Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen - 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
- Street Date:
- December 5th, 2017
- Reviewed by:
- M. Enois Duarte
- Review Date: 1
- December 6th, 2017
- Movie Release Year:
- 150 Minutes
- MPAA Rating:
- Release Country
- United States
Portions of this review appear in our coverage of the standard Blu-ray release written by Josh Zyber. Specifically, Mr. Zyber 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
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen presents a real conundrum. The movie has grossed over $800 million at the worldwide box office, and yet I don't know a single person who actually liked it. I don't just mean among critics or my own snooty film snob friends, either. I'm talking about general audiences, the people who were big fans of the last Transformers movie and eagerly handed over their money to see the sequel. People really hated it. Hated it.
Nonetheless, the film still raked in money hand over fist. How does something like this happen? I expect this type of big stupid summer action movie to have a huge opening weekend, and then sink like a rock in the following weeks as the toxic word of mouth spreads. Like the infernal machine that it is, Transformers just kept going, week after week, growing bigger and bigger, until it was (domestically) the highest-grossing picture of the year. Usually, this sort of performance is reserved for movies that people are excited to see multiple times in the theater. Were there really people who saw Revenge of the Fallen and liked it enough to pay for another viewing? There must have been, but I just can't fathom it.
They say that movies like this are critic-proof, and apparently that's true. A movie like this isn't meant to be dissected, analyzed, or (heaven forbid) even thought about in the slightest. This isn't filmmaking with any pretense of art. This is pure sensation, nothing but flashy colors, fast movement, and loud noises thrown at viewers in the hopes of putting them into a glassy-eyed, vegetative trance for a couple hours. Audiences will pay to see these movies no matter what critics like me write about them. In fact, critics are expected to hate these movies. It's practically a rite of passage, proof that the work is hip and young and of-the-moment. This is entertainment for the people, not for the elderly, uptight elitist snobs in tweed jackets, smoking their pipes while dashing off scathing missives that their highbrow circle of Literary Society friends will find urbanely witty.
Hey, I get it. I like a good popcorn flick as much as the next guy. Emphasis on the word "good." Further, as a child of the 1980s, I grew up with the original Transformers in toys, cartoons, and comic books. Optimus Prime, Megatron, and Starscream were essential parts of my childhood. My first Transformer toy was Sunstreaker, the Autobot that transformed into a yellow Lamborghini sports car. When I first opened the package, he was just about the coolest thing I'd ever seen, even if his arms and legs barely moved in robot mode. Before long, I had a sizable collection of the toys. I read the comic book every month. I watched the cartoon every day after school. I saw the animated Transformers: The Movie in the theater in 1986, and it's remained a nostalgic favorite ever since. So, although I'm a critic now, and hence perceived as the sworn enemy of all things silly or fun, I'd like to think that I still have a little credibility on this subject.
When Michael Bay directed the first live-action Transformers movie in 2007, it was a massive hit. Not only did it bring in a lot of money, audiences really liked it. They thought it was good. They wanted to see it again and again, and couldn't wait for a sequel.
To say that Transformers is the best movie that Michael Bay has ever directed is damning it with faint praise. Personally, I wasn't particularly a fan of it. The metallic monstrosities in the movie bore no resemblance to the classic characters they were named after. They all appeared to be random assemblages of constantly moving shiny parts, and they all looked exactly the same as one another. Other than the Autobot leader Optimus Prime, it was basically impossible to tell one character from another. Even the basic concept – that giant robots could disguise themselves as cars, planes, and whatnot – was twisted in unrecognizable ways. In none of the Transformers' previous mythology could the robots transform into anything they felt like, just by looking at it. Nor could any random object suddenly be turned into a living robot by a magical doodad called the Allspark. The movie also devoted far too much screen time to the human characters and not enough to the robots. The Transformers were relegated to supporting roles in their own movie.
