Before I get into this review I'm just going to say I'm sick of the Michael Bay haters. Why is it so "fashionable" to hate he and his movies? To me he's a great "popcorn flick" director - he makes movies to entertaining and that's what his films do in a massive way. Just look at the worldwide grosses of the three Transformer movies to date - $US709 million, $US836 million and $US1,123 million. It's obvious these films have a lot of fans, and I'm included in that.
While a majority of the crew returned to make this third outing one of the main changes has been replacing the writers of the first two films, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, with Ehren Kruger (who co-wrote the second Transformers film as well as The Ring, and Arlington Road). This third film starts out telling us the real reason for the race to the moon - that being to explore the crash site of an alien vessel which is from Cybertron. This ship contained the last hope for the Autobots but in the wrong hands this technology could also mean the end of planet Earth. It's up to the Autobots, with the help of Sam Witwicky, to save humanity... if they can.
While the second film dropped the ball in terms of storyline it must be said that this film is back on the money. Sure, it's not going to win an Academy Award for scriptwriting, but there is some depth an emotion here - I doubt if anyone that loves this series doesn't feel for Bumblebee at one particular point in the film. We're also very grateful that Michael Bay has toned down the humour in the film - there's still the occasional laugh - but nothing like the humping dogs or hash cookies from the last film. Even the "racial" twin Autobots, Mudflaps and Wheelie, have been given the boot from this film - no racial stereotype here.
When we reviewed Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen we asked just how Michael Bay could ever top the stunning action sequences in that film. Not only has he topped them but he has set all new benchmarks for destruction with the only film to come close in visual spectacle being Roland Emmerich's 2012. This film though is littered with jaw-dropping explosions and stunt work not least of which is a super wingsuit flying sequence. Watch the extras on this disc and you'll realise that these were filmed practically with stuntmen flying through the streets of Chicago.
Visual effects really are second to none in this film with the last film being almost an hour-long battle on the streets of Chicago. It's amazing how much of the action sequences are actually practically shot on location, but almost every scene required visual effects from ILM, Digital Domain or almost a dozen other companies that assisted technically with the production. This film must win the best visual effects Academy Award - if not, well, there's something wrong in this world.
Encoded at the film’s original 2.35:1 aspect ratio the video codec is given plenty of room to breathe with a bit rate, according to our PS3, that often hovers around 30Mbps, if not much higher.
In terms of the 3D version Transformers: Dark of the Moon is a film that had a vast majority of scenes filmed using native 3D while the occasional scene was shot in 2D due to technical issues and converted in post-production. Forget about many crap post-production efforts (Clash of the Titans), this is a 3D showcase that should sit right up there with Avatar and Resident Evil: Afterlife. If you own a 3DTV then this is certainly a showcase release for the format.
No matter whether you're watching the 2D or 3D version of this film, the Blu-Ray transfer is reference quality all the way with stunning amounts of fine detail, some of the most impressive visual effects every put to film (although Michael Bay does do a surprising amount of practical effects too), vibrant colours and superb contrast levels.
Just like the visuals there really are very few movies that have the same wow factor as the Transformers films and Transformers: Dark of the Moon really is a sonic tour de force (it's no surprise to hear this was nominated for Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing in this month’s Academy Awards). This latest release, however, drops the DTS-HD encoding for Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48Khz/24-bit) but there is no need to fear as this is a cracking, perfect transfer that offers every single bit of clarity and impact one would expect from the gorgeous musical score by Steve Jablonsky as well as the dialogue. The surround sound channels are given regular use while the LFE channel will kick in every time a Transformer moves around (Shockwave being a prime example!), or an explosion is heard - which is almost non-stop in the second half of the film. This is one of the most impressive films I've ever heard on Blu-Ray and certainly demo worthy.
Other audio tracks on this disc include English Audio Description, German, French, Italian and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks encoded at 640kbps. Naturally these tracks aren't a patch on the English lossless track but they'll get the job done fairly well if required. Subtitles on are provided in English, English for the Hearing Impaired, Danish, German, Spanish, French, Dutch, Norwegian, Finnish and Swedish. We sampled the English track and it was accurate to the on-screen dialogue.
Deconstructing Chicago: Multi-Angle Sequences (35:41/HD): This section contains twelve segments available in Previsualisation or Visual Effects form with optional commentary from Michael Bay and the artist involved. It's a good look at how detailed and planned out a film is before a single frame is shot on-set.
The Art of Cybertron (HD): This is a detailed image archive showing off the Transformers, Environments, Weapons and Gear and Ships. There are dozens of images present here, and some of the artwork really is spectacular.
The Dark of the Moon Archive (19:27/HD): This Archive contains five promotional clips including "3D: A Transforming Visual Art" (3:06) which is short segment from a presentation from James Cameron and Michael Bay. It's a shame we don't get the full interview in fact as it's well worth digging up online an watching, "Moscow World Premiere" (2:29) is a look at setting up and hosting the World Premiere at Red Square in Moscow, "Birdman Featurette" (2:28) which looks at the wingsuit jumpers, "Cody's iPad" (2:07) which is a nice piece with Michael Bay giving a young man with disabilities an iPad, and "The Sound of Transformers: Dark of the Moon" (9:17) is a nice extended look at the sound design in the film.
Review By: Dave Warner