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Blu-ray Review: Transformers: Dark of the Moon

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Transformers: Dark of the Moon is the inevitable sequel to the disappointing, but financially successful Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. In all respects it is a better movie, but never quite hits the quality of the first film in the series. It has now arrived on Blu-ray and looks great but is delivered in a shallow and barebones format.

The Film

click to view larger imageThe story in Transformers: Dark of the Moon is much more streamlined than in the last Transformers adventure. The story begins by re-telling the the final moments of the war on Cybertron, where a secret Autobot weapon was believed destroyed. In reality, the ship carrying it was damaged and (conveniently) lands on Earth’s moon in the 1960s. The landing is spotted by the Americans (and presumably the Russians), and this is revealed as the real reason for the space race. When Apollo 11 lands on the moon the real mission is to have Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong investigate the ship. They enter the ship, discovering the bodies of the Auobots onboard and bring back samples and evidence that there is other life in our universe.

Flash forward to present day Earth and things have settled down after the Autobots defeated the Fallen.  Megatron (Hugo Weaving) has gone into hiding and the the Autobots are now assisting  the U.S. forces (who are dealing with terrestrial problems) as they continue to hunt for any lingering Decepticon threats.

The human hero from the first two movies, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), has finished college and is bitter with the government and the world for forgetting about him while he languishes jobless. On the bright side, he has somehow managed to score a new girlfriend named Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) who supports him and the two tiny Autobots he is taking care of.

click to view larger imageOf course life can never be simple for Sam, and when he finally gets a job he becomes embroiled in a new plot involving the crashed Autobot spaceship. It seems the Decepticons know it is there and have been involved in a long running plot to hide evidence that there is more to the ship. The have been coercing aerospace engineers and scientists around the world in an effort to hide what is actually happening to the ship on the moon. One of these engineers, Jerry Wang (Ken Jeong), is Sam’s co-worker. Jerry recognizes Sam and hands him some secret documents detailing the Decepticon plot before being killed by the Decepticon Laserbeak.

Sam attempts to re-enter the world of the Autobots with this information and helps the Autobots to also discover that their lost ship had landed on the moon. They travel to the crash site on their own working star ship (which is inexplicably later shown and people seem shocked they have it) and recover the captain of the ship, Sentinel Prime (Leonard Nimoy), as well as the secret weapon. I won’t reveal what happens next so as to not spoil the story for the five people who haven’t seen it, but the remainder of the film has the Autobots, led by Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen), battling the Decepticons as they proceed with Megatron’s  plan to restore Cybertron.

click to view larger imageTransformers: Dark of the Moon has a great many issues that I will talk about in a moment, but it has to be said that this is one of the finest action spectacles in years. Michael Bay has executed a film that gives the fans what they have been asking for, a two-hour unabashed giant robot battle. Autobots and Decepticons battle each other mercilessly, Optimus Prime has a battle station full of devastating weapons, and the Decepticons are joined by the powerful Soundwave and Shockwave. The Transformers look amazing and animate perfectly. The battles are nothing short of amazing in their jaw dropping presentation. Even the humans represent themselves in a great manner with wingsuits, tactical teams and an amazing chase sequence through the outside of a collapsing skyscraper.

The action is terrific, but unfortunately the editing, pacing and story surrounding it are far from perfect. My first big, big issue with Transformers: Dark of the Moon is in how it represents its characters, which is to say it doesn’t. The first film actually focused on the characters a great deal; we knew and understood Bumblebee, got how heroic Optimus is, understood Lennox’s drive to see his family again, and even sympathized with Sam and his persona.

In Dark of the Moon, the characters are just…there. Gone is any hint that Lennox is anything but a soldier (and he has a big role), Sam, while shockingly funny at times, is winy and attention seeking. Let’s not mention the complete 180 of Megatron’s personality to a sniveling sidekick or the completely pointless Carly character. Michael Bay seems to have gone too far in his attempt to give us an action spectacle and drained the life from all the characters.

click to view larger imageThe movie is also completely riddled with plot holes, throwaway scenes, and inconsistencies to the point of being ludicrous. Megatron had been on earth since the 1920s (and known by the President). Yet when the crash happens in the ’60s, it is a big revelation that we are “not alone.”

