Transformers: Age of Extinction: 3D Blu-ray Disc Review

How much of Transformers can you handle?

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Transformers: Age of Extinction - 3D Blu-ray/2D Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy Combo Pack. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to Lifewire

Transformers: Age of Extinction, marked the return of Director Michael Bay to the successful film franchise with a different core cast and take on the story. Of course, there is a lot of action, and the film was produced in 3D. However, to find out if this film deserves a space in your Blu-ray Disc collection, keep on reading.

Story

At the end of its predecessor, Dark of the Moon, the Earth was saved, but Chicago was devastated. As a result, the governments of the Earth see the Transformers as a curse rather than a blessing. The Autobots, headed by Optimus Prime, that had been Earth's champions, are now being hunted down as fugitives. To make matters worse for the Autobots, the CIA is being assisted in their roundup by an Alien bounty hunter. Of course, that is just the tip of the iceberg as a worldwide manhunt to round up an eliminate the Autobots uncovers a dark secret being hidden by the government intended to defend the earth without the Autobots, may end up endangering Earth like never before.

Blu-ray Disc Presentation - Video

For this review, the 2D and 3D Blu-ray Disc presentations of Transformers: Age of the Extinction were viewed on a Samsung UN55HU8550 4K UHD TV, so what was seen on the screen was upscaled from an OPPO BDP-103D Blu-ray Disc player set to 1080p output.

That being said, the overall video presentation (color, contrast, detail) was excellent. However, there were some variations (especially in some facial close-ups) where an excessive film grain effect was visible (apparently, Michael Bay shot the latest installment with both film and digital cameras). Also, the film jumps from a 2.40 aspect ratio to full-screen 1.78:1 ratio for the numerous IMAX-filmed segments. Although this jumping back-and-forth was fairly seamless during the more action-oriented portions of the film, there is a segment in the early part of the film that takes place inside an old movie theater where the aspect ratio changes between cuts where two characters are sorting through junk and talking to each other, where such jumps don't seem to make much sense.

Blu-ray Disc Presentation - 3D

Films, such as Gravity and Godzilla (2014), really show how 3D can contribute positively to the visual impact of a film. This definitely carries over to Transformers: Age of Extinction, as it also did in the previous Transformer's film: Dark of the Moon. Also, there were no brightness loss issues or edge softening (may be due to the UHD upscaling) that was overtly noticeable.

Although most of the film was shot natively in 3D, there were some segments that were post-3D converted and frankly, there was no way to determine from watching the movie what segments where natively shot or post-converted - The 3D was seamless.

In addition, even during the heavy, and high-speed, action scenes, there was no excessive blurring or haloing. There were few comin'-at-ya' effects in the film - which many 3D filmmakers seem to be shying away from these days.

On the other hand, although almost entirely ghost-free, there were few instances of brief ghosting or haloing - specifically one cut where the alien bounty hunter is walking forward. In this cut, a mosquito-noise-like ringing halo could be observed, as well as few instances where halos or ringing could be seen around the edges of soldiers.

Taking all into consideration, the 3D presentation was excellent, and if you are a 3D fan (or if you aren't), definitely check it out - it is a great demo film for how much 3D film production quality continues to progress.

Blu-ray Disc Presentation - Audio

In addition to the excellent video presentation of Transformers: Age of Extinction, what makes this Blu-ray Disc release so significant is that it is the first title that contains a Dolby Atmos mix.

However, you don't need to have a Dolby Atmos setup or special Blu-ray Disc player to play this disc. The way Dolby Atmos is engineered is that it is backward compatible with Dolby TrueHD. So, when you go into the Age of Extinction audio setup menu - non-Dolby Atmos users just need to select the Dolby Atmos soundtrack and if a non-Dolby Atmos equipped home theater receiver is detected, a real-time downmix to either Dolby TrueHD 7.1 or 5.1 is applied. What this does is reassign all of the directional, height, and ambiance information contained in the Dolby Atmos soundtrack and place it within a 7.1 or 5.1 channel framework (whichever is being used).

Also, if your home theater receiver does not provide Dolby TrueHD decoding, you can also select the standard Dolby Digital 5.1 option from the disc menu or, in most cases, your player can set it by default.

Before this review, this reviewer heard the Dolby Atmos mix in a movie theater. Listening to the downmixed Dolby Atmos to Dolby TrueHD 7.1 and 5.1 channel options, and remembering what I experienced from the theatrical presentation, I did not feel "cheated".

The downmix was still very immersive and spacious, with objects placed at points in space similar to a true Atmos mix (helicopters and drones are the best examples), but lacking some of the location preciseness and, of course, some loss of the height channel experience (although the Dolby TrueHD downmix still produced a better-than-traditional "horizontal" 5.1 or 7.1 channel mix).

In other words, the presence of Dolby Atmos information on the disc does provide a better surround listening experience even when downmixed to traditional Dolby True HD. As a result, the sound mix is definitely a great complement to the 3D visual presentation.

Review Bonus: Greg P. Russell, Re-Recording Mixer for Transformers: Age of Extinction discusses how the theatrical Dolby Atmos soundtrack was remastered for a home theater setting - Watch Now.

