Blu-ray Review: Transformers: Age of Extinction

It’s pretty simple right out of the gate that if you didn’t like the previous Transformers flicks by Michael Bay, then odds are you won’t enjoy his fourth installment in the franchise either. In a nutshell, this is a big blockbuster of a film that sees robots fighting one another all across the world, tearing apart every city that they’re in, causing explosions that are so big that they sometimes have explosions of their own, all while a father tries to reconnect with his daughter.

There are a lot of Michael Bay haters who hate simply because it seems to be the “in” thing to do. He’s destroyed their childhood memories time and time again, and yet, those same people show up on opening weekend to watch his movies nonetheless. Why? Because his movies are a lot of fun, and in reality, if Transformers being made into a movie – good or bad – destroys your childhood, well, you likely had some problems before Michael Bay came along.

The truth is, like him or not, Bay is a masterful filmmaker. He really is brilliant. Say what you will about the quality of the plot at times (though many would argue, what plot? Which is silly in its own right, as even a man walking to the store is a plot – even if it would make a boring movie if left as is), when it comes right down to it, Bay is a visionary in his own right. He handles action sequences in his own unique ways; he’s not afraid to test cutting edge equipment to bring something new to the field, and he’s always aiming to deliver top tier entertainment value for his audiences.

Transformers: Age of Extinction is no different, as Bay takes all he’s learned from the previous trilogy and takes it to the next level in his fourth time out. Now, I say previous trilogy because that story wrapped up in three films and this is a new chapter. It’s not, however, a reboot, as there are constant references to the destruction caused to Chicago at the end of the third film, but the human element has changed, and a new saga has begun.

Gone is Sam Witwicky, the autobots faithful companion for the first three films, who is replaced by Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), an inventor from Texas who tries his best to provide for his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) by salvaging various scrap and trying to create the next big thing. Early on he feels he hit the jackpot, as he finds an old truck that’s trusted out and full of holes. He tows it back home only to soon find out that it’s not a truck, but an Autobot named Optimus Prime.

Yes, five years have passed since the epic battle in Chicago, and a lot has changed in the world. No longer are the Autobots seen as comrades to the human race – but instead are viewed as instigators who bring death and destruction everywhere they go. To be fair, it’s a small task force who really believe this, and instead of simply targeting Decepticons like they make others believe, they’re looking to wipe out all alien life forms in general, be it friend or foe.

The task force is led by Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer) and his right hand – and hired muscle – James Savoy (Titus Welliver), who ironically have teamed up with Lockdown, a rogue Transformer with his own agenda who helps the force locate and destroy the remaining Autobots on earth. There’s also Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci) who is a brilliant man who has learned a way to harness the power of “transforming” and use it to his advantage financially.

These are the main players in the film (along with Tessa’s boyfriend Shane, played by Jack Reynor) and their stories are a solid jumping on point for newcomers to the franchise, as well as a fresh group of faces for longtime fans. Speaking of long, the film does come in at just under three hours, and is the longest Transformers movie to date.

Is it too long? Well, that depends on whom you ask. The film has more of a slow burn to it, so it starts off with very little action and picks up as the film progresses. There was a point where it felt as though we were heading into the big finale, but it turns out there was another hour (give or take) remaining. Usually when this happens the final hour drags on, but in the case of Age of Extinction, it actually still works, as the explosive finish, and sheer entertainment value outweighed any imbalance in the pacing.

Quickly touching on the new cast, Wahlberg is a welcome addition, and someone who will only help make this franchise even bigger if they continue on with the planned/rumoured second trilogy. Peltz and Reynor both hold their own in a star-studded cast, and T.J. Miller, who I didn’t mention before, brings huge laughs as Cade’s friend Lucas.

On the bad guy front, Grammer is a treat to watch – especially for those who may have missed him in the criminally underrated TV show Boss. Welliver, who many will recognize from his time on LOST, comes off looking like a slow motion, black jacket and sunglass wearing badass throughout most of the film, and Tucci plays both sides quite well, as his character hits both the unlikeable prick and loveable goofball notes over time.

Most of the Transformers are new, with some old favourites returning as well. Prime and Bumblebee return, as well as newcomers Hound (voiced by John Goodman), Drift (voiced by Ken Watanabe) and Crosshairs (voiced by John DiMaggio). Bay always strives to deliver the best that technology can bring, and he’s done so here. This time around the Transformers have a lot more personality, and emotion shows more in their expressions. It helps make them larger than life characters, instead of just random robots standing beside Prime and Bee.

