Michael Bay’s latest symphony of giant robot mayhem gets a 3D Blu-ray release.
Having reviewed Transformers: Dark Of The Moon once already for 2D Blu-ray, you can click here to read my thoughts about the film – in short, it’s utter tosh – and yet I enjoyed this latest viewing more than I care to admit. So, for the 3D alone, the movie gets another star.
The 2D version that I looked at previously stopped agonisingly short of greatness in terms of video quality, but it was still rather good. When it comes to 3D it’s hard to be totally objective, simply because there is no defined set of video standards with which we can calibrate our 3D devices. To that end, a few screenshot sleuths have uncovered what appears to be an alarming issue with reduced brightness in the 2nd half of the film, and, certainly, in direct comparison with the 2D version it is somewhat duller. But when taken on its own merits, in the absence of any set calibration standards or a simultaneous viewing with the 2D Blu-ray, this 3D version is jaw-droppingly good.
The 2.40 widescreen image has a palpable sense of depth throughout the movie, allowing for some wonderfully nuanced 3D effects rather than the tacky ‘pop out’ nonsense that plagues 3D in general. If you want to see stuff explode out of the screen you’ve come to the wrong party, but if you want an image that displays many subtle (and some not so subtle) variations in dimensionality, then step right this way. What makes it even more impressive is that much of the film was shot using regular anamorphic 35mm, meaning that it had to be converted, and it’s a testament to the conversion team that it comes out on a par with the genuine stereo footage in terms of execution. Of course, when the action heats up you’d expect the 3D to step up a notch, and most of the Chicago siege is truly breathtaking.
I’ve always admired ILM’s work throughout the Transformers movies for its verisimilitude, yet being able to see these things in stereo makes them even more impressive and realistic. Take the scene with the glass tower getting cut in half by Shockwave’s snake thingy: the way that the light bounces differently off of each individual pane of glass sells the effect to the point where my brain simply believed that they destroyed a skyscraper in order to achieve the shot (obviously they didn’t, although you wouldn’t put it past Michael Bay).
As for the standard technical attributes, blacks are deep and inky, colour conforms to the usual Bay strictures of golden skin tones and the like, and detail levels are supremely sharp. There’s not as much as a glimmer of edge enhancement, and no obvious compression problems with this AVC encode either. And I can’t say that the perceived reduction in brightness (which is a cut-and-dried fault, according to certain keyboard warriors) affected my viewing pleasure in the slightest. There’s a little bit of crosstalk occasionally, like the bit where Ken Jeong whips out his guns, but that’s not enough to stop me from giving this a perfect score for its superlative 3D quality. No need to wait for the retail version of Avatar, the 3D demo disc of choice has arrived.
The audio is the same 7.1 Dolby TrueHD mix from the 2D Blu-ray, and it’s one of the most satisfying workouts your home cinema will ever have. The sound itself has a near 3D quality to it, panning effects around the entire sound stage with effortless grace and pinpoint accuracy, bolstered by a remarkably refined LFE channel that doesn’t just churn out noise for the sake of it. Dialogue is never lost amongst the chaos of battle either. It’s top quality stuff from start to finish.
Paramount have used this 3D release to give us some extra features which were sorely absent from the barebones 2D version. Disc producer Charlie de Lauzirika has once again come up with a superb set of goodies which rises far above the usual back-slapping fluff that passes for extras these days.
First and foremost is Above and Beyond: Exploring Dark Of The Moon, a five-part documentary that chronicles the making of the film (playable separately or as one whole piece, running 1 hr 50 minutes in total, in full 1080p quality). They start off by putting the boot into the diabolical 2nd film, explaining the whys and wherefores, what happened with Megan Fox on the new one, and so on. We move on to the stuntwork, including the insane tilting rig that doubled for a teetering skyscraper, and then we get a look at the location shoots in Florida, Detroit and Chicago. The penultimate segment focuses on the skydiving daredevils who created the amazing wingsuit sequences, and the whole thing’s finished off with a peek at the post-production process. The interviewees don’t pull their punches, and there’s plenty of interesting ‘behind-the-scenes’ moments, screen tests and other bits and bobs.
Next up is the 26-minute feature Uncharted Territory: NASA’s Future Then and Now, which takes a similarly blunt look at NASA’s options. Some folks are cautiously optimistic about what lies ahead, now that the US space program is in mothballs, while others openly lament the fact that the Russians are now the ones who are flying US astronauts into space (thereby invalidating the Cold War space race that America busted a gut to win). Well worth a viewing.
Then we have The Dark Of The Moon Archive, a selection of 5 featurettes which are more like typical EPK extras. Running 19 minutes in total, we briefly get to examine the 3D process used on the film; the efforts of the sound mixers as they put that stunning 7.1 track together; the World Premiere in Moscow; another look at the wingsuit team, and a visit to Michael Bay’s office by Cody, one of his fans who gets given a brand-new iPad by Bay (it’s more touching than it sounds).
For those want a bit more about the technical nuts and bolts of the visual effects, the Deconstructing Chicago: Multi Angle Featurettes should suffice. Viewers can check comparisons of the Previsualization sequences with the finished product, or Visual Effects breakdowns that progressively layer in the CG work so you can see what effects were used in the shot. Previsualization contains 12 segments, all with optional commentary by Michael Bay and Previsualization Supervisor Steve Yamamoto. Visual Effects contain another 12 clips, this time with optional commentary from Visual Effects Supervisors Scott Farrar of ILM, and Matthew Butler of Digital Domain. These bits are fairly dry – as always – but I’m sure that they’ll be of interest to someone.
The Art Of Cybertron highlights some key production art from the following areas: Autobots, Decepticons, Environments, Weapons and Gear, and Ships, with The Matrix Of Marketing providing more stills galleries of posters, ‘style guides’ and promo items, plus the film’s theatrical teaser and trailer.
This release also includes the 2D Blu-ray of the movie (as previously reviewed) and a code for an iTunes digital copy, housed in a 3-disc Amaray Blu-ray case with a snazzy lenticular slipcase.
They say that you can’t polish a turd, but this 3D Blu-ray version of Transformers: Dark Of The Moon is the shiniest cinematic shitpile I’ve ever seen. The 3D is staggeringly good, and when combined with the 7.1 TrueHD audio it creates one of the most immersive and involving home video presentations you’re ever likely to experience. Fans of the film will find much to enjoy in the healthy selection of extra features, too.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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