Blu-ray Disc Bonus Features

  • Bay on Action: Director Michael Bay is an action nut - and this segment focuses on how much detail goes into the planning and execution of some of the action scenes for this film.
  • Evolution Within Extinction - An approximately 2-hour making-of documentary that goes into great depth into the entire Transformers: Age of Extinction production process. The documentary can be viewed all at once or one chapter at a time.The chapter titles are:
    • Generation 2 (a detailed look at the new cast members and story direction).
    • Drive Like Hell (focus on the use of cars and stunt driving).
    • Small Town, Big Movie (a detailed look at the Texas location shooting).
    • Shadow Protocol Activated (a look at GM's participation in the film, along with Detroit location shooting).
    • The Last Stand, The People's Republic (Although a lot of footage was also shot in Hong Kong, China, this feature also focuses on segments where Detroit locations became stand-ins for some of the Hong Kong portion of the film).
    • The Rise of the Dinobots (bringing the Dinobots to life for their guest appearance.
    • The Finishing Touch (footage of Michael Bay's editing studio and process, how the music was scored and produced, and some nice footage of the film's Hong Kong premiere).
  • Just Another Giant Movie: A light-hearted featurette guest starring Michael Bay's Mom (who delivers cookies to the set but claims to have never seen any of the transformer films. Other content in this segment includes comments from some of the cast and crew on their experiences making the film, including what it is like to work with Michael Bay (which isn't always easy).
  • A Spark of Design: A look inside the Hasbro headquarters with a focus on the Transformer and Dinobot designs.
  • T.J. Miller: Farm Hippie: Comedian T.J. Miller, who plays Mark Whalberg's dubious friend in the film, goes on a quest to thank the cast and Director Michael Bay for including him in the film - with some unexpectedly funny results.
  • Trailers and Previews: Includes two Age of Extinction Theatrical/TV trailers. A trailer for Kre-O Transformers: Take Us Through the Movies! (sort of like an animated Lego summary of all the Transformer films up to this point. Angry Birds Transformers: Origin Story - A trailer for an imaginary "Angry Birds as Transformers" animated cartoon series, done up in 80's TV animation style.

    The Bottom Line

    The Transformers: Age of Extinction 3D Blu-ray release is definitely a demo-worthy disc that can show off the capabilities of your home theater, and, of course, a 3D TV or video projector.
    • Also, the bonus features are excellent, providing one of the better behind-the-scenes documentaries I have seen for a film.
    • However, is the film worthy of a space in your collection?
    • As good as the film from a technical standpoint, the story and acting are just not that great. The script is full of typical cliches and the philosophical comments by Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) are the same old, same old. In fact, the only characters that are really engaging are the two main villains, the Alien Bounty Hunter: Lockdown (voiced by Mark Ryan), and Kelsey Grammer's character: CIA Agent Harold Attinger.
    • Also, at just shy of three hours, the film is about an hour too long. The continuous action is somewhat fatiguing - especially when some surprise guests stars are thrown into the last battle scene that may confuse those not familiar with the Transformers franchise.
    • Michael Bay just crammed in too much - the film could have easily been divided into two fast-paced 90-minute films at the point in the story where the action shifts from the U.S. to China.
    • Also, in terms of casting, Sophia Myles was underutilized, and Nicola Peltz reminded me too much of Tara Reid.
    • However, you can't argue with box office success as Age of Extinction was one of the top worldwide money-makers of 2014 ($1 billion total) - and, let's face it, Michael Bay knows how to do 3D, and the Dolby sound mix may be the best yet on Blu-ray.
    • To sum it all up: Demo-quality video and audio (with or without Dolby Atmos), but not such great film in terms of how it plays out the story and acting wise.
    • Film and Disc Stats

      • Studio: Paramount
    • Running Time: 165 Minutes
    • MPAA Rating: PG-13
    • Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
    • Principal Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor, Sophia Myles, Titus Welliver.
    • Director: Michael Bay
    • Screenplay: Ehren Kruger
    • Executive Producers: Michael Bay, Steven Spielberg, and Others.
    • Producers: Tom DeSanto, Don Murphy, and Others.
    • Discs: Three 50 GB Blu-ray Discs (one 3D, one 2D, one for Special Features), One DVD.
    • Digital Copy: UltraViolet and iTunes
    • Video Specifications: Video codec used - MVC MPEG4, Video resolution - 1080p, Aspect ratio - 2.40:1, 1.78:1 (IMAX Segments) - Special features and supplements in various resolutions and aspect ratios.
    • 3D: Most of the film was shot natively in 3D - However some segments were shot in 2D and converted to 3D by Legend 3D and Prime Focus World.
    • Audio Specifications: Dolby Atmos (English), Dolby TrueHD 7.1 or 5.1 (default downmix for those that don't have a Dolby Atmos setup), Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, Spanish, French Portuguese), 2.0 (English).
    • Subtitles: English SDH, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese.
    DISCLAIMER: Attendance at the theatrical presentation and the acquiring of the 3D Blu-ray Disc package were made possible by Dolby Labs.