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Transformers: Dark Of The Moon (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

We continue this Thanksgiving weekend journey through autobot Earth history with Transformers: Dark of the Moon.  This third film completes the Sam Witwicky trilogy Shia exits after this one.  When the film came out it was noted as being a noticeable improvement over the first film. And oddly, its one of the first films I can remember where the marketing involved a lot of people involved bashing and degrading the previous film in the series to sell this new one. Stick by your guns folks, your project didn’t work with audiences, but you can still believe in it! I remember personally thinking Dark of the Moon was just as bad as Revenge of the Fallen, but now I get to revisit and see if I still think that way. You can find this one on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray with the others on December 5th (Or I’m hearing they may ship earlier now).

Film 

Sam Witwicky and his new girlfriend, Carly, join the fray when the evil Decepticons renew their longstanding war against the Autobots. Optimus Prime believes that resurrecting ancient Transformer Sentinel Prime, once the leader of the Autobots, may lead to victory. That decision, however, has devastating consequences; the war appears to tip in favor of the Decepticons, leading to a climactic battle in Chicago.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon manages to take a lot of the good stuff from the first one while bringing some of the worst thing from the second.  All the while carving its own path and besting the original in numerous ways. However, its unable to balance things or move at a swift enough pace to not make this movie feel like its over two and a half hours. Its overlong and bloated. But its also a pretty good enough movie with some really impressive things in it.

For three films, Michael Bay has returned to this series up to this point. And to be quite honest, throwing out the characters and plots, in terms of pure action, I’ve not felt like I’ve had to watch anything over and over again. All the sequences have felt fresh, different and new. Not just within the film, but with the series. And Dark of the Moon has some of his most breathtaking and ambitious sequences yet. At the center of this is an awesome sequence with humans trying to escape a building that is falling over. As a matter of fact, this film might do best by giving the humans purpose and cool scenarios to get through. Other highlights are a car chase and just the approach to have a stealthy calculated approach by the Transformers in the final hour. Its not just smash and bash, there is some thought and choreography to this insanity. And, big big stakes. Lots of crowd pleaser and hero moments come abound, too.

Sam Witwicky, resident cocaine addict of Autobot-ville, balances his ridiculousness decently here, but he does have moments, like when he gets his car stuck at a gate and just screams and screams and screams. Its impressive all the people down to the Glenn Morshower that they get to return for these.  However, I find it funny they find Josh Duhamel to be important. He could literally be switched with any military extra and it would have no bearing on the story at all. Duhamel just spouts military exposition and says military commands while shooting guns. He’s super hollow and vanilla. He’s done that for 3 movies now. Oh wait, he has a wife and kids that aren’t mentioned after the movie and he loves them. So there’s something. This one does class up the joint with additions of Frances McDormand and John Malkovich. Hey, people need their kitchens remodeled sometimes. They also tug at my Star Trek heartstrings with the casting of Leonard Nimoy to voice the big bad.

Oh, who didn’t return? Megan Fox. And I honestly think Mikala’s absence hampers the Sam Witwicky and other aspects of this movie quite severely. Its very obviously, her replacement, Carly was her name in the script and just scratched out and a couple added lines of dialogue. From the progression of the previous films, it would make sense that Mikala now works for a race car driver. After Revenge of the Fallen, it would make sense that her and Sam reverse their successes and now he has to deal with being jealous and feeling like he’s falling short. Also, there’s a scene where Carly approaches Megatron and tells him off like she’s been there for 3 movies. Its really awkward and doesn’t feel right. Oh and it would also make sense that a proposal is in order for the end of the movie with Bumblebee dropping rings. Instead we get a bad performance from Rosie Huntington-Whitely and a relationship that nobody buys and tries to advance to places that aren’t earned.

Lets go back here to Megan Fox. She was booted by Bay at the request of Spielberg from this movie for speaking her mind about Bay comparing him to Hitler. Now, retroactively it seems they say Fox chose not to return herself. I don’t know what’s true, but her and Bay buried a hatchet as he put her in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. If the original story is true though, that’s a bunch of bullshit and backward that they would keep bringing back Shia LaBeouf who at the time was a completely destructive individual doing much worse things than “speaking” things. As a matter of fact, after the first film, we’ve been given really all we need from Sam Witwicky. They really should have pulled a Speed 2 with this series and followed Fox’s Mikala. She’s a far more capable character and is into and knowledgeable about cars. She’s the perfect prospect for a human lead in one of these. She’s far more enjoyable than the over hyper, ridiculous, insane, sexist and misogynistic Sam Witwicky.

