Michael Bay is a blockbuster movie-making genius. While he has a reputation as a guy who takes millions of dollars and throws it at a screen in the form of explosions, once you actually take a look into just how much work, thought and care he puts into every aspect of his films, it’d be hard to argue that this guy isn’t a master of his craft. It’s in the special features of this limited edition four-disc set that we really get into the mind of Bay, as we watch him create his biggest film to date in Transformers: Dark of the Moon.
There’s no denying that Bay is fighting an uphill battle when it comes to how critics look at his work, and his latest picture was no different. In my theatrical review of the film I hailed it as “one of the biggest blockbusters of the year,” and “the best Transformers film yet.” Both of those facts remain true, and having watched it again at home realized that if there were a Top 15 list for 2011, Dark of the Moon would have easily placed.
I won’t delve too much into the plot here, as with this being the second home release of the film, most have likely seen it already. For those who haven’t, or are still licking their wounds from Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, do yourself a favour and see this movie. Not only does it make up for any shortcomings the second film may have had, it also takes the best aspects of the first two films and multiplies them tenfold.
The film’s visuals are magnificent, and really set the bar for the term “eye-candy.” While the plot of the film, or the action oriented take on storytelling may not appeal to all, I was stumped as to how Roger Ebert called this film, “visually ugly.” Is there a lot going on all at once? Sure. Is there a healthy dose of explosions mixed in with robots battling in city streets? Check. But it all looks and sounds incredible, which is why the film was nominated for Oscars in most technical categories.
As mentioned above, this is the second Blu-ray release of Dark of the Moon, so is it worth the double-dip? Well, there are two things that set this release apart from the previous one: the 3D version of the film, and a disc packed with special features. If you have a 3D television, then without question this is the version you must buy. Transformers: Dark of the Moon is one of the best 3D films ever made, hands down. I’m not a huge advocate of 3D being thrown into any film just to help bolster the price of tickets, however, that’s not the case here. The 3D is mind-blowing, and the care put into creating the best possible scenarios to use it in ways that have never been done before really raise the bar for future 3D releases.
If you’re a fan of special features, then this is also the version of the film you want to pick up. The disc of extras (which will be reviewed below) is addictively good. There’s so much to watch and learn that even at a run-time that beats out most movies, it’s incredibly easy to get lost in the world of Michael Bay and the massive undertaking that went in to making this film as entertaining as it is. For those who don’t have a 3D TV, and don’t care about extras, then obviously the double-dip isn’t worthwhile.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon is a hugely entertaining summer blockbuster that delivers just as much bang for your buck at home as it did in theaters. For anyone who has yet to pick up a copy of the film, or was on the fence, wait no longer as Paramount and Bay have put together an incredible Blu-ray package that delivers on all fronts.
The film looks and sounds absolutely fantastic in all representations found in this release. This is one of the best looking and sounding action films available on Blu-ray, and really must be seen for these sequences alone.
The extras are abundant, and easy to get lost in. A lot of them are broken down into menus containing mini-featurettes, which I will break down below.
Above and Beyond: Exploring Dark of the Moon – Five mini-featurettes you can watch as a whole or individually. As a whole these features run at a whopping 1 hour 50 minutes in length, and look fantastic. The featurettes are as follows:
Rising from the Fallen: Development and Design – This piece is 22 minutes and 24 seconds in length. During this feature the cast and crew (including Bay, Shia LaBeouf, and just about everyone else you can think of) talk about how they had to recover from the bad response that people had coming out of Revenge of the Fallen. They’re pretty honest with it here, and go as far as showing quotes from critics that bashed the film. Very interesting piece that really delves into the design of all the characters in the film, as well as the replacement of Fox with Huntington-Whiteley. Really fantastic stuff!
Ready for Prime Time: Filming Across America – This featurette comes in at just under 28 minutes, and really delves into all the set pieces and locations that were used in the film. They also talk about how the decision to shoot in 3D was made late in the production process, which is quite impressive considering this is one of the best looking 3D films around period. This is the awesome type of behind the scenes featurette that makes bonus features worth watching. They really go into the making of set pieces, and just everything involved in filming on them. Great stuff!
Battle in the Heartland: Shooting in Chicago – This featurette is just under 14 minutes in length and focuses on the huge climactic battle for the film. It’s absolutely crazy to see how far they pushed the envelope when it came to creating massive sets of destruction, and how Chicago (in the words of LaBeouf) said to Bay, “(our city) is your sandbox.” So interesting to see how they created all of the pieces of buildings and rubble with material so light that people could just pick it up and prepare the sets overnight so the crew would be ready to shoot in the morning. LaBeouf wasn’t kidding, they really did let Bay own Chicago, and he did just that.
