Transformers: Age of Extinction appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Michael Bay movies tend to look great on home video, and Extinction doesn’t provide an exception to that rule.
If you’ve seen prior Bay films, you’ll know what to expect from this one’s palette. As usual, teal and orange dominated, and while that trend was predictable, I couldn’t complain about the replication, as the hues looked strong within their stylistic constraints. Blacks came across as dark and tight, and shadows appeared smooth and easily discernible.
Sharpness worked well. Only the slightest sliver of softness ever affected wide shots, so the vast majority of the movie brought us terrific clarity and definition. No signs of jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I saw no edge haloes. Print flaws also failed to materialize. All in all, this offered a fine visual presentation.
For the first time ever, a Blu-ray comes with a Dolby Atmos soundtrack – if you own the equipment to play it. The track works on standard Blu-ray players but requires an Atmos-equipped receiver – as well as more speakers. Maybe someday I’ll upgrade for Atmos, but that day isn’t today.
Happily, the Atmos mix plays back as Dolby TrueHD 7.1 for those of us with “antiquated” systems – and as I expect from a Transformers movie, it’s an excellent mix. The soundfield presented an active and lively piece that constantly engaged the various speakers. The film showed distinctive imagery throughout the movie that placed different auditory elements accurately within the spectrum and meshed them together nicely.
Music provided strong stereo imaging, and effects popped up from the appropriate locations. Quieter scenes displayed natural ambience, while the many action set pieces involved engrossing and vibrant imaging. All the Transformers movies have provided terrific soundscapes, and Extinction offered no exception.
Audio quality also seemed positive. Speech consistently appeared natural and crisp, and I noticed no issues related to edginess or intelligibility. Music sounded bright and dynamic as the disc neatly replicated the score.
Effects packed a nice wallop when necessary, as these elements seemed clean and distinct at all times. Bass response came across as deep and tight, and the low-end added a good layer of depth and oomph to the package. This was a soundtrack to challenge your subwoofer, as it really administered a heavy punch. I thought this was a consistently impressive soundtrack.
In this package, we get both 2D and 3D versions of the film. The picture quality comments above reflect the nature of the 2D edition – does the 3D image add much to the proceedings?
Yes – and not just via the 3D effects. Parts of Extinction use digital IMAX cameras, so when the movie comes to those segments, the 2.40:1 image opens up to 1.90:1 dimensions.
This becomes the fourth Blu-ray I’ve viewed that comes with this kind of presentation, as Extinction follows 2008’s Dark Knight, 2012’s Dark Knight Rises and 2013’s Star Trek: Into Darkness. (Apparently one version of the third Transformers film also had an “IMAX version” but I never saw it.)
These discs differ from Extinction in two ways. First, the earlier movies use a different IMAX aspect ratio, as they open up to 1.44:1 for the IMAX-specific material, whereas Extinction “only” broadens to 1.90:1. This means that on Blu-ray, the Dark Knight and Trek movies move to 1.78:1 – cropped from the original 1.44:1 – whereas Extinction gives us mild bars on 16X9 sets to replicate the original 1.90:1.
The other difference between Extinction and its earlier variable ratio presentations stems from the format. The Dark Knight movies and Trek give us the IMAX footage in their 2D versions; of course, neither of the Dark Knight movies existed in a 3D edition, so that wasn’t an issue, but the 3D Trek stayed 2.40:1.
On the other hand, Extinction only provides the variable ratio edition on its 3D disc. If you watch the 2D version, you’ll just get the 2.40:1 presentation.
I regard that as a disappointing choice, as it feels like a marketing ploy to force fans to buy the more expensive 3D package – and it comes with a limited audience since not that many folks own 3D TVs. Even though I can watch the 3D version, I’d still prefer to have the option to watch the variable ratio IMAX cut 2D; I can’t think of a logical reason it couldn’t appear as well.
I loved the IMAX editions of the Dark Knight and Trek movies and felt pleased with the variable ratio Extinction as well, though not to the same degree. I thought the expansion to 1.90:1 lacked the same impact found in the other movies, perhaps because seems to lack rhyme or reason behind its usage.
On the positive side, Extinction appears to boast more IMAX footage than any of its predecessors. With about 70 minutes of IMAX material, Dark Knight Rises was the prior champ – and it still might take the crown, as I couldn’t get an accurate estimate of the amount of IMAX found in Extinction. When I launched the Blu-ray, I planned to keep track of the IMAX snippets’ running times, but this quickly became impractical; the film jumps from 2.40:1 to 1.90:1 so often that the effort required for a a formal tally would’ve driven me bonkers.
My estimate tells me that a whole lot of Extinction comes with IMAX footage – I think more than half of it uses 1.90:1, but that’s honestly just a guess. I searched the Internet for more formal documentation but couldn’t find it.
Whatever the exact total Extinction definitely includes plenty of IMAX material, but its usage can seem befuddling. Traditionally, filmmakers went IMAX for big action scenes and stayed 2.40:1 for dialogue sequences. In Extinction, Bay combines the two without much logic. Scenes that don’t need the extra screen space give it to us, and then big set pieces slim down to 2.40:1.
We get enough of the IMAX footage that this doesn’t become a true distraction, but it does limit the usefulness of the aspect ratio expansion. I suspect the IMAX parts of the Dark Knight and Trek films seem superior because their creators used them in a more logical fashion. Since Bay flits from one ratio to another with such abandon, the variable ratio presentation doesn’t fare as well; I still like it, but it doesn’t impress me as much as I expected.
The same goes for the 3D elements themselves. Parts of Extinction use the added dimensionality well, but others lack much to give the scenes much of a boost. Even the action scenes fail to deliver terrific 3D integration; they work fine but don’t deliver a great sense of involvement.