Other big oddities include placing Decepticons all over the world at one point, only to have them swiftly forgotten. In addition, Sentinel Prime doesn’t take the Matrix of Leadership despite the fact that it would have really made a difference. There are also many scenes that seem to function only as screen filler in an already overlong movie. That greatly hurts the pacing of the film.

At the end of the day, Transformers: Dark of the Moon is a fun popcorn movie I genuinely did enjoy as long as I didn’t take it too seriously. There are some terrific action sequences featuring an Optimus Prime that is tougher then his entire team put together, and a standout performance by Alan Tudyk as Simmons (John Turturro) assistant Dutch. The movie could have been one of the greatest action films of our generation if Michael Bay had reigned in the number of characters, focused the plot, and ditched the vapid love interest for Sam. The end result is movie that is a mess, but is also an outstanding spectacle of action and explosions.

The Video

click to view larger imageSay what you will about Michael Bay and the Transformers films, but one thing you cannot say is that they don’t look good. Like other entries in the franchise, Transformers: Dark of the Moon is a visual triumph on Blu-ray featuring a 1080p transfer with a 2.40:1 aspect ratio that is nothing short of perfect. The movie was filmed with both film and digital cameras and there is definitely a sense that some scenes have different textures, but they all meld together in one stunning reel. The textures are detailed and as sharp as possible, colors are bright and black levels are flawless. Transformers: Dark of the Moon relies heavily on digital effects and the melding of live action to CG is executed better than any other film I have seen thus far. The sheer technique is an outstanding accomplishment, and the transfer was executed perfectly. This could be a reference Blu-ray to show off your setup, if only the film itself were as good as the visuals.

The Audio

I watched Transformer: Dark of the Moon in a dimly lit room with the volume up at a nice cacophonous level and I was blown away by the quality of the Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio mix. I saw this movie originally in a cutting edge theatre and while my speakers are nowhere near the quality of the theatres my sound experience at home was just as satisfying. What really astounded me listening to the audio was how detailed and enveloping the audio is in nearly every situation. During action scenes the shots, crashes and explosions wash over you and the bass touches your bones, yet you can still discern everything going on aurally. In the quieter character focused scenes there is still a great deal of ambience as rain, chatter or general activity surround you as characters interact. The audio is incredibly well implemented from start to finish with dialog always clear and understandable, music soaring and setting the mood and the rumble of heavy bots battling washing over you. The terrific soundtrack really pulled me into the movie and puts you into the scenes in a great way.

The Extras

Where are the extras???Well this will be easy, there are none. Well aside from this being a combo disc which includes the Blu-ray, a DVD copy and a digital copy there are absolutely no extras in this package. I cannot believe how blatant a cash grab this release obviously is. In fact, Paramount seems to embrace this by including a 10 dollar coupon for the upcoming 3D Blu-ray release, which will probably be loaded with content. Shame on you Paramount for releasing this incomplete Blu-ray. The extra features have always been great for this series and would have made this a much more attractive release.

The Final Word

Transformer: Dark of the Moon fixes a number of issues from the debacle that was Revenge of the Fallen but still falls prey to Michael Bay’s vanity and ends up being a mess plot and continuity wise. It is a true shame because the action is top notch, and the movie looks and sounds amazing. This release is also completely devoid of any supplemental features that could have made this a much more compelling purchase. As it stands this Blu-ray version of Transformers: Dark of the Moon is only for those who want the bare movie experience, the rest of us should wait for the inevitable deluxe version.

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About Michael Prince

Looking at all things Geek - news, rants and updates from the worlds of gaming, tech, blu-ray, novels, and music.