Transformers: Dark of the Moon [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Paramount Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Andy James & Noor Razzak (30th December 2011).
The Film

Before I start talking about Michael Bay's latest robo smash-'em-up let's take it back a bit. Growing up, the original "Transformers" (1984-1987) cartoon was my favorite TV show by far. I raced home from school every day to watch, enthralled as these alien robots warred with each other. Sure, there was "Thundercats" (19851987), "Voltron: Defender of the Universe" (1984) and "G.I. Joe" (19851986) too but they couldn't hope to compare. It helped the Transformer toys were, in fact, two toys in one. Three even, if you count them as being a puzzle as well as a robot and car/plane/boat/whatever. The original Orson Welles (and, yes, Leonard Nimoy) starring original "Transformers: The Movie" (1986) movie was a seminal movie for my kid-self. I recognize the fact that it was out to sell me more toys, but damn if I didn't enjoy the hell out of it anyway. To give you an idea of the pop culture space this series was taking up in my brain, a live-action "Transformers" movie was the first movie I can ever remember wanting to make (I was 8 and was thinking of having huge, remote-controlled robots for the Transformers).

So. "Transformers". I know 'em, but I'm not a precious geek about 'em. And Michael Bay's "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" is courting the old-school fans like myself as none of the previous films have. There are various call-backs to the original series: the Autobot Matrix of Leadership, the Ark, the Space Bridge and even Optimus Prime's transforming trailer. It's a shame they couldn't have focused on the story instead.

The film begins with the reveal that the entire space race of the 1960's was in fact a race to retrieve a Transformer ship, crashed on the moon. That's a cool place to start, even if it is another tortured reveal of unnecessary Transformer mythos and is crow-barred into the existing continuity. In the present, the Autobots discover the existence of this crashed Transformer ship and, lucky day, happen to have a space shuttle of their own standing by. Sentinel Prime (Leonard Nimoy), an old Autobot leader and the last great hope for ending the war, is found and brought back to Earth. He's the guy who invented the Space Bridge - basically a teleportation array. The long and short of it: Decepticons get a hold of it and invade Earth from the moon (wait, what? Where the hell were those guys?! they've just been hanging out on the moon for the last two movies? And no-one's seen them before?!). The rest of the story can be summed up thus:

For all of the talk, from various people involved, "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" is not a huge improvement over "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" (2008). Yes, it is better than that sorry excuse for a film but "Dark of the Moon" still carries the baggage of the "Fallen" and suffers from a lot of the same afflictions. Once again, there is an over abundance of, and over reliance on, pointless "comedy" relief characters. John Malkovich is obviously picking up a paycheck here because his crazy boss character could be cut from the film entirely, with no loss (only improvement) to the story. Ken Jeong's crazy paranoid guy is grating and, once again, the Witwicky's (Kevin Dunn and Julie White) make an appearance. While these two were a welcome surprise in the first "Transformers" (2007), they serve no purpose here and the humor just falls thuddingly flat. On top of all this, Bay and screenwriter Ehren Kruger once again add torturous Transformer backstory and secret history. Is it too much to ask that the Decepticons formulate a new plan instead of re-using ideas from their Cybertron days?

Bay knows his way around an action scene but, as with "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen", the rhythm and pacing is off. The confrontation between Sam (Shia LaBeouf) and Starscream (Charles Adler)is a perfect encapsulation of this: what could have been an awesome take-down of a Decepticon by a resourceful human just keeps going and going and going. And Bay's depiction of the violence is brutal and callous. Hundreds, if not thousands, of humans die - crushed in cars or disintegrated by lasers. And no-one, least of all the heroic Autobots, seem to give a damn. Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen), the leader of the peaceful Autobots, is a cold-hearted motherf**ker. He purposely lets Chicago fall to prove to the humans how much they need the Autobots.