Transformers: Age of Extinction starts things fresh in this world that Bay has created. There’s a decent story here, and while it can get convoluted at times, that’s probably not why you want to watch it anyway. Overall, it gets the job done, but in the end this is all about humans and good robots fighting bad humans and bad robots in fun and thrilling fashion, and on that front, Bay proves that this franchise is anything but extinct.

As per usual, Paramount has knocked it out of the pack with their Blu-ray transfer of Transformers: Age of Extinction. The picture quality is flawless, crisp and beautiful, while the sound mix and soundtrack are superb. One couldn’t ask for more in terms of Blu-ray quality.

On the special features front, well, they get their own Blu-ray disc if that’s any indication of how much there is to enjoy. There’s over three hours of extras, and these aren’t your usual tacked on mini-featurettes. No, these are some in-depth, top tier, highly entertaining extras.

Let’s start with the main attraction:

Evolution with Extinction – This is an eight-part feature that can be watched all in one dose, or separately. It has a running time of just over two hours when watched as a whole, and this really delves into some fun behind-the-scenes footage! The eight parts are as follows:

Generation 2 – This feature runs at just under 16 minutes in length and talks about integrating the new cast and characters, as well as the fresh story, all while staying true to the already established world that was created with the first three films.

Drive Like Hell – This piece comes in at over 13 minutes and talks about all the new cars used in the film, as well as the choices to change certain established characters into something fresh. It also goes into showing how much the actors did themselves, with Reynor taking lessons with the stunt drivers for almost two months to prepare for his role.

Small Town, Big Movie – This 12-minute feature talks about setting the film in rural Texas instead of a metropolitan area to start. They talk about how long it took to find the right house and barn, as well as how to pull off certain stunts in smaller towns that usually don’t see big productions like this at all.

Shadow Protocol Activated – This is the longest chapter at just under 29 minutes in length, and it goes into great depth about Chevrolet’s contribution to the movie, and how they allowed access to Bay and the crew in Detroit. It also has some great behind-the-scenes stuff for some major action scenes that are quite entertaining to watch!

The Last Stand – Earlier they talk about shooting some of the film in Hong Kong, and how Hong Kong actually doesn’t shut down streets for anyone. This caused some issues with certain scenes, and this feature talks about how they substituted Detroit for Hong Kong at certain times.

The People’s Republic – This piece comes in at just under 13 minutes in length and talks about shooting in Hong Kong. It’s really interesting to hear Bay talk about this both here and earlier in the special features package. It definitely sounds like a daunting task to shoot in Hong Kong, but it really helped sell the film quite well. Really interesting feature right here.

Rise of the Dinobots – The dinobots were a big selling feature in terms of advertisements and posters, and yet they only find themselves in the final portion of the film. This isn’t a bad thing, and it fits the flow; however, they’re quite cool and it’d be nice to have seen more of them. That said, this 6-minute featurette focuses on bringing them to life for the movie.

The Finishing Touch – The second longest feature in the package, coming in at just over 23 minutes, takes viewers into post-production. Here we get to see the editing process, the special effects, as well as the score and sound effects being brought together. This is some awesome stuff for those who are into post, and for those who aren’t, it may be quite eye opening as to how much goes into it!

Moving on from the eight-part feature, we’ve got even more to cover:

Just Another Giant Effin’ Movie – This featurette comes in at 10 minutes in length, and shows some of the highlights the cast and crew had on set while filming the movie. There’s no doubt it seems like there’s a huge amount of work that goes into making one of these movies, but it also looks like the cast and crew have a blast while doing so as well, which is always good.

A Spark of Design – This feature comes in at over 15 minutes in length and gives the viewers a backstage pass to the Hasbro Headquarters. Here we see how certain toys are created, which is interesting and a nice change of pace.

T.J. Miller: Farm Hippie – This feature is 20 minutes in length and sees the hilarious actor visiting other actors in the movie, including Wahlberg and Bay. Definitely worth checking out for a good laugh, and a nice bit of variety during all the behind-the-scenes action.

There are also a few trailers to check out for those interested.

Overall, fans of the franchise rejoice, as Paramount has once again delivered the goods when it comes to a masterful Blu-ray transfer for Transformers: Age of Extinction. If you’ve given up on the series long ago, I’d still recommend giving it a shot to see if the new characters change your mind.

Paramount Pictures Presents Transformers: Age of Extinction. Directed by: Michael Bay. Written by: Ehren Kruger. Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Peter Cullen, Kelsey Grammer, Stanley Tucci, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor, Titus Welliver, T.J. Miller, John Goodman, Ken Watanabe. Running time: 164 Minutes. Rating: PG-13. Released: Sept 30, 2014.

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