Paramount’s Blu-ray is hopefully a visual/audio trendsetter. As for the movie? Eww.
Michael Bay’s fourth Transformers film covers a bevy of topics, from the complexities of awkward teen dating to the depth of international robot politics. The latter is a thing now. So is a mildly right wing blockbuster.
While cries frequently cite Hollywood’s tendency to lean toward liberal beliefs, here’s the conservative trendsetter with brisk cameras sweeping around alluring Texan landscapes with flapping American flags in the background. Egregious rights violations and untethered surveillance are central narrative material. All the while, honest business is corrupted by bloated bureaucratic regimes and forced to send manpower to Chinese shores.
Age of Extinction is a touch extinct itself outside of narrative pretenses. Bay ditches leading lady Rosie Huntington-Whietley for his latest short shorts wearing, personality-less, focus tested blonde in Nicola Peltz. With an outrageous 165 minutes to burn, Extinction sees fit to blow a few of them selling Peltz as a legal 17-year old bombshell much to the whimsy of a slobbering, mostly male demographic. Apparently, in the universe of Transformers, she’s the only female left except for newcomer Bingbing Li – and she only exists because her native Chinese audiences flock to these movies.
Writer Ehren Kruger’s third stop in the realm of Transformers is yet again unflinchingly stupid. Maybe it’s sharp to politicize strife in the background of dazzling particle explosions and licensed robots, but the execution – led with zero subtly on the part of a sniveling Kelsey Grammer – is too crushingly forced to be of any use as a statement piece. To believe big government is mentally comatose enough to side with the all black sheened, spiny villains as opposed to the flaming red & blue truck spewing righteousness is a head slapping bit of script development.
An hour in, new characters are still being produced. Extinction spits up no less than three main villains, human or robot, in a failed pursuit of epic style without a sense of hierarchy. They all set forth on parallel purposes without any convergence.
Kruger’s script is also contaminated by idiotic repetition. Once again, a Transformers film relies on a Decepticon-sought object hidden in a city center where the population density is so extreme, no one who claims to care for human lives would keep it there.
But, in the interest of critical honesty, it is stupidly spectacular. As tiresome as this escapade is, seeing Chicago, Texas, Michigan, and Hong Kong so effortlessly devastated is shamefully fun. Extinction’s needless plot convolution cannot overstep the precisely laid boundaries which separate it from the inflated scale which engorges on excess. Extinction lifts boats and sends them toppling through buildings even if the feature never makes it all that clear why. It’s a boat smashing a skyscraper. It’s doubtful the audience cares either way.
If it’s pedestrian to say that Bay’s latest directorial example of hyper real, financial egotism is merely a bunch of robots shooting each other, sorry. It just is. If that reduces the astonishing levels of unheard of work put into the vividly rendered effects to simplistic levels, sorry. It’s true.
This is the fourth film in a series which has clearly never cared about anything else, and even if it does it well, there’s still over 100 minutes left of aimless pandering meant to act as an intelligent reflection of societal fears. That’s gross considering the consistent swatch of flawlessly postured, slow motion product placements and misguided MPAA rating notation of “brief innuendo” when any shot of Peltz could qualify. And, pretending to be evocative while cashing Victoria’s Secret checks is preposterous.
Unlike the movie itself, we’ll jump to the gist: This is one of the best live action Blu-rays ever released to the market. Say what you will for the actual cinematic content (and there’s not much outside of “Explosions!”), but their technical parameters are amongst the premiere elite. Extinction is stunning and Paramount had the sense to send the bonus features off to their own disc. The full strength of a BD-50 is allotted to display this absolute premium visual splendor.
Whether it churns out close-ups of live action actors or the wholly CG Transformers, Extinction is staggering in how much fidelity it manages to produce without a hiccup. All of those lines, grand textures, and impeccable aerials refuse to elicit an ounce of flicker. Sharpness is delivered to such extremes, believing this only a mere 1080p is difficult. Packed into this static 2.35:1 frame is more clarity and precision cinematography than many blockbusters combined.
