“Before time began, there was the Cube. We know not where it comes from, only that it holds the power to create worlds and fill them with life. That is how our race was born. For a time, we lived in harmony. But like all great power, some wanted it for good, others for evil. And so began the war. A war that ravaged our planet until it was consumed by death, and the Cube was lost to the far reaches of space. We scattered across the galaxy, hoping to find it and rebuild our home. Searching every star, every world. And just when all hope seemed lost, message of a new discovery drew us to an unknown planet called… Earth.”
In this version of Transformers, Earth is caught up in an age-old conflict between two factions of an Autobot society. These sentient mechanical beings ravaged their own planet with war and now threaten to continue their struggle on a new battlefield: Earth. The bad guys are the evil robots called Decepticons. They see Earth as a new place to sow their seeds of destruction and humans as a minor infestation to be eliminated. The leader, Megatron, has been secretly kept in suspended animation by the government since the 1930’s. The good guys are a guardian group of robots called Autobots, led by a bot named Optimus Prime. Both groups are in search of a cube structure that is more than a little reminiscent of a Borg cube, called The Spark. This cube contains the power of life that can be spread to any technological device to create new Decepticons. So our evil friends envision an Earth overrun by newly created bots from Earth’s own machines.
Michael Bay made the very smart decision to mold this film not around the Transformers, but around a distinctively human element. Thus the film was made far more accessible to folks like me, not particularly big Transformer fans. Shia Le Beouf has been getting a ton of work lately, from last year’s Disturbia to the upcoming Indiana Jones film. His performance here is a good example of why he’s becoming so busy. LeBeouf does a fine job of providing the human face to the f/x spectacular. His character, Sam, has two important connections to the bots. His grandfather is the explorer who discovered Megatron and has left him a pair of reading glasses that are far more than they seem. He also comes to own the popular transformer, Bumblebee, when he buys a rather broken down yellow and black Camaro. His romantic interest and fellow adventurer is Mikaela, played wonderfully by Megan Fox. There’s a good amount of chemistry between these two that appropriately begins as quite awkward but develops slowly into a camaraderie during the film. Las Vegas’ Josh Duhamel is underused as a soldier who is one of the first to engage a Decepticon. Jon Voigt also adds believability to the film in his role as Secretary of Defense. John Turturro adds the comedy relief as special agent Simmons, who attempts to force the kids to help them.
Of course, most of us came to see f/x and lots of them. You won’t be disappointed, as this film does it all. While the first hour of the film moves along rather slowly, there’s no doubt that the last hour of this film is one long action sequence after another. The final battle takes place with all of the explosions, weapons fire, and Transformer battles you could want. I wasn’t completely happy with the actual transformations, because most of them happen with alarming speed, so you don’t get to take in the dynamics of what part becomes what on the actual fighting robot. Again, I never saw the cartoons or the 1984 animated feature, but these Transformers come armed to the teeth, often literally. Mortars, lasers, and powerful bombs and missiles populate nearly every inch of these bad boys, and they’re not afraid to use them. The result is a wonderful culmination of mostly CGI mixed in with practical stunts and gags, with some miniature work as well. The final hour… well, that’s just showing off.
Finally, I was actually impressed with the script. Often in films like these the alleged story is lost somewhere between f/x shots, and no one seems to worry too much about it. I found this story built a solid foundation for all the mystery and mayhem to follow. Bay actually gives credit to his audience and gives them a complicated plot with plenty of B and C arcs going on to keep you happy between the action sequences. I don’t really know how this story fits in with the original Transformers lore, but enough was explained that I felt pretty comfortable that I knew who these things were and what it was they wanted to do. You do not have to have seen anything Transformers before to totally enjoy this incredible rollercoaster ride. When it comes to Transformers, as Sgt. Shultz might have said, “I know nothing,” but that didn’t stop me from, did I say, having a rockin’ time.
Transformers is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The ultra-high-definition 2160p image is arrived at by an HEVC codec with an incredible average 80 mbps. Colors are outstanding and offer a sweet, glossy brilliance that brings out the full palette of the film. Bumblebee’s bright yellow exterior, along with the other bright and shiny Transformers, looks about as good as you could hope for. I was particularly impressed with the desert sand fight with the giant scorpion. The level of light diffusion through the flying sand contrasted with the machine itself demonstrates how well these f/x blend into their environments. The orange flare smoke offers a wonderful example of the depth that UHD provides. You get nice color separation of the bright orange smoke with soldiers at various places within the well-defined smoke field. This all repeats itself with green smoke and city environments toward the end of the film. The detail allows you to really see the inner workings of the machines like never before. Black levels are inky black with tons of sweet shadow definition.
The Dolby Atmos presentation defaults to a solid 7.1 track. And it is just as much of an upgrade as the picture. You want sub woofer? You want magnificent tones from the score? You’ve got it, and more. I was able to completely immerse myself in the action. Dialog somehow cut through all of this high-powered sound without a single problem. You’ll get plenty of ground-shaking boom out of your system. This is the disc you’re going to play for your friends to show off what your gear can do. Everything else carried a very fine clarity throughout. The surrounds benefited from subtle nuance effects to full-blown ear-shattering screams of power so that you never find yourself bored with what you hear. If your ears have a sweet tooth, this release will put them into insulin shock with all of this ear candy.
The extras are all on the Blu-ray copy of the film and are the same as the earlier Blu-ray release.
You’re going to want this upgrade. I’m not really a Transformers fan. I never got into the cartoons, comics, or toys, but this film is too much of a fun ride not to love. If you’ve been holding off going Blu, then the film you’ve been waiting for is now here in 4K on UHD. I don’t care how good your old Blu-ray player is, this 4K UHD is going to blow you away. In this release there really is “more than meets the eye”.