Transformers - 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
- Street Date:
- December 5th, 2017
- Reviewed by:
- M. Enois Duarte
- Review Date: 1
- December 4th, 2017
- Movie Release Year:
- 144 Minutes
- MPAA Rating:
- Release Country
- United States
Portions of this review appear in our coverage of the standard Blu-ray release written by Peter Bracke. Specifically, Mr. Bracke wrote about the Movie Itself while M. Enois Duarte penned new Vital Disc Stats, Video, Audio, Supplements and Final Thoughts sections.
For a full in-depth review of the Blu-ray SDR HERE.
The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
There's a well-known theory often referred to in film criticism called "suspension of disbelief." It says that in order to become lost in the world of a movie, we don't have to believe all of the events happening up on the screen, we only have to not disbelieve them. It's a cinematic law pushed to such extremes by Transformers that perhaps a new edict should be named in its honor -- "suspension of all incredulity."
This, after all, is a film built around the concept of a race of warring alien beings that come to earth disguised as cars. Still, as inane as its premise may be, the true wonder of this film is that -- at least on a purely visceral level -- it works. Indeed, seemingly against all odds, Transformers is the kind of gleefully stupid summer blockbuster that, whatever its faults, manages to tap into that mouth-agape 12 year-old inside us all.
The story itself has just enough of a set-up that we are allowed to kinda-sorta care about the characters before the robots show up. Future son of Indiana Jones Shia LeBeouf is Sam Witwicky, your typical suburban kid familiar from just about every Steven Spielberg flick made before 1985. He's kinda nerdy but kinda cute, wise beyond his years but not a smart-ass, and just starting to rev up a testosterone-fueled interest in girls that promises to rival his boyhood love of cars. So mom and pop (Julie White and Kevin Dunn) decide it's time for junior to get his first car. After a few minutes of let's-get-it-over-with exposition, Sam and his dad arrive at a used car lot, and Transformers really begins.
It's at this point that it's impossible to continue a plot synopsis of Transformers with a straight face. The car that Sam picks (or rather, the car that picks him), is actually "Bumblebee," one in a race of noble Autobots that have come to Earth to battle the dastardly Decepticons. Both are rival alien species that possess such awe-inspiring intelligence that they choose to disguise themselves on our planet in the form of clunky machinery. It seems that war has been raging for eons on their home planet of Cybertron, with both sides battling for control over a magical talisman dubbed the Allspark, which gives unlimited power to whomever (or whatever) possesses it.
No matter what I say, those who haven't seen the film will be lost beyond this point, so I won't even try to explain how the following makes sense in the world of the film. Not how Sam selling a pair of his deceased great grandfather's sunglasses on eBay turns out to be the secret to unlocking the location of the Allspark on Earth. Not how Sam's love interest, the uber-hot Mikaela Banes (Megan Fox) just happens to be the daughter of a mechanic and doesn't bat an eye when faced with a giant Autobot. Not how the military soon gets wind of Sam's new car, and sends the most unlikely special forces agent ever, Agent Simmons (John Turturro) to round up a host of teenage geniuses to help capture Sam and Bumblebee and use them to fight the Decepticons. And not how, by the time the robots finally do battle in downtown Los Angeles, all of the major characters and every major Autobot and Decepticon has somehow managed to find themselves standing on the exact same street at the exact same moment, all trying to blow each other up.
Bottom line, Transformers gives Michael Bay the chance to do two things. One, it allows him to rebound from the box office fiasco that was The Island with a guaranteed mega-hit. And two, it gives him the perfect material for his fast-cut, smash-a-minute sensibilities -- what better story for a filmmaker like Bay than a movie about a boy, his robot, and a legion of merchandising tie-ins hell-bent on destroying the world while they destroy each other?
But for me, what makes Bay's Transformers a better film than most of his previous work is that he brings a surprising level of sensitivity to the material, infusing such a genuine sense of humanity into his central characters that by the time the Autobots (led by the benevolent Optimus Prime) are hiding outside Sam's house like Godzilla-sized house pets, trying not to disturb the neighbors, it all makes some sort of bizarre, surreal sense. Yes, this is all a set-up for the destruction to come, but it is also a coming-of-age story with heart, which for a largely technical filmmaker like Bay is no small accomplishment.
