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Transformers (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Paravmount is completing their 4K Ultra-HD releases of Michael Bay’s Transformers series by releasing the first four to compliment last month’s release of The Last Knight. The four films are going to be available on December 5th (Though there is word that these might be shipping early).  While I wasn’t the biggest fan of these films, I’ve not seen them much and am actually pretty excited to go back and revisit them for this set of reviews. It feels like some sort of fun challenge. If anything, hopefully these look stellar and rock my surround system. Plus, my son has only seen the animated film (That I reviewed last year) and has been wanting to see these since he saw a trailer for The Last Knight. Just shy of The Last Knight, my Naptown Nerd faithful will pretty much have a full retrospective from me by the end of this. Let’s begin now, with 2008’s first live action Transformer movie, a film that our own Brian White has called “iconic” and a “religious experience” and the film that got him to upgrade to HD-DVD.

Film 

The fate of humanity is at stake when two races of robots, the good Autobots and the villainous Decepticons, bring their war to Earth. The robots have the ability to change into different mechanical objects as they seek the key to ultimate power. Only a human youth, Sam Witwicky can save the world from total destruction.

I think the passage of time and four sequels over ten years have soured people on Transformers and maybe tarnished a bit of the goodwill this first film had. When it was released in 2007, people were absolutely raving about it and loving it. Michael Bay was a damn hero. People were excited and the movie was one of the biggest of the summer and the year. It seems forgotten or the embarrassment of some of the follow up movies had made people “too cool” for this first film all of a sudden.

For me, I saw it in 2007 and thought it was okay, pretty fun. For some reason I just wasn’t completely taken with it as some people were. And I was a HUGE Transformers nut as a kid too. What killed this thing for me was that I worked in DVD and Blu-ray quality control and had to see this movie a ton more over the following months after its theatrical release. I believe I had to sit through it 3 times one night til 2 am. The faults became faultier, the already long movie got longer and I was less forgiving of this first movie.

I hadn’t seen the film since then. I had it quite down in my head. So its been 10 years. However, seeing it now for this review, enough time had passed and I grew quite fond of it once more. Its not perfect. Many of the faults a lot of people have with the sequels are still present here in this first movie, they just aren’t as glaring this time around. But, even with those, this first live action Transformers movie is some very fun, top tier popcorn entertainment and something that was really quite the spectacle and like nothing else in town when it debut on the big screen.

We get a marriage of Micheal Bay’s characters and the old Steven Spielberg Amblin feel with this first movie. Neither one takes over the other. As its got its home charm, but can turn around with a juvenile bit of crude humor at the drop of a hat.  There are some fun characters here, despite Sam being a complete lunatic. Seriously…how many dump trucks of cocaine did they feed this kid before shooting? And if memory serves me right, he only gets even more batshit crazy in the sequels. I found myself really liking Miakala this time around. She’s actually a pretty strong character and able to hold her own, the problems come from how the other male characters seem to treat or make remarks at her. Jon Voight is someone we don’t talk about much with this movie, but I felt on this watch, that he helps this movie out because he is really committed and bringing it. Other favorites for me were Rachel Taylor and John Turturo.

But, Bay’s trademark epic action spectacle is one thing this movie can’t be denied. While during some fights its hard to tell who is who in terms of Transformers, the action is still jaw dropping at times. He knows how to marry the CGI to live action better than anyone else. There are also some incredibly stunning shots within the film that help make it that “iconic” that Brian is talking about. While this movie is far from that of being perfect, there are some instances of perfection within it.

It was nice to enjoy this movie again. Bay’s film was a fun escape. Its still much too long. The movie cuts and moves at a breakneck pace, but still feels like a long time. Which is weird, because the film is actually patient in a lot of its setups, though sometimes blowing it on the reveal. Overall, when it comes to straight up, breezy popcorn entertainment from the last decade, its really up there with the best and does feature some of Michael Bay’s best work. Its a shame he has to go and do four more of these, because I do think the man has cool things to share with us (Like Pain & Gain), but hey, it was getting him work to hopefully do better things. But, at least this first movie was one of those better things.

