- Nov 15, 2001
- Real Name
- Neil Middlemiss
When you start really big, it can be hard to go bigger. Transformers threw so much into the first film, with more so in the second and third movies that make up the first trilogy, that by the time we get to the fourth film in this franchise, it’s must have seemed daunting to try and go bigger than the enormity of Dark of the Moon’s climactic showdown in Chicago. Clearly though, given the global box office receipts, the new cast and the addition of the Dinobots (dinosaur transformers that fight, fly, and fire-breath - depending upon their ‘species,’) was the right mix of new, different, and bigger, but overall this Transformers film seems like its running low on creative gas. What’s on offer is big, loud, explosive, and yes, even fun, but soon that won’t be enough reason to shell out money to see transforming robots smash high rises, destroy landmarks, and tear through downtowns with abandon and mayhem.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD, English Dolby Atmos, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DD, Other
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish, French, Portuguese
Run Time: 164 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray, DVD, UltraVioletStandard case with slipsleeve
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 09/30/2014
The Production Rating: 3.5/5
“How many more of my kind must be sacrificed, to atone for YOUR mistakes?”
Following the devastation in Chicago, and the Decepticon plot to rebuild Cybertron using the earth’s resources and humans as slaves, the Autobots have become an enemy of the world. Hunted down, many Autobots have been destroyed and the remaining seek to hide in the shadows. It has been several years since Chicago, and the shadowy CIA figure, Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammar) is in league with a mysterious, powerful sect of transformers who themselves seek to hunt down Optimus Prime for reasons they do not share.
In the tranquility of rural Texas, Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) a money-poor inventor buys a run-down truck for scrap but soon realizes that what he has is a transformer – but not just any transformer, Optimus Prime himself – heavily damaged and in need of help. Yeager, along with his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) and work colleague (T.J. Miller) set about to help Prime repair and rebuild. And then the Autobot hit squad, under the direction of Attinger, arrive to take Prime down. Escaping with their lives, with a little help from Tessa’s boyfriend, Optimus and the Yeager family are on the run. Meeting up with the small band of surviving Autobots, they hatch a plan to bring down the transformer death squad, expose Attinger for his malevolent deeds, and save humanity from a threat it does not know it faces.
Once again the plot for the Transformers movie requires a modest tweak to the backstory of how earth and the Transformer technology relate, this time a visit in earths distant past, during the time of the dinosaurs, sees a visit from the advanced species that appear to have caused the end of the dinosaurs. The seeds of this story being sewn so far back allow the present day action to have anchor and meaning (though it again muddies the waters for the backstory arcs established in the previous films.) Setting that aside, the plotting is sufficient to give core to what promises to be a new trilogy.
Director Michael Bay, the underappreciated director of the now four enormously successful Transformers films, has matured his filmmaking. Age of Extinction overall is more patient in its narrative, though still stuffed to the brim, and spends a good deal more time on trying to get beneath the surface of the characters that fill in the gaps between the hulking presence of the Autobots and the transformers they fight. Bay also allows a smaller scale fight to take place among the grander-scale carnage, and does very well constructing that action. There’s still some roughness around some of the edges, and a heavier editor hand would have allowed the narrative to be more streamlined, but overall this is a film made with considerable technical skill and a project of such scale that it’s hard not to be impressed with how it all came together.
Mark Wahlberg is a finely cast addition to Michael Bay’s monstrously successful Transformers film franchise. Though critical appreciation has waned with each installment, global box office receipts have enjoyed a rise (though Age of Extinction suffered a drop on the domestic front.) Age of Extinction faced a moderate challenge. Securing a hit at the box office wasn’t at risk but securing the right sized hit, with enough momentum to sustain an anticipated second trilogy, was by no means guaranteed. The risk, of course, was twofold. First, by the time the fourth installment of any franchise hits the screens, fatigue is a distinct concern. The novelty, freshness, and originality is under considerable strain, and audiences’ desire for what the franchise is offering is more easily lured by other tent poles and franchises in the making. The second major hurdle was the replacement of the entire human cast. Sure, the Autobots and Decepticons are the main draw, but the human cast, led by Shia Labeouf in the original trilogy, were largely enjoyed in their roles (with new faces added into the mix with each installment.) Mark Wahlberg – a likeable and mostly bankable star – was a wise choice to lead the new faces. Cast as the young beauty this time around, as Yeager’s daughter Tessa, is Nicola Peltz. Another good addition to the cast. Her secret boyfriend, Shane, is played by Jack Reynor. He’s likeable, handsome, and isn’t offered up as a dose of heroic masculinity – quite the opposite at times, and Reynor plays him well enough. Stanley Tucci gets to throw caution to the wind (yet again in his career) and play Joshua Joyce, the innovator and head of a company exploiting transformer technology for the U.S. government. Kelsey Grammar plays the dirty and duplicitous Attinger sternly. He’s effective in the role and certainly lends weight to the characters. And as his lead ops assassin, James Savoy, is Titus Welliver, a smoldering presence. The new cast favors the desire to send the franchise in a new direction (though not nearly as new as expected,) and given the hurdles faced inviting the audience to care about so many new faces, the film does well.