Attack of the Birdmen: Aerial Stunts – This featurette is 16 minutes in length and it talks about how Bay saw a piece on the Birdmen (a group of people who leap off mountains and so forth in specially designed suits that allow them to pretty much fly when they spread their arms and legs) and said “I want them in my movie.” It goes into the creation of the scene in the film, as well as how it all came together and how what you see in the film was entirely real. It’s simply mind-blowing that these guys actually did this.
Shadow of the Sentinel: Post-Production And Release – This featurette runs at just under 30 minutes in length and really gets deep into the post-production of the film such as the picture and sound editing, the voice acting, and special effects. Watching just how much work goes into the post-production of this film is incredibly impressive. The special effects are simply mind-blowing, and will definitely set a standard for films of this nature for years to come. The editing process comes from four different editors, who work with Bay to create the best possible looks to the film, while the sound department hit a record-breaking (and software breaking) 32,000 fade files within one reel using Pro Tools, which had never been done before. They ended up having to call the creators of the software to see if there was a way around it only to learn that they had in fact maxed out the technology. Some of the ways they came up with sounds, and the actual things they used to get them are incredibly. One of the most interesting special features on the entire disc, which is saying something!
Now we’ll go into the remaining special features on the disc:
Uncharted Territory: Nasa’s Future Then and Now – This featurette comes in at 26 minutes in length, and we hear from various past and present people from Nasa who explain various aspects of space travel, as well as the future of Nasa. It’s quite interesting to see just what’s involved in working at Nasa, which is something most don’t really know a lot about, or ever really hear much about.
Deconstructing Chicago: Multi-Angle Sequences – There are two different sections to this feature, with both previsualizations and also visual effects.
You can watch these with a few ways to watch them. The one I chose for the previsualization featurette (which runs at 17 minutes in length) was with Bay’s commentary on, as well as the previsualizations compared to the final shots. This shows both the pre-production ideas of the shots beside the actual final shots of the film. It’s fun and interesting to see how far things come along, as well as just how much is planned beforehand.
For the visual effects shots (which runs at 18 minutes 30 seconds) we get to see the visual effects compared to the final scenes used. It’s said multiple times that even though this is a very CGI heavy film, Bay likes to do as much real as he possibly can. It’s great to see it all here; watching it all come together is very fun stuff.
The Art of Cybertron – This is a great art gallery that you control the pace of that lets you see all the pre-production designs laid out for all the Transformers, as well as the weapons and such involved in the film.
The Dark of the Moon Archive – Here’s another feature that breaks down into five parts, which are as follows:
3D: A Transforming Visual Art: A conversation with Michael Bay and James Cameron – This is a fast, three minute featurette that sees two of the biggest director’s of our time sitting down together talking about 3D and film. It’s a great summary of what was likely a very fun interview piece to watch in full, and well worth checking out.
Moscow World Premiere – This feature is two and a half minutes in length and talks about the biggest premiere in the history of Paramount, and one of the biggest premieres of all time. Just hearing from the cast about their thoughts on the film really quick, as well as showing clips of the Linkin Park concert that was held at the premiere.
Birdmen Featurette – Here’s a fast two and a half minute Birdman featurette, which is a really fast summary of the more lengthy birdman featurette above. So for those who want a quick version (though why would you?) it’s here for you!
Cody’s iPad – This is a two minute featurette where Bay talks with a young, disabled man named Cody, who communicates with Bay through his iPhone. Bay was so blown away by how Cody did this, and had Apple create an iPad for him to use and make life easier.
The Sound of Transformers: Dark of the Moon – This featurette is just over nine minutes in length and goes even more into the sound process of the film, which is still as interesting to watch, even if you saw the post-production featurette above. Great stuff.
The Matrix of Marketing – This is the marketing piece to the film, including the teaser, and actual trailer. There’s also a marketing gallery that shows the posters, style guide, promo and concession items. It really shows just how big this film was on all levels.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon should erase any bad memories the second film left with viewers, and as LaBeouf and Bay mention, it was the poor reception of the second film that made them work that much harder this time around. Well it paid off, as this was one of the best action films of last year and is now one of the best Blu-rays of this year. Highly recommended.
Paramount Pictures Present in Association with Hasbro Transformers: Dark of the Moon 4-disc 3D Limited Edition Set. Directed by: Michael Bay. Written by: Ehren Kruger. Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Josh Duhamel, John Turturro, Tyrese Gibson, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Patrick Dempsey, Kevin Dunn, Julie White, John Malkovich, Frances McDormand. Running time: 154 minutes. Rating: PG. Released on Blu-ray: Jan. 31, 2012 Available at Amazon.com.
Tags: 3D, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, john turturro, Josh Duhamel, Michael Bay, Patrick Dempsey, Shia LaBeouf, Transformers, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Tyrese Gibson