When Director Michael Bay first started behind the camera for 2007’s Transformers, his bombastic blockbuster style seemed almost a perfect match for the robotic mayhem incorporated with the infamous toy line from the 1980’s. Say what you will about the substance of his films, the dude definitely knows how to make fast vehicles look good, create exhilarating action scenes and blow stuff up real effectively.
The first film in the series was certainly a positive step for the franchise. Although it had flaws, it still proved to be wildly entertaining (especially for a fan boy of the original cartoon). But the two following sequels (2009’s Revenge Of The Fallen and 2011’s Dark Of The Moon) were not so lucky. Although all the movies made unreal bank at the box-office, fans felt that Bay’s overstuffing style and weak script content was starting to hurt the appeal their beloved robot characters’ magical appeal at the movies.
And so, even though their were rumblings he was finished with the series, Bay signed up once more for the fourth film; Age Of Extinction (which essentially kicks off a new trilogy of films). Taking place a few years after the events after Dark Of The Moon, the Autobots find themselves on the run and in hiding after a secret ops division of the government blames them for all the destruction incurred with their war against the Decepticons, including the massive devastation that took place in Chicago.
After stumbling upon a broken-down Optimus Prime, a Texas-based inventor (Mark Wahlberg) and his daughter (Bates Motel’s Nicola Peltz) become the remaining Autobots new allies against the forces trying to wipe them out (including a robotic bounty hunter named Lockdown and a series of new Transformers created by humans that are contaminated with Megatron’s programming).
Since Age Of Extinction kicks off a new direction for the characters, Bay completely guts the original human cast (Shia LaBeouf, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, John Turturro) with a brand new one (which includes Kelsey Grammar, Stanley Tucci and Titus Welliver). Another obvious hook for the new film is the long-awaited addition of the Dinobots (who make their mark in the last act of the movie) along with new Autobots voiced by veteran actors John Goodman (Monsters University), Ken Watanabe (Godzilla) and Ray Winstone (Noah).
In comparison to the other films, Age Of Extinction is arguably the worst instalment the series has ever produced and the most glaring in all the elements that made fans groan initially about the two previous sequels. As before, the human element involved in the film are the worst characters to get behind. Wahlberg not only hams it up as Cade, but it is incredibly difficult as a viewer to get behind his expertise as an inventor. His storyline involving his daughter dating a race-car driver will likely make you quite nauseous while all the other mayhem is taking place, but the one saving grace is Stanley Tucci’s character as a corporate genius and he absolutely gets the best line in the film when the action moves to China.
Fans also might be disappointed with the limited time on screen with the Dinobots and the new Autobot characters (who prove to be the most interesting to watch, if a little stereotypical), while also getting really annoyed with the continued push to make the robotic heroes more edgy and less heroic (Crosshairs behaves like Starscream eyeing for the Autobot leadership, while Optimus becomes very embittered and borderline murderous against certain humans). A lot of the action is over-extensive and bloated, more so than any other Transformers film made before and it legitimately becomes mind-numbing, reinforcing very strongly what critics and fans of Michael Bay have been saying for years.
Fans know that Transformers films can be made with far more conviction and substance than they’ve been given in recent years and even though Extinction destroyed the competition when it went worldwide theatrically for grosses, it’s quite evident that Bay’s slight redemption with Dark Of The Moon over Fallen was short-lived and his role in the series should be handed off to a new director who can infuse a fresh style upon it (perhaps Fast & Furious’ Justin Lin?).
As much as the movie is a stale let down, the Blu-ray/DVD package put out by Paramount certainly is not. Say what you will about Bay’s quality of content in his films, he unquestionably knows how to make things ‘look’ great on camera. The 1080p high-definition image (2.40:1 aspect ratio) delivers gorgeous picture quality and razor-sharp detail that is certainly poised to hypnotize and dazzle viewers at home, even if the content doesn’t quite back it up.
The same can be said for Age Of Extinction’s audio options. This is the first Blu-ray release to offer ‘Dolby Atmos’ – a format carried by high-end movie theatres with overhead speakers, plus a rock-solid Dolby Digital 7.1 TrueHD option. Regardless of your sound capabilities at home, Extinction is a phenomenal, immersive audible experience on a home theatre system. The range is outstanding whether through scenes of action chaos or dialogue stretches.
Followers who were miffed at Dark Of The Moon’s 2011 bare bones release before the Ultimate Edition that contained the bonus content, will be happy to see that Paramount does not make the same mistake this time around. Extinction is loaded with hours of supplemental material all at once on a second disc. The key feature being a two-hour plus, eight-part documentary entitled ‘Evolution Within Extinction‘ that covers the cast changes, the vehicles, the Dinobots, editing the film (which still clocks in at a long run-time) and production shooting in Texas, Detroit, Chicago (again) and notably Hong Kong.
Additional features include Michael Bay sounding off candidly about his directing style and habits (which should amuse naysayers), behind-the-scenes funny moments, making the toys at Hasbro, co-star T.J. Miller clowning around with the cast and a collection of the movie’s trailers. The edition also comes with a standard definition DVD disc and options for digital downloads.
Anyone who has become disenchanted with Bay’s committed franchise formula over the course of three films will not have any change of heart when it comes to Transformers: Age Of Extinction. The fourth film overkills a lot of the issues that were already laid out by the previous films and does not do itself any favours to take the series in an energetic new direction. However, the Blu-ray package Paramount delivers for the film is of a royal nature in quality, making the choice to pick this up extremely conflicting. If you’re a fan of the previous films, it’s certainly warranted to have in your collection, but if you’re not…a good reason to lay your money down is hard to come by, but the Blu-ray’s audio and visual capabilities are a hell of a ride.