Like everything Michael Bay makes, Transformers was big, loud, and obnoxious. On the "dumb fun" scale, for me, it fell more towards dumb than fun. But, all things considered, I didn't hate it. I just didn't like it all that much. I felt it was a missed opportunity, but I can accept that I was in the minority with that opinion.
So now we have a sequel, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. It's everything the first movie was and more. Where the first movie was big, this one is bigger. Where the first one was long, this one is longer. Where the first one was dumb, this one is dumber. It's got more robots, more explosions, more groan-inducing comic relief, and more leering shots of Megan Fox in short shorts. It's like Michael Bay took Transformers, stuck it in a Xerox machine, and made a copy at 150% magnification.
Is there a plot? Ostensibly, perhaps. A couple years after the events of the first movie, the government has somehow covered up all traces of the Autobots and Decepticons. I guess nobody noticed when those 60-foot tall robots destroyed half of Los Angeles. Everybody must have been out of town that weekend, or something. Anyway, the Autobots have been working with the U.S. military to hunt down and slaughter the remaining Decepticons. When I say "working with the U.S. military," by that I mean that the puny humans who stand absolutely no chance of surviving an engagement with the Decepticons make a nuisance of themselves and get in the way while the Autobots try not to step on too many of them.
More importantly, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) is going off to college! And he's still with his hot girlfriend Mikaela (Fox), but there's another hot girl at college that wants him, and he has to bumble and stumble to avoid having sex with her. And his mom eats a pot brownie and goes all crazy! Oh, the hilarity!
Meanwhile, those sneaky Decepticons are up to something. They have a plan to revive their leader Megatron from the dead. And then Megatron will go back to their home planet of Cybertron to bring back another leader called The Fallen who will come to Earth to turn on a big machine that will destroy our sun to make Energon, the fuel source that the robots need to live. See, the whole thing is a subtle political allegory for the current energy and environmental crises. Honest.
While it's fair to say that the first Transformers wasn't exactly an intellectually stimulating work of art, Revenge of the Fallen is flat-out, insultingly stupid. Beyond the broad overview I gave above, the specific workings of the plot are virtually incoherent. Characters behave in ways and take actions that make no logical sense at all. There's little to no continuity from one scene to another. At one moment, Sam and Mikaela are in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Then they step outside and are somehow at the Aircraft Boneyard in the Arizona desert, with no buildings in sight for miles. And that isn't explained or addressed in the slightest. The script is filled with pointless subplots that have nothing to do with anything, terrible dialogue, lewd sex jokes and profanity that have no place in a movie intended for children, and idiotic comic relief. The movie even has a close-up of John Turturro's hairy butt in a thong. Worst of all, the bumbling Autobot twins, Skids and Mudflap, are shamefully racist caricatures of black urban youth. They might as well be in blackface.
I could spend the next several paragraphs detailing every inanity in the film, but the good folks at Topless Robot already did a fine job with that. I'd rather let you read their take on it.
As always, Michael Bay directs like a 12 year-old with ADD who's just snorted five lines of cocaine. His camera swings frantically all over the place, while the characters never stop moving. Bay's cinematic style is often confused with Shaky Cam, the disorienting handheld technique used in movies like The Bourne Trilogy. That's not entirely correct. Bay rarely uses handheld or shakes the camera. Instead, he choreographs elaborate dolly and crane moves, but frames all his shots far too tightly. He then edits the scenes in a spastic rapid-fire rhythm so that no shot remains on screen for more than a second at a time. The result is that you can rarely tell what you're looking at. There's no sense of spatial orientation in any scene.
I really just don't understand the point of spending $200 million to film huge action sequences with extensive visual effects, only to shoot and edit them in such a way that the audience has no idea what's going on at any moment. When two supposedly important characters fight to the death, how do you know which one to root for when they both look the same and their movements are visually incoherent? In the movie's big climax, when Optimus rips the guts out of his last remaining enemy, I had absolutely no idea whether that was Megatron, Starscream, The Fallen, or just some other random robot that happened to be standing there.