Peter Cullen’s voicing of Optimus Prime continues to be a resonating dose of heroism and bravado, lending a poetic weight and might to the beloved character. And of the new Autobots on offer, John Goodman’s Hound, the shell (like a cigar) chewing military pro is standout, with detailed visual effects bringing his portly machine to life. Ken Watanabe does a fine job with Drift, a sword-wielding, honorable surviving member of the Autobot clan. Other fine voice actors include John DiMaggio as Crosshairs, Mark Ryan as Lockdown, Robert Foxworth as Ratchet, Frank Weller as Galvatron, and Reno Wilson as Brains.
Age of Extinction has a number of things that work in its favor, hindered at times by some of Bay’s signature filmmaking flaws. On the positive side, the action is spectacular, and the peril genuine according to the logic of the film. The new cast are refreshing and mostly likeable, and visually – from the visual effects to the cinematography – Age of Extinction is a thing of action-film beauty. Where it all stutters is in the stuffing. A film crammed with far too much – action, plot, notions, ideas, details – that focus starts to drift. In a film that introduces an entirely new human cast and a number of new transformers, far too much time is dedicated to resetting history and running down tangents, many of which appear to be favored by the director and his sensibility (and sense of humor) at the expense of clarity, or of the now.
Video Rating: 5/5 3D Rating: 4/5
Transformers: Age of Extinction was partially filmed in IMAX 3D and is the latest film to be released on Blu-ray with the shifting aspect ratios (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was released this way as a Wal Mart exclusive, and films like The Dark Knight Rises and Star Trek Into Darkness have appeared at home that way also – though not in 3D). The aspect ratio shifts between 2.35: and 1.90:1 on the 3D version. The 2D version remains 2.35:1.
In 2D, the presentation is flawless. Vibrantly colored (as were the previous entries,) there’s brilliance to the scenes alive with the warm glow of the sun, sharp contrasts, deep blacks and skin tones that veer more in the orange tones than traditional ‘natural,’ but that could very well be the tans from shooting locations. Detail levels are marvelous, with bits of debris from the multitudinous explosions littering the screen with a great deal of precision. The visual effects work is very strong, with the complexity of the transformers characters visible with terrific clarity. The new look for Optimus Prime and Bumblebee in particular positively glow with their bright colors (in vehicle form,) and show off exquisite detail as they are thrown about the screen in various scraps.
The 3D is surprisingly good. A good portion of the film was shot with the IMAX 3D camera, more than had originally been planned (reports say up to 60% was shot this way,) and it shows. Long stretches, all the key sequences, are in the opened up aspect ratio, with just a few shots in 2.35:1 interspersed. The shifting ratio comes at odd moments, and can be a tad distracting, but the overall effect of the IMAX sequences more than makes up for it. These scenes are stunningly crisp and alive with detail. Most (if not all) of the heavy visual effects sequences are in the IMAX ratio and the 3D in these scenes offers the most depth. Besides the opening scene (with the huge space craft coming through the lens on screen away from the viewer,) and a few moments here and there (like the small dinosaur during the opening) pop-up effects are hard to find. This 3D is mostly about depth (something that will please some, and annoy others,) but the depth is very good.
Audio Rating: 5/5
Transformers: Age of Extinction is the first Blu-ray to be released with a Dolby Atmos track (in addition to an English 5.1 Discrete Dolby Digital track (among other options.) The Dolby Atmos track is fully compatible with 7.1 Dolby TrueHD rigs (which is how my home theater is configured) and the results are impressive.
Besides some sound design choices that stand out (dialogue enhanced during major mayhem sequences with the sound effects, and even Steve Jablonsky’s enjoyable score pushed lower,) the audio performance will try to tear down your walls, shake pictures off your walls, and unsettle your foundation. It’s loud, but not always busy, with precise sounds (crashing glass, dings of metal) given time to rise during action sequences that give pleasing depth to the audio. Dialogue is never drowned out in the action.
This is a terrific audio filled with booming bass, moving sound around the listening experience, and surprising audible details.
Dolby Atmos Update: Unsettling your foundation is the least of your worries, check your fillings after the movie to make sure you didn't lose any. I watched this in Dolby Atmos using a 7.2.4 configuration (4 ceiling speakers). Its an understatement to call this an active mix. The mixers found creative ways to blend the height and surround channels, especially during the attack on Hong Kong when objects were being sucked up into the ship and dropped back on the city. See the video interview further down this review for more information.
Special Features Rating: 4/5
Paramount, perhaps learning from the debacle of parsed out special features across multiple retailer exclusives for last year’s Star Trek Into Darkness offers Age of Extinction with a healthy set of special features. The covers have been peeled back, perhaps not as fully as possible, but certainly enough to give a sense for how enormous production on this film was. Mixed in are a few modest nuggets that look into different elements of the production, and a humorous bit from T.J. Miller who briefly plays a co-worker of Wahlberg’s Yeager.
3D Blu-ray version of Feature film
Disc 2 (Blu-ray):
Bay On Action—In-depth interview with Michael Bay about his vision and approach to the film’s mind-blowing action sequences.
