Love it or hate it, the facts don’t lie: Transformers: Dark of the Moon became one of the highest-grossing movies of all-time this summer, breaking box-office records and joining the exclusive billion-dollar club by the time the dust had settled. Unlike most of the critical world – I actually enjoyed the movie. Maybe it’s just my bias talking here, but I’ve liked all of the live-action Transformers films and really immersed myself in this universe. Marketed as the ‘final’ chapter in one of the most surprisingly blockbuster trilogies ever, director Michael Bay knows brings the spectacle to the screen, and his latest is one of the most visually impressive, technically aggressive cases of pure cinematic adrenaline that’s ever been put to screen.
As a huge fan of the original Transformers animated TV show and toy-line from the 80s, I never would’ve guessed in that the franchise would make such a huge comeback in my lifetime, and in many ways they’ve managed to save the biggest – and sometimes best – for last.
While it still can’t live up to the original film, it’s certainly worlds better than the Revenge of the Fallen and a fantastic sci-fi epic on its own with a plot that vaguely references the animated series. The story exists in an alternate universe, where the Apollo 11 lunar mission was actually a cover mission to investigate a mysterious signal coming from the moon’s surface, which turns out to be the corpse of the ancient Autobot leader, Sentinel Prime. After an intense battle with the gigantic Decepticon Shockwave in Chernobyl, Optimus Prime learns that the US government has been hiding the secret of his old master’s existence for some time, and quickly heads to the moon’s surface to revive him. Only then does Optimus learn the true power of Sentinel’s ultimate weapon, one with the power to create an intergalactic Space Bridge capable of transmitting enormous amounts of matter through the vast reaches of space, even a dying planet like Cybertron right into Earth’s orbit.
The movie is much darker and far more serious than either of its predecessors, especially during the intense destruction of Chicago, which is one of the most intense and action-packed sequences in cinematic history. But there’s plenty of laughs, as guest stars Ken Jeong as Jerry “Deep” Wang and Alan Tudyk as Dutch make great impressions. Newcomers to the series John Malkovich and Frances McDormand add serious wattage (especially Malkovich’s craziness), and it was more than a little interesting seeing Coen Brothers’ regulars McDormand and John Turturro reunite in a Transformers movie.
It was also more than cool to see Leonard Nimoy return to the franchise as the duplicitous Sentinel Prime, and to see all of the fun Star Trek references sprinkled throughout (extra points for his classic “needs of the many” line). Speaking of cool, how bizarre was it having Optimus Prime onscreen and discussing the lunar mission with the real Buzz Aldrin? Say what you will, but this movie probably introduced him to more kids than 12 years of school ever would.
Paramount has done an excellent job with the transfer of the film to 4K UHD Blu-ray with HDR color as the visuals are better than ever thanks to every little detail on the Autobots and Decepticons coming through perfectly as they move and thrash one another. The sound is just as impressive, as the DTS HD audio makes every thunderous clash, energy weapon, and explosion ring in loud and clear. Another plus with this release is that I finally get access to the special features that were missing with the initial release of the Blu-ray. “Above and Beyond: Exploring Dark of the Moon” is a hefty extra that runs for nearly two hours and goes into just about everything involving how the film came together, filming at various locations, and anything else viewers are curious about the movie. “Uncharted Territory: NASA’s Future Then and Now” takes us into NASA and how they’ve helped change the world with space exploration and how they’re still doing so. “Deconstructing Chicago: Multi-Angle Sequences” shows how they put in all those amazing special effects and has optional commentary by Michael Bay and Previsualization Supervisor Steve Yamamoto. There’s also some art and marketing extras, deleted scenes and more that round out the extras here.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon is a great film for those looking for an epic, action-packed spectacle featuring many of their beloved characters in Hasbro’s franchise, and the 4K UHD Blu-ray with HDR brings the ultimate experience of it home at last. Unlike the initial Blu-ray release that was missing any extras, I’m happy to report the extras are here and in abundance to keep special feature lovers more than busy, and makes this release more than worthy to roll out into your collection.