The movie is nothing but a series of random shapes and colors constantly colliding into one another while characters scream, explosions detonate, and loud noises blare on the soundtrack. It's truly wearying to watch. At 2 1/2 agonizing hours in length, Revenge of the Fallen isn't even really a movie. It's an endurance test. How long can you last before it breaks your will?
With all that said, perhaps the most disappointing thing about Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is that, despite all the fan outrage over its inadequacies, I couldn't even be bothered to build up enough bile to hate it. It stirred no strong emotions in me one way or another. The movie was just a chore that had to be gotten through. When it was over, I needed a nap. Although I certainly can't claim to have liked it, I also can't pretend that it was the worst movie I've seen in 2009. I feel melancholy more than anything else. It left me depressed that this is what the state of pop culture entertainment has come to.
Is it too soon for a Batman Begins or Casino Royale style reboot? I still feel that the material has the potential to make a good movie, potential that's been squandered in two successive attempts. Perhaps it's already time for someone to wipe the slate clean and start from scratch.
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
Paramount Home Entertainment brings Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen 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, giving 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 spindle 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 Primes return and seek revenge on Ultra HD, and like its predecessor, it comes close at times but still falls short of conquering the 4K world.
Armed with an excellent HEVC H.265 encode in Dolby Vision, the picture is an upgrade from the Blu-ray, but it's not a significant enough difference to gush over this version of Earth's devastation. In fact, definition and resolution remain on par with its 1080p counterpart, showing only a slight uptick overall, which isn't all that surprising coming for an upconvert of a 2K digital intermediate. And this isn't an altogether bad thing as fine lines and objects in the background remain distinct and plainly visible throughout, though the stylized photography can appear a bit softer and more noticeable this time around. Facial complexions are quite revealing and natural, and the battle-worn bots come with a variety of scratches and war wounds while showing the tiny wires, moving gears and mechanical innards of each Transformer. Also worth noting, the picture is not the same as the Big Screen Edition where the aspect ratio alternates between the IMAX footage and the traditional anamorphic.
Contrast, on the other hand, offers a slightly more noticeable upgrade, making for a tad brighter and more energetic 2160p video. Again, it's not by a significant margin, but Ben Seresin's photography enjoys a crisper, more dynamic appeal that displays cleaner, pitch-perfect whites in the fluffy clouds and on certain vehicles. In this same vein, specular highlights also appear slightly tighter and punchier, most apparent along those aforementioned clouds and around the edges of the Transformers' metallic bodies, which often realistically glisten in the sun. However, there is some loss of the finer details within the brightest, hottest spots, such as the headlights of each vehicle, flashlights and various other light sources. In spite of the fact that, brightness levels are superb, delivering richer, inkier blacks that penetrate deep in the screen and provide the 2.40:1 image with depth and a lovely cinematic quality. Shadow detailing is also exceptional with a fantastic gradational differences between the various shades.
As with other Transformers movies making the transition to Ultra HD, the real winner in this 4K presentation is the wider color gamut, displaying a more resplendent and shining palette throughout. Certainly, primaries receive the biggest boost with reds, in particular, looking sumptuous and radiant, from the glowing innards of The Fallen and Megatron's eyes to the beaming taillights of various cars and the luxurious cherry red of both Arcee and Mudflap. Then again, there are several moments when reds seem over saturated with a tinge of blooming, and this is most problematic in the CGI fires and explosions where it looks very much digital, artificial and near cartoonish with some mild posterization around the edges. On the other hand, blues are extravagant and electrifying while greens are lively and incredibly vibrant. Secondary hues are not quite as dramatic but still offer a bit more variety, showing brighter magentas and cyans in the Cybertron weapons and better, more lifelike flesh tones. With a welcomed thin layer of grain and a warm golden amber sheen, Revenge of the Fallen definitely receives a new lease on life thanks to Dolby Vision HDR.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
Reluctant heroes find the courage to step up their game and stutter their way to saving the human race for a second time with another fantastic Dolby Atmos soundtrack. However, the new track doesn't deliver the massive upgrade one would have hoped when compared to its DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 counterpart.