Evolution Within Extinction:
-Generation 2—A look at where the fourth film picks up as we meet new faces—both man and machine—and a Transformers world after the Battle of Chicago.
-Drive Like Hell—Two entirely re-envisioned models of OPTIMUS PRIME and BUMBLEBEE appear in the film, along with an intimidating new nemesis, LOCKDOWN, as a Lamborghini Aventador plus other incredibly cool cars including a sophisticated Bugatti Veyron and a sleek Pagani Huayra. Check them out and see how actor Jack Reynor learned how to drive his Sonic rally car for the intense chase sequences.
-Small Town, Big Movie— When Transformers rolls into some small Texas towns, the normally quiet and picturesque countryside is suddenly alight with explosive action. Explore the different locations with members of the show's art department and hear from robotics students whose designs appear as part of Cade’s lab.
-Shadow Protocol Activated— Follow the production to Detroit with unprecedented access to GM's Lansing plant and Milford Proving Grounds test track; watch an impressive indoor car chase created in an auto parts factory; return to Chicago where location managers discovered a historical movie theater that served as the backdrop for Cade’s fateful first encounter with OPTIMUS PRIME; and finally travel to Washington state and the unlikely site of a never-used nuclear power plant.
-The Last Stand—A vacant lot in downtown Detroit is turned into a square block of Hong Kong. Watch as it literally takes shape from the ground up—then marvel as the crew blows it up piece by piece.
-The People’s Republic— China plays an extremely prominent role in the film both on-screen and behind-the-scenes; in fact, four Chinese actors were chosen from thousands of applicants on a reality TV show to appear in the movie. In addition, the production traveled to Hong Kong, the beautiful valley of Wulong Karst National Park in Chongqing and the Great Wall in Beijing to capture breathtaking footage.
-Rise of the DINOBOTS—Several new TRANSFORMERS characters make their live-action debut in this film. Get a brief history of the new recruits and then go inside Industrial Light & Magic to see how they were designed and conceptualized for the film.
-The Finishing Touch— Watch Michael Bay work like you’ve never seen him before. The director connects virtually with his Santa Monica headquarters, visits the editing bay and then checks in on the visual effects house in San Francisco—all from the comfort of his Miami home office. Also, get an in-depth look at the music contributions of Imagine Dragons as they collaborate with the film's composer Steve Jablonsky. Finally, get exclusive red carpet access to the film's world premiere in Hong Kong.
Just Another Giant Effin’ Movie—Discover the fun, frenetic and amazing way a movie like Transformers: Age of Extinction gets made.
A Spark of Design— Enjoy an exclusive look inside Hasbro's creation of TRANSFORMERS: Age of Extinction Stomp and Chomp Grimlock action figure from concept and development to sculpting and painting, and then ultimately to the assembly line.
T.J. Miller: Farm Hippie — Actor/comedian T.J. Miller never imagined he’d be part of a massively successful franchise like Transformers so he sets off to personally thank the people who made it possible. Come along as he visits Bay Films, gets some pointers from Kelsey Grammer, and even stops by Mark Wahlberg’s house in this funny piece.
KRE-O TRANSFORMERS: Take Us Through the Movies! – OPTIMUS PRIME will bring you up to speed on all of the TRANSFORMERS movies one by one in this hilarious, animated short where the TRANSFORMERS KREON figures act out the movies while building and rebuilding each scene…brick by brick.
The Angry Birds TRANSFORMERS: Origin Story - Bonus content tells the origin story of how the EggSpark has landed on Piggy Island causing the eggs on the island to turn into evil Egg-bots, wreaking havoc across the whole island. The EggSpark has also caused the Birds and Pigs to turn into Autobots and Deceptihogs, who must team up in order to stop the Egg-bots before it's too late!
Feature film in standard definition
Ultraviolet/Digital copy of the film
Greg P. Russell, the re-recording mixer on the Atmos for Home Theater mix
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
It’s a bit silly to complain that the meandering, messy plot (courtesy of Ehren Kruger) doesn’t add up. It all makes enough sense for the action to matter and the moments and set pieces to hang tightly together leading up to the finale. Still, Bay is an easy target for far too many who must have forgotten what these films are ultimately intended to be – fantastical visual effects pictures that up the action ante and satisfy the targeted audience of boys and girls in the 10 to 20 year old range. And if the limited anecdotal evidence of nieces and nephews who loved every action-packed minute of the film are anything to go by, it succeeds. I see Bay as a modern-day maker of movies like The Land That Time Forgot, films that favor effects over most everything else but earnestly try to tell a story amongst the mayhem. Success has given Bay budgets of $200MM, and he’s provided solid return on the investment.
On the other hand, it’s hard to dismiss film fans that want something more from Bay. He has the command skills to make massive movies come together; enormous event pictures with a million moving parts and ridiculous budgets – and with a little shaping and discipline (the kind he showed directing The Island,) he could shake off some of his griping critics and establish the next phase of his career. Taking a step back from directing the next Transformers film is the right step in that direction.
Reviewed By: Neil Middlemiss
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