I realize I'm in the minority, but it is only when the film's big third act commences that I personally begin to lose interest. It is here that Bay's love of military might takes over, as our nation's finest swoop in to try to prevent Cybertron's civil war from being staged on Earth. Of course, there's no stopping the inevitable, and so we have a nearly 30-minute extended action sequence where all manner of Los Angeles buildings are demolished as a parade of giant robots march down the streets and beat the crap out of each other.
Ultimately, how much you enjoy the climax of Transformers is likely to depend on how much you love robot destruction porn. Personally, I was quickly desensitized to the action, but clearly millions of other moviegoers disagreed with me (to the tune of a nearly $1 billion worldwide haul), so I'm not going to argue that Bay got the formula wrong. Still, I can't help but feel that the director has a better movie in him -- one that truly integrates the action and his spastic visual style with a coherent, resonant story. Having said that, if you're willing to check your brain at the door and hold on tight, there's no denying that Transformers is a cinematic roller-coaster par excellence.
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
Paramount Home Entertainment brings Transformers to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray as a three-disc combo pack with an UltraViolet Digital Copy, which can be redeemed via ParamountMovies.com or VUDU, which gives users access to the 1080p HDX version only. Inside the black, eco-vortex case with a shiny, lightly-embossed slipcover, the triple-layered UHD100 disc sits comfortably on one side of a center panel while a Region Free, BD50 copy is on the opposing side. The third is another BD50 disc containing the same supplements as before. At startup, viewers are taken directly to a menu screen with the usual selection along the bottom, full-motion clips and music.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
The sentient robots of Cybertron invade to punish and enslave on Ultra HD. At times, they come fairly close in conquering the 4K world armed with great-looking HEVC H.265 encode in Dolby Vision, making this an upgrade over the Blu-ray no matter how one cuts it. But in the end, their efforts fall short, showing only slightly better resolution and definition than its HD counterpart. Don't get me wrong, the uptick is definitely welcomed, revealing sharper lines in the inner workings of each robot as they transform. Viewers can better make out the tiny scratches and chipped paint on the metallic bodies while the faces of humans are often lifelike, exposing individual pores and the smallest, negligible blemish. However, for a majority of the runtime, the 2160p video appears fairly soft with several blatantly blurry moments throughout, such as the scene when Sam and Mikaela meet Bumblebee and are later introduced to the rest of the Autobots. Originally shot on traditional 35mm film but mastered in a 2K digital intermediate, this upconvert is a step up with a nice, film-like layer of natural grain, but these weaker sequences bring the overall quality down.
The same goes for contrast, looking on par with its HD SDR counterpart but nonetheless offering enough of a minor improvement to appreciate the upgrade. Whites are noticeably brighter and cleaner, creating an intense glare when lights shine directly at the camera, which will have some squinting at the screen. But specular highlights are somewhat of a disappointment and blooming hot spots are abundant, washing out some of the finer details in the brightest areas, suggesting this is an inherent issue in the photography as it is also present in the BD. Brightness levels, on the other hand, receive the biggest boost and gain jumping to Dolby Vision HDR, delivering some lush, silky blacks, providing the 2.35:1 image with a lovely cinematic appeal that makes it feel as though watching it again for the first time in theaters. The finest object and detail in the gloomiest corner of a room or the darkest portions of the frame remain plainly visible as well. Then again, blacks are so incredibly rich and opulent, there doesn't appear to be much gradational difference from one shade to the next, occasionally making some clothing look like a glob of blackness.
The best improvement in this 4K presentation though is the wider color gamut, showing a richer and more vibrant selection that makes the entire video really come to life. The vividly luminous blue on Optimus Prime contrasts nicely against the deeper, flashier firetruck reds of the paint job, and the red-blue flashing lights of Barricade are simply dazzling to the eyes. The green in surrounding foliage and the well-manicured yards is teeming with life and intense energy. There is also more variety in the secondary hues, providing the explosions a distinctly fiery orange glow while Bumblebee shines with a true-to-life yellow gloss. The electrifying sparks are noticeably tighter and sharper, radiating a light bluish mauve shade that seems realistic. Some of the advanced laser weapons of the Transformers even come with a distinctly lavender-like bloom, making each shot fired during the rapid action sequences unique. And the director's signature panoramic shots of sunsets now come with a stunning array of blooming yellows and reddish oranges with lighter hints of magenta and darker blues as they fade into the sky.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
The annihilation of the human race is ear-piercingly loud and deafening on Ultra HD, equipped with a Dolby Atmos soundtrack that marks an impressive upgrade from its Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track heard on the Blu-ray.
