the planet used to be drenched in Energon radiation so powerful that even the Transformers couldn't handle inhabiting the space without protection. That protection came in the form of Beast Mode, which permitted the Maximals to transform into animals that had evolved to survive in the dangerously irradiated climate.

That last sentence kind of sounds like the Maximals killed a bunch of animals to wear their skins, but it technically means that the Maximals just gathered data by observing them and created synthetic, techno-organic shells that are scientifically superior to the standard Pretender Tech that the Transformers canonically use to transform. No actual gorillas were harmed in the making of this CGI cartoon.

It should be noted that the Maximals weren't called "the Maximals" until they donned animal forms. Up until that point, they were simply Autobots on a rocket ship. And the reason they were on that craft is that Megatron and the rest of the Decepticons were up to no good, causing war and suffering, as per usual.

Ultimately, the Maximals returned to Cybertron long before the modern era, which is depicted in "Transformers: Rise of the Beasts," so it's likely that any and or all of this lore will be relegated to an adjacent backstory speech given by Optimus Primal (Ron Perlman). Speaking of Primal, he's one of the few Maximals to appear in "Rise of the Beasts."

Meet the Maximals: Airazor, Cheetor, Rhinox, and Optimus Primal

There are four primary Maximals who will feature in "Transformers: Rise of the Beasts," Airazor (Michelle Yeoh), Cheetor (Tongayi Chirisa), Rhinox (David Sobolov), and Optimus Primal.

Airazor is a Maximal scout who takes the form of a Peregrine falcon. In the cartoon, she's memorable for loving Earth's wild beauty, more so than most of the other Maximals. Based exclusively on the limited (but promising) trailer footage for "Rise of the Beasts," she seems to take on a similar advisory role.

Cheetor is a Maximal rookie who takes the form of a cheetah. In the cartoon, he's quick-witted and headstrong. From his superspeed to his super-propensity to land himself in trouble, he's basically Hasbro's version of the Flash. He doesn't speak in any of the "Rise of the Beasts" trailers, so it's unclear how much of his original personality will make it to the silver screen.

Rhinox is a Maximal tech expert who takes the form of a rhinoceros. He's second-in-command to Optimus Primal in the cartoon until he switches sides to support Megatron's vision for a purely tech-centric Cybertron. He returns to the Maximals at the last minute, but the switch costs him his life. Like Cheetor, the trailer footage shows precious little of his personality, so it's anyone's guess as to who he will become for Paramount.

Lastly, Optimus Primal is the commander of the Maximals who takes on the form of a gorilla. In the cartoon, he's named after Optimus Prime but is considered to be far more willing to get his hands dirty than the legendary hero. That said, Movie Optimus Prime has been known to viciously separate Decepticons from their spines. So. It's all relative.

There are no new Autobots this time around, just new voice actors

Every single Autobot that is set to feature in "Transformers: Rise of the Beasts" has previously appeared somewhere in the franchise, so we're going to go through these 'bots a little bit more quickly than we did with the Maximals.

There's Bumblebee, an Autobot scout who transforms into a Chevrolet Camaro. He doesn't get a voice actor because he doesn't have a voice. Bumblebee lost his voicebox before the events of the first "Transformers" film and simply uses his radio to grab random lines of dialogue from pop culture.

Other returning faces include Mirage (Pete Davidson), an Autobot spy with an attitude problem who transforms into a Porsche 964, Wheeljack (Cristo Fernández), an Autobot scientist who transforms into a Volkswagen Type 2, and Stratosphere (John DiMaggio), an Autobot soldier who transforms into a Fairchild C-119 Boxcar. There's also Arcee (Liza Koshy), an Autobot sharpshooter who transforms into a Ducati 916 motorcycle. All of the voice talents listed in this paragraph, except for DiMaggio, are new to the franchise.

And, last but not least, there's Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen), the legendary leader of the Autobots, who transforms into a Freightliner semi truck. There is no "Transformers" without him or his voice talent, who's followed the role through almost every single project that Hasbro has ever approved.

"Rise of the Beasts" is set in 1994, well before the events of depicted in the earlier films, so these characters might act differently than audiences are accustomed to.

Will the Maximals and the Autobots be able to work together?

The Maximals consider themselves to be peacemakers first and foremost, while the Autobots are often primarily soldiers. They both pass the time by taking down bad guys, so it's more of a splitting hairs sort of thing than anything else, but that distinction tends to cause some friction between the two groups when they re-converge. Because the Maximals do eventually return to Cybertron, where the Autobots are. Where Optimus Prime would lead a charge, Optimus Primal would seek to avoid conflict. At the very least, we know that Prime's willingness to dive into battle translates to the "Transformers" franchise. It's not yet clear how peaceful a live-action Primal will be.

But this is a blockbuster movie that features two groups of heroes allegedly on the same side. That always leads to friction which is ultimately resolved near the beginning of the third act, just in time to conquer the real villain. And the Maximals and the Autobots will need all the help they can get, considering they're up against Unicron, a planet-sized, planet-devouring monster. All in all, it's a lot to feature in one film, but who's going to say no to a transforming gorilla movie?

"Transformers: Rise of the Beasts" will release in theaters on June 9, 2023.