No, post-production is never kind to shadow details. They are crushed out and lost in many scenes. There is also the impact of bronzed flesh tones which is egregious in every Bay production of the past decade or more. However, that look sells televisions. It sells any display as much as it sells a format. Properly settled, a bit of loss in the shadows and hyper coloration only serves to amp up a feature designed to appear as if it were zonked out on film-based steroids. By the time Autobots and their foes are blasting one another, the sheer depth of color, the variety, and their impact washes away those limited doubts.
If anything will dour the celebratory mood, it is intermittent chroma noise which typically impacts blues. These are amongst the few times the source grain structure, otherwise thoroughly well resolved, seems becomes an issue. An odd bit of smoke may stray too, but in the scheme of a movie stretched to near three hours, these moments consume less than one minute of the run time.
Continuing the streak of perfection is a separate 3D disc (also free of extras) which, like the 2D, seats itself amongst the strongest live action 3D works currently available. Bay’s unflattering style may not be conducive to critical acceptance, but it proves to be smartly adept at crafting a sense of expansive depth. Shots are considerate of those interested in the format – even whole action scenes are prepped. Staggering and kinetic flight moments (on multiple scales) bundle with ammunition or debris catapulted directly toward the lens. Subtle dialog scenes are richly enhanced by the excessive scale of the sets. Few shots ever deviate from the layered effect and instead add natural curves or other subtleties to endow this presentation with sheer power. The glasses do nothing to inhibit the contrast.
Paramount issues the 3D disc only in a switching IMAX ratio, which broadens the 2.35:1 frame to 1.78:1 for roughly half of the movie. Whereas something like The Dark Knight would statically swap and stay in one ratio for the entirety of a major action scene, Transformers can intercut between them with flash edits, and then back again. General conversations can flip too, not only the robot brawls. It’s jarring here, even if the effect is glorious no matter the choice of ratio.
As if the video portion wasn’t enthusiastic enough, this latest Transformers comes with a walloping TrueHD 7.1 track and is amongst the first Dolby Atmos discs for the home. This is easily the best LFE usage of 2014, making previous contenders, like the mammoth energy of Godzilla, weep in submission. Those more cautious with their home theater set-ups may be wise to keep the volume a few points down to be safe. Some of the lowest moments, specifically a magnetic beam which begins lifting all manner of objects, could be dangerous to lesser equipment. It’s amazing.
Extinction not only equals but bests the previous three films, all of which were easily inserted into reference categorization. Awe-inspiring tracking between channels is constant, from persistent rounds of gunfire to dialog which has no fear of leaving the center channel while using those two additional surrounds. Scale and power are the hallmark of the mix. It’s ferociously bold and near magic in how dead on every effect is kept separated. Extinction may be visually busy, but the audio work is less so and that’s not a detractor. Each round fired or punch thrown feels substantial and isolated enough to keep a presence.
In order to find anything negative, picky listeners will find the source dubbing of the Transformers unusually clear. No matter the circumstances or movement, each spoken line maintains a level volume or weight. There are no voice adjustments made to match the activity outside of sending it to other speakers. This is particularly annoying with Brains who suffers from hyper activity and jumps all over without any fluctuation.
With a full bonus disc to spend freely, Paramount produces Evolution Within Extinction. Eight parts and two hours later, this complete peering into the background of this entire production is made clear. Scripting, cast changes, designs, effects, locations, marketing, Hasbro’s involvement; nothing appears to be missed, nor is the disc done.
Bay on Action follows the director for 11 minutes as he discuses his methods and process. Just Another Giant Effects Movie takes 10 minutes to collect a cross section of on-set fun as mostly raw footage. A Spark of Design is where stuff takes a turn into the promotional, featuring a bevy of Hasbro designers as they work on the latest Transformers toys, from conception to the completed product.
TJ Miller: Farm Hippie is a jokey bit where the comedic actor makes visits to key players on the movie. Trailers then remain.
Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For more information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.
Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.