Just in time to celebrate the seventh entry in the franchise, Paramount unleashes the Transformers Limited Edition SteelBook Collection on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray. Essentially repackaging all of the previously available discs into slick new SteelBooks with magnetic box, it’s an attractive set, but frustratingly leaves out any room to squeeze in the new film once available. A Beautiful set for sure, but mileage may vary between films and collectors aiming for a comprehensive box set for the franchise. Worth A Look
The Transformers cinematic franchise has certainly run the gauntlet over the years, hasn’t it? What started with an uneven but entertaining first film in 2007 from Michael Bay would be pulverized through four more sequels with increasingly nonsensical continuity only to be successfully rebooted with 2018’s Bumblebee. Now with Transformers: The Rise of the Beasts about to hit multiplex screens, Paramount delivers a new six-film SteelBook set repackaging all of the previously available 4K UHD discs. What better time to revisit the series? As I sat back into these films for the first time in a few years, I was surprised to see some held up, some were better than I remembered, and some were far, far worse:
As a freshly graduated film school student and longtime Transformers fan, I didn't hate the 2007 film when it hit theaters. It certainly wasn’t The Transformers: The Movie in terms of scale, quality storytelling, or classic character design, but it was entertaining. Even if I hated 90% of the human characters, Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, and Josh Duhamel were decent enough, and hearing Peter Cullen recite his classic line “One shall stand, one shall fall.” one more time during the final battle was exhilarating. Not the best start to the franchise’s live-action prospects, but fun and still holds up 16 years later.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen - 2009
Okay, so I did hate this one when I first saw it. A lot. As we see Sam Witwicky try to assimilate into college life (my god do I hate his parents in this film), he’s inevitably pulled back into the Transformer war with a plot that makes absolutely no sense, poorly executed incoherent action sequences, and Autobot heaven to boot. Granted, a victim of the 2007-2008 writers' strike and rushed into production, this movie proves it’s remarkably easy to make a bad Transformers film complete with a little transformer humping Megan Fox’s leg, John Turturro's ass in a jockstrap, and Devistator’s balls dangling above the Great Pyramids.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon - 2011
A little time to develop the script, some cast changes, and moving the action to Chicago actually made Dark of the Moon a confusing mess of franchise continuity, but at least it was entertaining - and in 3D! The film’s story and character motivations are all over the map, but the last full hour of the film is non-stop robot carnage with exciting special effects and the return of Leonard Nimoy's vocal talents as the central villain. I wouldn’t call it a good movie in traditional terms but I still enjoy this flick quite a bit.
Transformers: Age of Extinction - 2014
Goodbye Shai LaBeouf, and welcome Mark Wahlburger in a film that finds a way to make almost zero sense in terms of story structure and execution but found new exciting ways to destroy Detroit (redressed to look like China). A film that would dedicate valuable footage time to justify statutory rape would also see the likes of Stanley Tucci, Titus Welliver, and Kelsey Grammer cash what I hope were some seriously fat paychecks. A virtual slog from start to almost finish, the film finally comes to life with the charge of the Dinobots. Also, we got to see T.J. Miller get blown up real good, so there’s that.
Transformers: The Last Knight - 2017
The Bayhem comes to a close for this franchise with what is arguably one of the most bizarrely nonsense stupefyingly bad ways to blow at least $260 million. A franchise that already saw robots fighting ancient African tribes now sees transformers helping King Arthur, fighting Nazis, and somehow tying in Merlin with Anthony Hopkins there to explain it all for a plot that feels like a ripoff of The Da Vinci Code. This movie had credited writers but I think it’s a stretch to say this film was actually "written" when somehow Earth is now actually Unicron? I’ve seen this movie twice now, albeit once with a fever, and it’s still one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. The 4K disc was giving me trouble encoding for a video sample so it’s probably for the best to not have one. At least the Michael Bay madness was finally over and a good and proper reboot wasn’t far behind.
Director Travis Knight and writer Christina Hodson did more right by this franchise in the opening three minutes of this film than Michael Bay managed to accomplish in five films with over a billion dollars at his disposal. With Hailee Steinfeld, John Cena, Pamela Adlon, and Stephen Schneider we have humans on screen we don’t instantly want to kill - but also root for and care about! On top of that, we get genuine Autobot / Decepticon action with characters who look like their Gen One counterparts and a plot that actually makes sense. How novel! If early reactions to Rise of the Beasts is any indication, the franchise goodwill that started with this film has been carried over.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
To help market a brand new Transformers film, Paramount does the expected studio repackage job of all previous franchise films with new SteelBook packaging. None of the discs are new, if you bought them individually or picked up the 4K Ultimate 5-Movie Collection and Bumblebee separately you have all of the same discs ready to go. Bumblebee in fact is the only one to include a 1080p version of the film with all of the Michael Bay films either only including the DVD or Blu-ray bonus features discs and nothing else.
Each film gets its own unique SteelBook packaging and each disc gets its own tray to rest on without being stacked. The SteelBooks are housed in a sturdy cardboard book-style case with a magnetic flap to hold it closed. They don’t have foam dividers like the Superman 5-Film SteelBook set, so the SteelBooks may rub against each other. I found the box to be fairly snug so they shouldn’t get too damaged or scratched unless you’re aggressively jostling the box or clumsily removing each SteelBook. A digital copy slip with codes for all six films is included - but they’re not Movies Anywhere compatible. Also included was an Autobot metal decal.
With the discs being the same as before and since I concur with my colleague M. Enois Duarte’s assessment of their video quality, I’ll refer you back to his reviews linked above:
Transformers - 3.5/5
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen - 4/5
Transformers: Dark of the Moon - 4/5
Transformers: Age of Extinction - 4.5/5
Transformers: The Last Knight - 4.5/5
Bumblebee - 4.5/5
Likewise, since the audio isn’t any different, see E’s previous reviews for more detail on the audio front.
Transformers - 4.5/5
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen - 4.5/5
Transformers: Dark of the Moon - 4.5/5
Transformers: Age of Extinction - 4.5/5
Transformers: The Last Knight - 5/5
Bumblebee - 4.5/5
The archival bonus features from the past disc sets have been carried over for this release as well. Individual titles may vary one film to the next, but as a collection, it's a lot to dig into if you haven't already been through the materials. Again, see the linked reviews above for a breakdown of what's included.
With a new film mere days away from release, Paramount gives Transformers fans a new SteelBook collection to ponder purchasing. Truth be told, it’s a beautiful set, I love the artwork design and the overall packaging with the book-style case to bind everything togeher. I think it’s a well-designed piece of work, but it’s also a frustrating one. As something that’s really only going to appeal to die-hard fans who love SteelBooks or need to own every film in the franchise, I would have loved it if Paramount included a space-saver slot for Rise of the Beasts’ inevitable 4K release later this year. That would put me well in a position for recommending this release.
Such as it is, I don’t love the Michael Bay films as I feel only two of them are even worth watching or revisiting, so already there are six discs that aren’t likely to see much action. Bumblebee is an excellent movie, but I already have the previous Best Buy SteelBook - so again you’re getting into some varying mileage from this set beyond new artwork and SteelBook packaging. If you haven’t picked up the films yet in 4K and want them in your collection there are certainly more budget-friendly ways of doing that, but this SteelBook set is at least an attractive option. Worth A Look
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.