Transformers - Age of Extinction - on Blu-ray
Okay, one doesn't go into a Transformers movie expecting high art; you go in looking for giant robots who can masquerade as vehicles, lots of action and state-of-the-art special effects. And with that in mind, the fourth Transformers movie delivers in spades.
But why, oh why, couldn't they have spent an extra couple of hundred grand on a screenwriter?
What we get with this outing is a loud and raucous romp in the home theater - shut off the brain, crank up the volume and your biggest screen, then grab some cotton candy so you can enjoy the same kind of empty calories as the movie gives you.
To be fair, it isn't that Transformers - Age of Extinction - is a bad film. It actually delivers what it aspires to; I just wish it had aspired to more.
This time out, the story revolves around Texan ne-er do well inventor Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg, who - like all the cast - does a good job with the part), who's broke and about to lose his home. Then he takes delivery of a beat up old tractor trailer that, not surprisingly, turns out to be none other than Optimus Prime, leader of the good giant robot Autobots. He's been hurt and is in hiding (and disguise, since he's unrecognizable as either his truck or robot personas), and rather than "Chuck" him, Yeager decides to fix him up.
Meanwhile, the evil government (personified here by Kelsey Grammer - whose character isn't really evil but is certainly misguided) is hunting down Autobots, who basically have a price on their heads thanks to a big battle that wreaked havoc on Chicago. Cade's friend and supposed employee or partner (they don't seem sure of the relationship themselves) Lucas (played by T. J. Miller) wants to turn the Transformer in for the reward, which would solve a lot of the Yeager family's problems, so he calls "1-800-Rat-a-bot" (okay I made that up), which unleashes the hounds of Washington on them. Yeager, his nubile daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz), and Lucas manage to escape, thanks to the skill behind the wheel of Tessa's until then-secret boyfriend Shane (Jack Reynor).
They basically spend the rest of the movie trying to escape the feds, save the Autobots and stave off the threat raised by Grammer and his secret big friend, a bounty hunting Transformer named Lockdown. Meanwhile, an evil capitalist (Stanley Tucci) has learned how to build his own Transformers, throwing a monkeywrench into both sides as well as raising the possibility of a patent or copyright infringement suit from Hasbro.
It seems that as soon as they solve one problem, a bigger and more difficult one raises its ugly head - so much so that if they'd eliminated a couple of these plot points they could have shaved an hour off this film and made it a lot easier to sit though. But the action continues, and raises its own ante, right up to the exciting, slam-bam climax where human and Autobot and Decepticon wreak havoc on Hong Kong, giving the filmmakers yet another city to inflict oodles of digital damage onto.
Perhaps the best thing, other than the effects and overall production values, is that the movie doesn't take itself too seriously. There are quips galore from human characters as they run for their lives, especially from Miller and, even more especially, from Tucci, and there's even some character growth as Yeagar finally grows to accept his daughter's main squeeze despite his earlier forbidding of their relationship.
It's all pretty silly, but if you're a Transformers fan you'll probably enjoy it (and you'll get to see Dinobots this time!) - and if you merely want a compelling romp in the home theater that'll push your system to its limits, this is also a film for you. And it's still better than the 2014 version of Godzilla, though that's hardly high praise.
The film was apparently shot with a combination of digital and film cameras and the result is simply outstanding, a real reference disc you can show off to your friends. Detail is fantastic, letting you practically count the threads in clothing, the zits on peoples' faces, and the fine metallic textures of the robots themselves. Colors are also deep and rich, though there's a bit of an orange/yellow hue to the overall look. But it's a great looking transfer, in 1080p of course, no matter how you slice it.
I also watched parts up converted to 4K and it looked even better. It's worth owning this disc just for the picture - and thanks to chapter stops you can zip through to the action scenes without having to worry about such uncomfortable things as plot.
Paramount has released the movie in 3D as well, but we got the 2D version, which is fine, and it also includes a DVD and digital copy.
The audio is also fantastic, though we only had a chance to use the disc with a 5.1 system (albeit a fine one!). This is supposedly the first Blu-ray to be released in the Dolby Atmos system, which is apparently a really spectacular experience though which I have yet to experience. Fortunately, if your system doesn't have Atmos capability that particular audio track dumbs itself down to 7.1, which also dumbs itself down to 5.1. Fortunately!
This is one loud, brash and in your face soundtrack! I had to lower my system's volume quite a bit from where I set it usually, just so the low frequency effects channel didn't start making my home's foundations crumble! Beyond the dynamics, the fidelity is also first rate, with excellent sonic quality all around - and I mean all around, because this soundtrack makes fantastic use of all the 5.1 home theater channels.
Paramount even piles on the extras, though you'll have to access a second disc to get at them. If you do, you'll find quite a bit of neat stuff, including "Evolution with Extinction," a two hour-plus - and eight part - "making of" documentary that's also reference quality - in that it not only has good HD audio and video but it's also quite in depth, and interesting enough that others should use this as a benchmark for their "making of" documentaries. Heck, in some ways it's more interesting than the movie!
And it isn't all. There's also "Bay on Action," in which the director talks about his style and the tricks he uses. "Just another Giant Effin' Movie" is just a series of clips from the production, "A Spark of Design" visits Hasbro, to look at their design and creation process, and "T. J. Miller: Farm Hippie follows the as he rubs shoulders with Wahlberg, Grammer and Bay.
You also get a series of trailers, and a couple of short other featurettes that are kind of silly.
In all, Transformers - Age of Extinction, is undoubtedly exactly what people expect it to be, and it's hard to complian about a movie that delivers. On the other hand, it could have delivered so much more.
Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.