|Written by Simon Crust|
published 22nd February 2012
Supplied for review by
“How can anyone make a bad film about giant robots fighting each other?”
That was the question that was on everyone’s lips after 2009’s terrible follow up to 2007’s smash hit Transformers. Blamed on the writer’s strike Revenge of the Fallen was in many ways a typically Michael Bay film; bloated production, stylised and action driven, but it failed to deliver on any character front and was quite simply a bad film. However, not one to let a monster franchise slumber, Paramount were eager to bring the Transformers back on line, so much so they brought this sequel’s release date forward by twelve months, capitalised on 3D technology and brought back many members of the original cast and crew to try and sweep away the bad taste of ‘Fallen’ by delving into a darker story line, bring forward the characters and upping the action stakes into what many believed, at the time, was going to be the biggest and best sequel; Dark...[Read the complete movie review]
The disc presents a theatrically correct widescreen 2.4:1 1080p 3D transfer and is Region Free.
A curious anomaly is this Transformers picture, as it should technically be termed a ‘hybrid’ picture since while the majority was filmed natively in 3D, a not insignificant portion, some one third to a half of it (i.e. all, but not limited to, the CGI), is converted using post production methods. This means that while the film was initially conceived to be in 3D (at the behest of the studio, not the director who was less than impressed with the method and never thought it would work with his style of filming) and there has been some thought into the construction of how the frames should appear, there still remain instances of the conversation process and limitations on the 3D budget which have a somewhat negative impact on the film. However, first the good, for when the picture is at its best, it is very, very good. Scenes such as the Ark’s escape from Cybertron, the astronauts searching through the wreckage of the same on the Moon, sweeping shots of helicopters, or the Autobots in their car form driving on the highways, all contain significant and tangible volume to the objects sitting well within their defined space. The majority of the (human) characters are ‘round’ and show decent distance between characters in two shots which gives a very natural feel to the image. Establishing landscape shots can look exceptional as there is plenty of distance into the frame. There is good use of the 3D to really show off how big the transformers are in relation to their human counterparts, this is an effect that simply cannot be replicated in the 2D version and is perhaps, where the illusion is at its best. But, things are not perfect, converted scenes still have the associated problems that plague all post processing, they simply don’t look as good – this is helped by the fact that the robots, not being human, fool the eye/brain better and, indeed, it is only when there are humans in the frame that the effect is exaggerated to the degree when it becomes visible, but visible it is. Then, and this is perhaps the biggest problem with the 3D, we come to the action sequences which, quite frankly, are too frenetic for the brain to process, so any 3D illusion is completely lost and the frame instantly flattens – and this is true for any of the close up sequences – when the camera pulls back and looks at things in the distance (such as the army skydive, the pulverizing of the building or any of the overhead city shots) the effect is immediately brought back to something that is stunning to behold; thus there is an inconsistency to the imagery which pulls you into but unfortunately out of the picture which is too much for the brain to handle and consequently the image itself flattens. At the end of the film I was left distinctly underwhelmed by the 3D.
Not so the rest of the picture, however, which is absolutely reference in every other regard. Detail is quite phenomenal being pin sharp from the closest face to the furthest star and everything in-between. Skin texture is incredibly sharp, as are clothing weaves, brickwork or glass; take a look at the robots whose every scratch and blemish is disclosed with the utmost clarity, right into their eyes.
Colours are rich, bold and vibrant; typically ‘Bay’ in their representation. Blues are deep, reds are strong and greens are lush. Skin tones are way too orange, but that again is how they look in a Bay film and so are ‘natural’.
Contrast and brightness are set to give some incredibly deep blacks (with the usual 3D caveat) that really draws your eye into the picture, with plenty of shadow detail going on. Knowing the limitations of 3D Bay purposely kept the film bright and this pays dividends by keeping the contrast at a level that does not impact on the glasses at all.
Digitally there are no compression problems, there is no edge enhancement, there are no banding or posterization issues and using passive technology I encountered no crosstalk and only the barest minimum of aliasing. In almost every regard this is a stunning picture and had this been a 2D disc would have gotten a reference score, however, we are looking at the 3D picture and as such, even though it has touches of brilliance, it is not consistent thus it scores a high 7 from me.
Picture score : 7
I concentrate on the English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 track which is quite honestly incredible. Not only is it totally immersive, but it is precise, clear and has enough controlled bass to split your house in two. Right from the off you know this is going to be something special, the Paramount logo (as in the previous films) is accompanied by metallic whirrs and chimes that reverberate around the room, then Optimus’ voice fills the room as he tells the back-story of the Ark, to the sound of flybys, explosions and plasma shots; all precisely matching the on screen action. Things don’t let up when we get to Earth, the soundscape is lively and vivid with plenty going on to keep the surround speakers alive; be it wind, rains, clicks and whirrs from the Autobots, street or traffic ambiance or any other amount of effects to place you centrally within the room. The score goes further still to enhance this feeling.
Dialogue is kept very natural sounding, clear and precise despite the mayhem that can be erupting on screen and is given directionality when needed. But perhaps the star of the show must be the controlled bass that grabs your attention and refuses to let go throughout the run time; filling in the score, and effects, the sub, once the action really kicks off, has plenty to sing about, be it gun shots, explosions, buildings collapsing or plasma shots; and crucially it’s not just underlying rumble, there is presence and feeling – there are several outstanding low passes (the downing of the Decepticon aircraft, or Optimus’ final swipe at Sentinel) which go as low as a sub should ever go; top class stuff. Carnage is one thing, but when it sounds as controlled as this, it's seriously a joy to behold. Top demo material.