Similar to the first movie on UHD, most of the sound design is maintained within the fronts and surrounds, filling the room with a wealth of activity to keep the listener engaged and enthralled by the visuals. Gunfire blasts in all directions as every bullet or laser beam smoothly pans from one channel to the next, and quieter moments come with random atmospherics that sustain an immersively satisfying 360° soundfield. Also like the first movie, some of those effects occasionally bleed into the overheads, adding a welcomed dome-like experience to the action. And again, it mostly comes from the debris of explosions raining down the listening area or the many shockwaves echoing all around the room. There are times when one of the giant robots can be heard transforming overhead as the camera circles around them, or the ear-piercing blasts of a jet engine roars across the sky.
In the end, the musical score and song selections make the best use of the upgrade, spreading across the entire soundstage and front height channels with excellent balance and fidelity. Imaging feels expansive and highly welcoming with convincing off-screen effects that provide the action with an excellent sense of space and presence. The mid-range is terrifically dynamic and extensive, maintaining exceptional clarity and distinction during the loudest action sequences, of which there are many. But on the down side, those same scenes slightly drown out some of the dialogue, not to the point of being inaudible but just enough to feel as though the decibels in the vocals were turned down in favor for an incredibly brash and near-deafening audio design. On the upside, however, the low-end comes with a preposterous amount of booming mid-bass that provides explosions and robot punches with a thunderous oomph while a couple ultra-low moments will rattle walls and shake couches, sure to make neighbors complain.
The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff
Audio Commentary: Also found on the Ultra HD disc, director and producer Michael Bay is joined by screenwriter Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. Although the tracks were recorded separately, the conversations generally revolve around the thematic aspirations for the sequel, the overall production, specific moments in the movie and Bay's random gripes with everyone.
The Human Factor (HD, 135 min): An exhaustive documentary looking at every aspect of the production, from its genesis, stage design and filming to Bay's work ethic, the post-production and the CG visual effects. The whole thing is made of cast & crew interviews and lots of BTS footage.
The Allspark Experiment (HD): Interactive game where users make and customize a vehicle.
NEST: A Transformer Data-Hub: An interactive database for specific Autobots and Decepticons.
Giant Effing Movie (HD, 24 min): A collection of BTS footage showing everyone having a good time on set.
Deconstructing Visual Bayhem (HD, 23 min): Essentially, a still gallery of pre-viz animatics with commentary by visual supervisor Steve Yamamoto.
A Day with Bay (HD, 13 min): A day with the director as he wraps and prepares for the Tokyo premiere.
25 Years of Transformers (HD, 11 min): A look at the toy line franchise with Hasbro heads.
Music Video (HD): Linkin Park performs their song "New Divide."
Still Gallery (HD): A series of poster and promotional material.
Deleted Scenes (HD): Three exercised scenes saved from the cutting room floor.
Trailers (HD): Two theatrical previews and six TV spots.
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.
Brash, offensively pretentious and stupidly deafening, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen remains the same action sequel that legendary critic Roger Ebert once described as "a horrible experience of unbearable length, briefly punctuated by three or four amusing moments." Amazingly, the movie lives on thanks to a large and heavily devoted fanbase, and somehow, Michael Bay's robot spectacular, featuring the same cast from the first movie, seems as equally hated and reviled as it is loved.
The destruction of Earth arrives on Ultra HD with an excellent, beautiful-looking 4K Dolby Vision presentation that provides a nice step-up over its HD SDR counterpart. The sci-fi actioner also lands on UHD with 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 while those hungering for more Dolby Vision HDR goodness might be willing to bite the bullet on this mess.
- 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
- English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
- French Dolby Digital 5.1
- Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
- Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
- English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish
- Audio Commentary
- Interactive Activities
- Music Video
- Still Gallery
- Deleted Scenes
- UltraViolet Digital Copy
Exclusive HD Content
- Blu-ray Copy
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