Review by C.J. Bunce
It must be fun to be on the production set watching Mark Wahlberg make movies. The actor conveys a passionate sense of determination no matter what he stars in. You can track back through his films and see this–no matter whether the movie was a hit or not, you can see Wahlberg firmly planted in his role and delivering all he can muster. In The Perfect Storm (2000) you have him responding to a once-in-a-lifetime disaster, in Planet of the Apes (2001) he’s facing an impossible world, and in Rock Star (2001) he’s a devoted fan turned star, poking fun at his former life in Rock ‘n’ Roll. In The Italian Job (2003), a role that could have been made for a young Tom Cruise, we saw one of Wahlberg’s best roles as lead man of an all-star cast of master thieves. If the whole world hadn’t noticed him yet, Martin Scorcese’s The Departed (2006) made that happen in his supporting tough guy role. And whether or not you like M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening (2008), it’s easy to get sucked in because you believe Wahlberg believes he is running from the strange, murderous, phantom wind. Who else could pull off performances with such a wacky comedic edge like Ted (2012), Pain & Gain (2013), and 2 Guns (2013)?
So it’s no wonder that one of the two key components that make Transformers: Age of Extinction a complete blast of a roller coaster ride is star Wahlberg. For all the Transformers movies (Age of Extinction is the fourth in the series) you either buy in to the world of machines-turned-robots or you don’t. There’s no in-between. And if you get that far, then the movie is a success only if the actors believe the CGI-heavy world they are performing in. Wahlberg’s failed inventor and sharp mechanic Cade Yeager lets you know at the beginning of the movie where he stands with the goofy yet perfect line “I think we just found a Transformer!” From there on you follow this guy because he really wants everything he is after–the truth, protecting his daughter, and defying the law to protect those he sees as innocent.
Transformers: Age of Extinction is now available in an impressive Blu-ray edition that brings the 3D IMAX shots right to your home television, with visuals that demonstrate the leading edge of the medium right now. As we have mentioned here at borg.com with prior Blu-ray 3D, you can’t beat the landscapes in modern 3D films, and Age of Extinction would be a treat for the eyes for that alone. Crisp, bright colors and sound and depth filmed with some impressive camera wizardry actually elevate this movie beyond what it might be as seen in its 2D Blu-ray, DVD, or film version. Finely textured background detail will make you think someone took years to create each frame. There’s enough to dazzle here that, if you don’t get tired along the way, you may walk away judging this as I did as almost as good as the first Transformers movie.
You must know upfront when walking into a movie directed by Michael Bay (Armageddon, Pearl Harbor) what you’re getting into–the next incarnation of Irwin Allen epic disaster situations. Although the plot of the film borrows from the X-Men movies’ through-line that “aliens are a threat so we must destroy them,” Bay takes Wahlberg’s Yeager, his daughter (Nicola Peltz), her boyfriend (Shane Dyson), Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen), and a host of Transformers to battle other Transformers and the even worse threat, a mad genius inventor played by Stanley Tucci and government mastermind played by Kelsey Grammer. Tucci and Grammer, who could have phoned in their performances, give it their all here, too.
Wahlberg’s Cade Yeager is shot at, he must cross suspension cables draped over the city, he has ships and cars falling on him from a giant spaceship, he must save his daughter from the belly of the ship, and he must drive through non-stop barrages of everything Bay could think of–and he does all this while focusing on taking care of his daughter. And it’s all crazy fun. Which brings us to the second component that makes Age of Extinction work–the incredible “real” special effects, the CGI effects and the 3D IMAX camera work. The Transformers seem to transform better than ever before–instead of mainly whirlwind ta-das as with the earlier films we see components click together more like the Hasbro toys the series is based on. And the 3D Blu-ray treatment is cutting edge as well, filmed in real 3D as opposed to a conversion process. When Cade & Co. are breathlessly hanging by cables over the city the downward drop really appears to be a mile below–it’s one of the best views of dimension on-screen–ever.
When the Transformers take their attack to Hong Kong we have swooping alien ship scenes and a host of Transformers (one voiced by a mouthy and gruff John Goodman) brought to life from your 1980s toy chest, with gun barrels popping from the screen, and explosion fragments having you duck or cover. The best part? From the disc’s bonus features, we learn that many of the best special effects scenes aren’t CGI–they actually dropped those cars out of the sky from cranes, built a full size ship propeller, and used full-sized sets where they could have saved money with motion capture. This brings some added reality, and gravity, to the action.
The only complaint on Transformers: Age of Extinction is that the film is unnecessarily long, in true Michael Bay over-the-top style, at 154 minutes, which kept many away from seeing it in the theater, and makes for multi-session viewing at home. Michael Bay always just does too much, and could stand to use an editor much like George Lucas could have benefitted from with the Star Wars prequels. Yet if you’re a fan of Bay, then you might find this to be his master work.
The deluxe version of the Blu-ray includes the 3D Blu-ray, standard Blu-ray, DVD, Ultraviolet copy for cloud storage, and a special effects Blu-ray. Special features include “Bay on Action,” a 10 minute + interview with the director on his unusual way of making action movies, which will leave you impressed or thinking he’s a jerk depending on your vantage. “A Spark of Design” is an inside look at the Rhode Island offices of Hasbro, with a detailed look at the creation of a new Grimlock dinobot Transformer for the toy market. An eight-part making of series of features offers more than an hour and a half of content. Four trailers are included and two other looks behind the scenes of the production with cast and crew.