Sound score : 10
- Above and Beyond: Exploring Dark of the Moon (1.50.46, HD) – A five part documentary that charts the making of the film with plenty of behind the scenes filming and interviews with just about everyone who made a significant contribution to the production. At times candid, at other times fawning, this extensive look leaves no stone unturned with regard the pre, production and post elements that went into making the film – as a one stop making of, this is the place to get your fix. Making a film of this scale is a huge commitment of everyone involved and each department gets to show off how they contributed to the final product, it is quite gratifying to hear from those behind the scenes explain fully how such a mammoth endeavour can be achieved; though assertions that Bay is some kind of maverick director making up scenes during principle photography like he is some kind of Peckinpah just made me laugh – such a studio based production would have been streamlined extensively to get it in the can with the minimum amount of film. The five parts are titled: - Rising from the Fallen: Development and Design, - Ready for Prime Time: Filming Across America, - Battle in the Heartland: Shooting in Chicago, - Attack of the Birdmen: Aerial Stunts, - Shadow of the Sentinel: Post-Production and Release, each detailing with its specific topic while branching seamlessly into other production issues that it is associated with.
- Uncharted Territory: NASA’s Future Then and Now (23.15, HD) – A brief look at NASA, its history, what it has achieved, the International Space Station and where the program is heading.
- Deconstructing Chicago: Multi-Angle Sequences – A closer examination of two methods used extensively in modern film making. The first is Previsualizations (17.05, HD) and is used to visualise the film before principle photography, which here has twelve segments that can be watched either all together, individually or together with the Final Shot Comparison in a split screen and both can be played with or without an audio commentary from director Michael Bay and previsualization supervisor Steve Yamamoto. Basically its animatics used to plan out how the film will look, interesting to see how close they are to the final film (but they would be wouldn’t they?) and to hear the comments on how they were developed and filmed. The second method is Visual Effects (18.36, HD) which, as above, is twelve segments that can be watched either all together, individually or together with the Final Shot Comparison in a split screen and both can be played with or without an optional commentary by visual effects supervisors Scott Farrar and Matthew Butler. Basically this is the many ‘passes’ needed to bring the effects work alive on the final film, the commentary highlights the amount of work and computing power needed to fully realise the final product.
- The Art of CYBERTRON – A huge mass of production pictures/sketches split into five segments that you navigate with the forward and backwards buttons on the remote; Autobots, Decepticons, Environments, Weapons and Gear and Ships.
- The Dark of the Moon Archive – Another title that hides five separate features watched individually:
- - 3D: A Transforming Visual Art (03.06, HD) – Brief convention interview with Bay and James Cameron on the uses of filming in 3D.
- - Moscow World Premiere (02.29, HD) – Brief look at the enormous star studded premier at Moscow.
- - Birdmen Featurette (02.28, HD) – Curious short feature that has already been covered far more extensively in Attack of the Birdmen above.
- - Cody’s iPad (02.07, HD) – Somewhat touching feature about Bay providing an ipad for a disabled fan to enable him to communicate more efficiently.
- - The Sound of Transformers: Dark of the Moon (09.17, HD) – An all too brief look at the incredible work the sound designers achieved for the film. Very interesting feature that seems hidden away and should really have been part of the main making of documentary above.
- The Matrix of Marketing – A look at the trailers and poster art for the film.
- 2D Blu-ray – 2D version of the film.
- Digital Copy
Extras score : 8
Transformers: Dark of the Moon is Michael Bay’s third entry in Paramount’s (current) biggest franchise. After the hugely negative comments regarding the second film, Revenge of the Fallen, the studio were keen to get production back on track and Bay, himself, is on record as saying it was going to be bigger, better and have no “goofy humour”. Whilst that is largely true, what the film does suffer from is being a typical Michael Bay film, in that it is a bold, brash, uncouth, over-long action orientated film with no characterisation. To make matters worse the darker plot is actually quite neat, but it is hidden within the bloated production values and unnecessary story telling devices to extend a film well beyond its natural runtime. The acting, with the exception of John Turturro, is uniformly bad, especially from the star LaBeouf and the new leading lady, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, hastily brought in to cover the lack of Megan Fox, making it, at times, cringe worthy to watch. And whilst the action set pieces are undeniably spectacular they continue on so long as to go over the top; honestly the relatively slow pace of the first half so is shattered by the seizure inducing second half that it effectively splits the film in two. And to cap it off, after everything that occurs, the film ends so abruptly that it is actually jarring. No, Dark of the Moon, is not a good film, nor is it a particularly good Transformers film, and no amount of style will convince me otherwise. Astonishing, then, that is has made so much money and, if the whispers are to be believed, has led to a forth, re-boot, of sorts, helmed once again my Michael Bay. If there is going to be a reboot, please take it in a different direction and give us all a rest from Bay.
As a 3D Blu-ray Paramount have put together a terrific package that covers all the bases. The 3D disc itself is Region free and has a clear reference sound track, but the picture, whilst being reference in terms of its detail, colour and contrast, suffers in the 3D department – this is simply because it is only half native 3D, and those bit that are native are composed and edited in such a way as to make it difficult for the brain to compose the 3D illusion – Bay’s frenetic camera movements don’t lend themselves to the effect. When he pulls back and slows down the effect is exceptionally good, but it’s the inconsistency, coupled with the converted scenes, that bring the picture down making it rather mediocre. However, the rest of the set is very good, including as it does a reference 2D disc (both picture and sound) and a whole host of extra features on a separate Blu-ray, that delve deep into the making of the film, leaving no stone unturned in a sometimes candid approach to narration.
Overall score : 8
2,359 word review written by Simon Crust.
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3D Review equipment supplied by Panasonic