Video 

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p) HDR-10

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail: Wow! Transformer fans are going to be very happy with this image. It has been well taken care of, perfectly utilizing the HDR and being even more detail, sharper and crisp than the Blu-ray predecessor. Michael Bay’s CGI is one of the most detailed and best at holding up at home video. His marriage of live action and CGI characters is impeccable on the Blu-ray and the same goes here. I was actually astounded at the improvement, too. The detail on the autobots and decepticons is some of the most impressive work of all time still to this day. A look at just Optimus Prime has it looking like he was constructed of actual car parts. The wear on the doors, the look of the material you can almost feel to the touch. The pain on it is is that sparkly kind that glistens in areas of different light and its all exact and retained here. I was marveling in how great it appeared every time I would get a medium or close up and he was start moving around. This goes for all of the other CGI characters as well. Detail of this type, from ten years ago, and holding up like this is really really impressive.

Depth:  Spacing is very good with a nice pushback between foreground and background. Motion is quite natural, cinematic and smooth with no distortions on quicker movements.

Black Levels: Blacks are insanely impressive here. They can show a little grain at times too. Nighttime sequences, as I said are some of the most impressive parts of the film. All information is retained and the definition of everything becomes much more apparent.  Everything illuminates much more when things are darker. No crushing witnessed during this viewing.

Color Reproduction: Colors are well saturated and completely gorgeous here. HDR comes in quite lovely with energy bursts, computer screen graphics, electricity, the eyes and glows from the autobots and really helps to give some of the brighter colors a good thick burst. Car lights in the dark quite a nice sting to them. Its well utilized here, but keep it with looking like it was always intended to have the picture look this way.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are warmer and almost like looking through a damn fully windexed and polished piece of glass. Sweat (Everybody is so damn sweaty in these films) is wet to the touch, you can see the finger strokes of camoflauge, lip texture, facial textures with bumps and scars, make-u, pores, you name it, you can damn well see it on their skin.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean. There are some nice instances where grain is visible in some of the darker sequences of the film.

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos, English 5.1 Discrete Dolby Digital, English 2.0 Discrete Dolby Digital, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital & English Audio Description

Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish

Dynamics: From the studio logos that start this thing, you’ll already be giddy about this new Atmos track. Its a bit of a bass heavy one by design, and carries an awesome array of motion while always having a finger on the battle at hand and every possible bit of movement that could go with it. The mix is balanced and has some really great clarity to it. Its going to make an even bigger impact on enhancing this movie than ever before.

Height: The ceiling speakers are definitely a factor here, as things fly over, like helicopters, transformers, debris, cars driving over the camera and much more.

Low Frequency Extension: This is a deep track that is constantly at work with all the stomping of Transformers, energy blasts, explosions, gunfire, engines roaring and the music really kicking.

Surround Sound Presentation: As mentioned before, you’ll be in wonder as soon as the Paramount stars trace their way around your Atmos system, only to be followed by the Dreamworks logo trying to one up it. Sound travel is wildly accurate and every speaker contributes more than just ambiance to just about every scene. This movies is constantly on sound overload and this Atmos mix handles it all with ease.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are loud, audible at all times with sounding crisp and dynamic.

Extras 

Transformers is a 3-Disc set that comes with 1 4K Ultra-HD disc, 2 standard Blu-ray discs and an UltraViolet digital copy. Aside from the commentary, all bonus features are on the second Blu-ray disc and are the same as featured on the previous release.

4K Ultra-HD Disc

Audio Commentary

  • By Director Michael Bay

Blu-ray Disc 1

Audio Commentary

  • By Director Michael Bay

Transformers HUD (Heads Up Display)

Blu-ray Disc 2

Our World (HD, 49:17)

  • The Story Sparks
  • Human Allies
  • I Fight Giant Robots
  • Battleground

Their World (HD, 1:05:13)

  • Rise of the Robots
  • Autobots Roll Out
  • Decepticons Strike
  • Inside the AllSpark
  • Transformers Tech Inspector

More Than Meets The Eye

  • From Script to Sand: The Skorponok Desert Attack (HD, 8:55)
  • Concepts (HD, 2:12)
  • Trailers (HD, 6:34)

Summary 

Forget ye, whatever Transformer sequel it was that soured you on the entire series and remember that where this all started was pretty good. Michael Bay’s first film is fun and better than anyone was expect or than it had any business being. This 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray release comes in performing at some of the highest standards in picture and audio quality. It was quite an impressive experience. You also get all the extras that are the same as the previous release include. Fans of the film are going to be thrilled and home theater junkies should pick this up to show off.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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