Sorry, tangent there. Dark of the Moon is a nice film that gets this series back on track. This was the perfect time for Bay to bow out and leave it in someone else’s hands. He had shown that the first film was not a fluke and managed to impress with this series once again. This third film feels much different than what came before, ramps things up to about as big as they can without a space battle and has a pretty solid and easy to follow plot. There is still a lot that it gets wrong or embarassingly bad, but it does enough right and brings back that fun popcorn entertainment that was the first.

Video 

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail: Broken record here, its Transformers 4K UHD. It looks terrific and carries the same benefits as the previous two releases. The live action and CGI are a better marriage than the second film, though I think the image on the first one is more seamless. This one ups the ante with crazy robotics and also gives them more color and character, being brighter and slicker. Details are very strong here and the image is crisp and sharp. Its a little more vivid and bright than the prior two films, but it also takes place majority in the daytime as well. I don’t think many are going to find disappointment with this picture.

Depth:  This movie was released in theaters in 3D, so naturally it lends itself to some good spacing and a mutlidimensional look. Movements are smooth and fluid with no jitter or blur distortion during some of the heavy duty rapid action scenes.

Black Levels: Blacks are pretty deep and have some really good saturation and are able to retain pretty much all the details. Like usually, great stuff comes at night, but this Transformers movie is more day-dominant than the other two. No crushing witnessed during this viewing of the film.

Color Reproduction: The more these films keep going, the more colorful they become. The autobots keep looking less monotonous and now come in bright greens and reds as opposed to just Bumblebee and Optimus Prime looking the most non-gray. The Sentinel looks luscious in his red. The pillars set off some cool stuff that gets the HDR going, as well as the energy bursts, computer monitors, tail lites and much more the things we’ve seen before.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are, as always, warmer and keep their look from the onset to the credit roll. Facial features and textures are clear as day, showcasing make-up, lip texture, sweat (You know it!), dirt, dried blood, pores and more.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

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, Spanish & Portuguese

Dynamics: Here we go again, bass heavy Atmos track that rocks your world while you listen. Like the others, this is an immersive experience that features an insane amount of total destruction with every bit and piece of flying debris perfectly captured in this mix. Its well balanced, very loose and just comes to life and feels natural, putting one in the middle of the action.

Height: Spaceships, helicopters, floating Transformers, falling soliders, debris, lots of things coming from above here. Helps that a full on metropolitan city is under Decepticon siege.

Low Frequency Extension: PLENTY of things go boom here. Crumbling buildings, stepping Transformers, blasts of energy, the pillars…a many many things giving your subwoofer a sweat.

Surround Sound Presentation: There are plenty of well captured and accurate movements and placements of sound. The highlight has to be that snake/tremors-like one that twirls around the building. That one alone really stretches and plays around your speaker system.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are good, clear and crisp. Audible and clean no matter how loud and booming the destruction may be.

Extras 

Transformers: Dark of the Moon 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.

Above and Beyond: Exploring Dark of the Moon (HD, 1:50:46)

Uncharted Territory: NASA’s Future Then and Now (HD, 26:15)

Deconstructing Chicago: Multi-Angle Sequences with Optional Commentary By Michael Bay and  Previsualization Supervisor Steve Yamamoto (HD, 17:05)

The Art of Cybertron

The Dark of the Moon Archive

  • 3D: A Transforming Visual Art (HD, 3:06)
  • Moscow World Premiere (HD, 2:29)
  • Birdmen Featurette (HD, 2:28)
  • Cody’s iPad (HD, 2:07)
  • The Sound of Transformers: Dark Of The Moon (HD, 9:17)

The Matrix of Marketing

  • Trailers – Teaser (HD, 2:34), Trailer (HD, 2:32)
  • Marketing Gallery

Summary 

Dark of the Moon was a bit of a return to form and much improved over the previous film in the series. Its just fine and a nice compliment to the first. The 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray debut of it is right up there with its contemporaries. Impressive video and audio to go along with all the very thorough bonus material ported over from the previous release of the film. Once again, Transformers fans, this is a terrific upgrade and home theater junkies, you’re going to get your money’s worth.

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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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