Viewers with the necessary equipment will want to go with the 3D version; complaints aside, it’s still the better presentation. However, those “stuck” with the 2D rendition won’t find themselves at a significant disadvantage, as that edition works nearly as well.
Most of the set’s extras appear on Disc Three. The main attraction comes from Evolution Within Extinction, a multi-part documentary that runs two hours, two minutes, 50 seconds. It includes notes from producers Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Ian Bryce, Hasbro VP Transformers Franchise Lead Jay Duke, production designer Jeffrey Beecroft, executive producer/Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner, Paramount Film Group president Adam Goodman, screenwriter Ehren Kruger, director/executive producer Michael Bay, 1st AD/co-producer KC Hodenfeld, art director Benjamin Edelberg, transportation coordinator Randy Peters, paint sign writer Sean Sult, Aria Group Chief Production Manager James Desmond, GM Design show car coordinator Mike Erdodi, transportation captain/driver Joey Freitas, stunt coordinator Mike Gunther, drivers Corey Eubanks and Kyle Woods, supervising location manager JJ Hook, set decorator Rosemary Brandenberg, lead person Jon Bush, robot inventors Steve Norris and Miike Smyth, special effects coordinator Jim Schwalm, visual effects supervisor Scott Farrar, special effects foreperson Craig “Tex” Barnett, special effects technician Richard O. Helmer, co-producer/stunts Michael Kase, unit production manager/co-producer Allegra Clegg, executive producer Mark Vahradian, supervising location manager Ilt Jones, GM Aerodynamics Engineering Group manager Robert Niemiec, supervising art director Mark W. Mansbridge, set designer Rob Johnson, armorer Chuck Rousseau, lead assistant location manager Leann Emmert, special effects supervisor John Frazier, construction coordinator C. Jonas Kirk, art director Sebastian Schroder, lead assistant location manager Manny Padilla, propmaker foreperson Jeff Scott Hall, special effects technician Matt DiSarro, assistant set decorator Kevin Kropp, sound mixer Peter Devlin, 3D rig technician Seth Gallagher, Hong Kong 1st AD Sylvia Liu, location manager Matt Wersinger, ILM visual effects producer Wayne Billheimer, ILM animation supervisor Rick O’Connor, digital supervisor John Hansen, digital artist supervisors Andy Proctor and Michael Balog, composer Steve Jablonsky, musician Dan Reynolds, and actors Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor, Kelsey Grammer, Titus Welliver, TJ Miller, Sophia Myles, Stanley Tucci, Li Bingbing, Melanie Specht, Abigail Klein, Victoria Summer, Mark Ryan, Patrick Bristow, Kevin Covais, and Peter Cullen.
“Evolution” looks at new characters and Transformer design, story areas and changes from the prior films, cast and performances, various vehicles and stunts, sets, locations, and production design, practical and visual effects, editing, music and audio. With more than two hours at its disposal, I hoped “Evolution” would offer a rich, detailed look at the production. While it does give us plenty of information, it still seems more than a little superficial. There’s simply a promotional veneer that affects the overall impact of the piece. “Evolution” comes with more than enough material to make it worthwhile, but it doesn’t wholly satisfy.
Four featurettes follow. Bay on Action lasts 10 minutes, 45 seconds and delivers the director’s thoughts about his visual style and his take on action sequences. Love him or hate him, Bay tends to be an interesting speaker, and he makes this an informative piece.
During the 10-minute, three-second Just Another Giant Effin’ Movie, we get a compilation reel. It acts as a blooper reel of sort as it shows nuttiness during the production. Some may enjoy it, but it leaves me pretty cold.
A Spark of Design fills 15 minutes, 24 seconds with info from Jay Duke, Brian Goldner, qTransformers Senior Design Director Joshua Lamb, Transformers Design Manager John Warden, Transformers Creative Brand Manager Jonathan Newkirk, Hasbro Model Shop Senior Designer Patrick Marr, CAD modeler Steven Gray, Supervisor RP Design and Engineering Development Peter Baker, senior caster Mike Cody, and model artist Mark Maher. “Spark” looks at aspects of the design and creation of the Transformers toys. If that subject interests you, it turns into a decent piece, but I must admit it feels like a long ad for Hasbro.
Finally, TJ Miller: Farm Hippie occupies 19 minutes, 43 seconds and gives us a video diary with actor Miller. He visits Mark Wahlberg, Michael Bay, Kelsey Grammer and Optimus Prime. All of this attempts comedy, and it occasionally succeeds. However, at almost 20 minutes, “Hippie” runs too long so the potential for amusement fades along the way.
Under trailers, four ads appear. In addition to two standard trailers for Extinction, we find “KRE-O Transformers: Take Us Through The Movies!” (3:42) and “Angry Birds Transformers: Origin Story” (1:16). Based on the KRE-O toys – and clearly influenced by The LEGO Movie, “Take Us” gives us a run-through of the first three films’ plots; it’s cute and fun. “Birds” emulates the format of the 1980s Transformers TV series to sell the new video game. It also entertains, though it seems less enjoyable than “Take Us”.
Finally, a fourth disc provides a DVD copy of Extinction. It lacks any extras.
Going into the fourth film in the franchise, fans know what to expect from Transformers: Age of Extinction. Even with new protagonists, the movie follows the formula established in the first three flicks, and that means we get another sporadically exciting but often tedious experience. The Blu-ray boasts excellent picture and audio along with supplements highlighted by a long – if erratic – documentary. Extinction won’t turn off fans of the Transformers series but it seems unlikely to convert new partisans.