Follow us on

Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Transformers: Age of Extinction

September 29th, 2014

Transformers: Age of Extinction - Buy from Amazon: DVD, Blu-ray Combo Pack, or 3D Combo Pack or Limited Edition Blu-ray Gift Set

If you look at our list of franchises, none have made more money in as few installments as Transformers has earned. On the other hand, if you look at the top ten franchises, none of them have earned as much critical scorn as the Transformers films have earned. Only the first one managed to come close to overall positive reviews. Depending on who you talk to, the most recent installment, Transformers: Age of Extinction, has been called the best of the sequels or the worst of the sequels. Which camp do I fall under?

The Movie

I can tell you one thing. It is the longest of the sequels at nearly three hours long.

The film begins 65 million years ago with a space armada flying over the Earth, dropping a device, which explodes killing most of the dinosaurs, while some of the smaller ones get away. We jump to the modern day when Darcy Tirrel, a geologist, discovers a dinosaur skeleton covered in metal. We then switch to Cade Yeager, a single dad and failed inventor struggling to get by. He and his friend, Lucas, are purchasing junk from a movie theater that shut down, hoping to salvage something. He sees a semi-truck that looks like it was shot up and has mortar shells inside and decides to buy that. We then see his daughter, Tessa, out with her friends. She's going to college, if she can afford it, which she can't. Next we are introduced to Harold Attinger, who spouts some exposition about the aftermath of the last movie. Humans and Autobots are no longer working together and a CIA division called Cemetery Wind has been hunting down and destroying the last remaining Decepticons while the American government has been trying to keep Transformer technology to themselves.

So we are about ten minutes into the movie and we've been introduced about half-a-dozen characters, none of which are interesting. This is going to be a long movie.

The film focuses on Cade and his group for a bit. We see some of his failed inventions, as well as the number of bills that are past due. We even get a short glimpse of Tessa's secret boyfriend, Shane. I think the scene is supposed to be emotional, but it falls flat. Sadly, the next scene is even worse.

We get to see Cemetery Wind in action, but instead of hunting Decepticons, they are hunting Autobots, Ratchet to be precise. James Savoy is leading the mission, at least he's leading the human component of the mission. They are being assisted by Lockdown. Bad acting hurts this scene, but the action is also uninteresting. Michael Bay is known for his big action sets; it is the only thing that has kept his movie career afloat. But if this first action scene is any indication, even he is getting bored with these films.

After an overly long scene in which Attinger intimidates some government lackey sent by the president, we get back to Cade. He's discovered that the truck he bought is actually a Transformer. This freaks out Tessa and Lucas. They want Cade to turn in the Transformer for the reward, but Cade wants to see if he can learn from it, so his inventions will work. When he removes a missile from the Transformer, it reactivates and we learn it is Optimus Prime. Optimus Prime tells Cade and the others that the humans attacked him, but they don't understand why the human would attack Optimus Prime, because he is their ally.

Before Cade can do much to help Optimus Prime, intel is obtained by Attinger and he sends in Cemetery Wind.

This is probably as good a place as any to stop the plot summary. We are still missing a couple of pieces of key information, and we haven't been introduced to the best character in the movie, Joshua Joyce. That said, we are getting to the action and quite frankly the plot is an afterthought here. Actually, paradoxically, the plot is overstuffed and an afterthought. There are so many groups to deal with, that none of them are giving enough character development, so there was no reason to care about their motivations. The lack of an emotional connection to the characters has been a huge problem throughout the movies, one that Michael Bay seems unwilling to address. Exasperating this problem is the acting, which is nearly universally bad. Even actors that are normally great, like Mark Wahlberg, who has two Oscar nominations, or Kelsey Grammer, who has won enough Emmys to put on an awards show of his own, are bad in this movie. I blame the director and the screenwriter. It's not like the dialogue is great to begin with and there are some directors who are just bad at getting good performances out of their actors.

As for the action, I was going to call it uninspired, but Michael Bay has never been an inspiring director. I think "lazy" is a better term. Early on... okay, it's actually 40 minutes into the movie and I was already bored to tears at this point, but when a movie is nearly three hours long, the 40-minute mark is still early on. Back on target, early on there's a car chase, and the cars go from the middle of a corn field to a highway to downtown in about ten seconds. This is either lazy or bad editing. And here's the thing, had I been engaged by the movie, this wouldn't have bothered me. In one of Christopher Nolan's Batman movies, we follow characters who ride into a tunnel during the day, but when they exit, it's nighttime. In a good movie, these continuity errors slip by without most people noticing. In this movie, these errors bugged me. ... Likewise, carbon dating can't go back 65,000 years ago, never mind 65 million years ago. At this point, I feel like I'm nitpicking.

When the humans take center stage, Transformers: Age of Extinction is full of bad acting and boredom, but that is to be expected for this franchise. What wasn't expected was the lack of energy from the action scenes.

The Extras

There are no extras on the DVD or the first disc of the two-disc Blu-ray set. Disc two has five featurettes starting with Bay on Action, an 11-minute look at the action in the movie. There is a two-hour making of featurette called Evolution Within Extinction. Just Another Giant Effin' Movie is a 10-minute behind-the-scenes featurette. A Spark of Design looks at the toy line. This is more interesting than the movie. T.J. Miller: Farm Hippie has T.J. Miller trying to talk to his co-stars. I think it is supposed to be funny, but it is not.

On the other hand, the technical presentation is excellent, as you would expect for a summer blockbuster. It is arguably reference level quality in both the video and the audio. The level of detail is amazing, the colors pop, etc. The 7.1 surround sound is especially impressive with plenty of activity in the surround sound speakers, including lots of dynamic effects. If you want to show off your home theater system, this is a great film to pick.

The DVD costs $15, while the two-disc Blu-ray is $18 million, which is a great deal. The 3D Combo Pack is $27, or 50% more. I don't know if this is worth it. Additionally, there is a Limited Edition Blu-ray Gift Set, which costs $80. That's too much to ask. Finally, there are more than half a dozen exclusives for stores like Target, Toys 'R' Us, and others.

The Verdict

I've heard Transformers movies and Michael Bay films in general described as a fireworks display. This makes perfect sense, because I hate fireworks. I'm not adverse to big action scenes or plenty of explosions in movies, but they have to have an interesting plot backing them up and there has to be engaging characters involved. Transformers: Age of Extinction has none of those. Even the action scenes are subpar compared to the other films. Don't get me wrong, I'm not sad Sam Witwicky and his problems are not in this movie, but I really don't want to spend another two movies with this gang either.

If you do like the movie, there are plenty of options to choose from from DVD, Blu-ray Combo Pack, or 3D Combo Pack to Limited Edition Blu-ray Gift Set to the countless retailer exclusives.

- Submitted by:

Filed under: Video Review, Transformers: Age of Extinction, Batman, Transformers, Stanley Tucci, Mark Wahlberg, Michael Bay, Peter Cullen, Robert Foxworth, Kelsey Grammer, Shia LaBeouf, T.J. Miller, Sophia Myles, Christopher Nolan, Nicola Peltz, Mark Ryan, Titus Welliver, Ehren Kruger, Jack Reynor