Similar to its lossless counterpart, the design is continuously busy with lots of activity in the surrounds, and this is especially true of the many Bay-ified action spectaculars. Whether human-made or coming from the giant sentient robots, the blasts from various weapons flawlessly pan from the screen to the rear speakers and vice versa. Quieter moments also come with either the bustling noise of the city, the movement of random objects when the Witwickys experience tremors or when the Autobots noisily maneuver to hide, generating an awesomely immersive 360° soundfield. And some of that action nicely travels into the overheads though it's not as consistent or effective. Still, the occasional bits of debris and sparks from the dramatic explosions scatter above and shower down around the listener, while Starscream's deafening engines shriek through the sky and Megatron's voice thunders all around for an amusing dome-like effect.
Ultimately, Steve Jablonsky's Hans Zimmer-influenced score is the real winner here, taking full advantage of the extra-breathing room provided by the new audio upgrade, filling the entire soundstage and bleeding into the front heights with exceptional clarity and fidelity. Imaging regularly feels broad and spacious with lots of background activity marvelously and endlessly employing all front speakers, exhibiting superb distinction and room-penetrating warmth in the mid-range. Amid all the chaotic mayhem and thunderous action, the dialogue remains precise and pristine so that fans can enjoy absurdly dumb lines and better appreciate Shia LeBeouf's stuttering performance. The track also comes with essentially the same low frequency effects heard on the Blu-ray, which isn't a bad thing since it delivers watt-rattling, couch-shaking, chest-thumping bass, sure to give everyone subwoofer's a healthy workout.
The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff
Audio Commentary: Also shared with the UHD, director Michael Bay provides a surprisingly engaging discussion on the overall production, from inception to the CG visual effects.
Transformers H.U.D.: Only available on the Blu-ray, the same Picture-in-Picture track featuring cast & crew interviews, informative trivia pop-ups, animatics and tons of BTS footage.
Our World (1080i/60, 50 min): Four-part documentary touching on various areas of the production.
The Story Sparks
I Fight Giant Robots
Their War (1080i/60, 65 min): Another documentary broken into five parts and slightly more exhaustive.
Rise of the Robots
Autobots Roll Out
Inside the Allspark
Transformers Tech Inspector
From Script to Sand: The Skorponok Desert Attack (1080i/60, 9 min): Closer look at this key action sequence, from the design and animatics to the special effects.
Concepts (HD): Rather disappointing still gallery.
Trailers (HD): A lone teaser is joined by a pair of theatrical previews.
HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?
Other than the UHD Blu-ray with Dolby Vision HDR, there are no exclusive features on this release.
From the filmmaker who's made a career of loud, mindless action that delivers stereotypical Hollywood, one-dimensional spectacle, Michael Bay's Transformers persists as the divisive genre flick that continues being the cash cow studios love pumping out. A classic to some but an insipid stain in the history of cinema for others, it remains the same dumb, brash movie about gratuitous robot mayhem that at least entertains when the mood for pointless extravaganza strikes.
Paramount finally releases the first in the franchise to Ultra HD with a great-looking 4K Dolby Vision presentation that provides a step-up over its HD SDR counterpart but doesn't really compare to some of the best we've seen in the still relatively young format. On the other hand, the robot destruction is granted a new Dolby Atmos soundtrack that fares much better with a few demo-worthy moments. With the same set of supplements as the Blu-ray, the overall package is recommended for fans, but even those hungering for more Dolby Vision HDR goodness might be willing to give the series a second chance.
- Three-Disc UHD Combo Pack
- UHD-100 Triple-Layer Disc / 2 BD-50 Dual-Layer Discs
- Region Free
- 2160p HEVC/H.265
- Dolby Vision
- English Dolby Atmos
- English Dolby TrueHD 7.1
- French Dolby Digital 5.1
- Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
- Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
- English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish
- Audio Commentary
- PiP Track
- Still Gallery
- UltraViolet Digital Copy
Exclusive HD Content
- Blu-ray Copy
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