The rhythm of the entire film feels off - a lot of stuff just happens, with no gradual build towards it. I will, however, say that the cut from the beginning of the invasion to the complete devastation of Chicago is an intriguing move - Bay deciding to not cram in another action scene? It also helps to give a sense of how fast this invasion becomes an occupation. With the first "Transformers", every Transformer was given at least a small moment of character. By now Bay has introduced so many that even the old favorites have become indistinguishable; I felt more when the cartoon Ironhide died in the "Transformers: The Movie" than when the character died here. In addition to all the alien robot action (and introducing new Transformers again) we have returning cast members Tyrese Gibson, John Turturro and Josh Duhamel. Rosie Huntington-Whiteley tags in for Megan Fox and acquits herself rather well amongst the action and testosterone. And, Jeong and Malkovich aside, the other newcomers (Frances McDormand and Alan Tudyk) manage to do much with the little they are given. Patrick Dempsey is actually rather watchable as the smarmy, sniveling Decepticon collaborator, even if his character continues to make baffling decisions. But yes, it is rather overstuffed. Overstuffed with characters, coincidences and story.

Gods, I've really given this a blasting haven't I? And I actually enjoyed it! A number of the action sequences are thrilling and fun - Duhamel and his flying squirrel squadron a particular stand-out - and Bay has a better handle on the geography of a large action scene than in "Fallen". Perhaps my opinion of the film would even be improved had I seen it with a more engaged/Transfomer-fan heavy audience. "Dark of the Moon" is a big, crazy film and those are always more fun with an engaged and cheering audience - there were no guys dressed in home-made cardboard costumes this time. I don't know where this leaves the "Transformers" as a franchise (likely in good shape - they've made a stack of money off this film already) but "Dark of the Moon" is not quite a heroic return to the goofy, explosive fun of the first "Transformers".

Video

Presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 2.40:1 in HD 1080p 24/fps mastered using AVC MPEG-4 codec. The film is given the entire 50GB disc to breath (as there as no extras, more on this below in the extras section). The result is a terrific image that presents the film in the best possible way. This is the 2D presentation, a 3D edition is due out later in 2012 as a supplement-heavy "Ultimate Edition" so for the time being this is the only version we've got. The picture is stunning, much to be expected, sharpness is brilliant, colors are bright and vivid, black levels are deep and inky and depth and detail look excellent. The digital team has created some impressive special effects and this time Bay has slowed down some of the action so viewers can take in all the carnage and destruction instead of quick-cutting that disorientates the viewer, the result is a better look at the action and the characters in-action. It's in these shots you can at least appreciate the level of detail and intricate parts of these robot characters right down to the scratches in their paint job. For the humans skin tones look natural, much better than the last film which seemed too sun-drenched and with an orangey-hue to the character's skin tones. The print is clean and crisp, no compression related issues, edge-enhancement is non-existant. Overall as you'd expect this is reference quality stuff, it's perfect to show off your home theatre.

Audio

Six audio tracks are presented here in English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 surround as well as English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, French Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 surround as well as an English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround track. It's interesting that Paramount haven't included a DTS-HD audio track, the first film's Blu-ray release included a TrueHD 5.1 track, while the second film added DTS-HD to the mix, now this third installment has gone back to the TrueHD format this time with 7.1 space that adds that extra dimension to the surround sound. Frankly, I'd usually prefer a DTS-HD tack but this TrueHD audio track is simply beautiful in it's complexity, activeness, depth and for simply being loud and robust. Dialogue is clear and distortion free, ambient sounds are natural and well mixed, the score pumps over the action and the peaking of which, the action scenes are the cherry on top in terms of the audio, the surrounds will be given a battering throughout, have it on a loud setting and you'll have all the neighbors complaining!
Optional subtitles are included in English, English for the hearing impaired, French, Spanish and Portuguese.

Extras

Paramount has released this film first as a bare-bones release without a single extra, 2012 promises a 3D version as well as a 4-disc edition that includes a plethora of supplements. The first disc is the Blu-ray version of the film and a second disc includes a DVD version as well as a digital copy version of the film for portable media.

Overall

The film review was originally published on the blog Rockets and Robots are Go! by Andy James. The A/V and supplements were reviewed by Noor Razzak.

The Film: D Video: A+ Audio: A+ Extras: F Overall: C-

 


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