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Blu-Ray Review: TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON

The director everybody loves to hate returns for a third instalment of the Transformers franchise as Michael Bay€™s Transformers: Dark Of The Moon is released on Blu-ray and DVD today. Despite stellar box-office receipts, the abysmal second film Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen, much derided for featuring big swinging robot balls and dubious racially stereotyped bots, it was agreed that Bay would have to go a long way to make a film worse than that this time around. Thankfully, Dark Of The Moon is much better than the last film but that€™s not to say it is without faults. Opening with a nice prologue that suggests that the space race was started in the €˜60s as a result of a Transformer crashing on the moon, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin€™s moon landing was in fact an elaborate mission set-up to investigate the wreckage before the Russians got to it first. Back in the present day the Autobots led by Optimus Prime are still involved with NEST working in co-operation with the US military. On a mission to Chernobyl they discover that an alien fuel cell was responsible for the nuclear disaster at the site and that together with components recovered from the moon they form the pillars of a space bridge. Under the leadership of Megatron, the Decepticons plan to use the bridge to bring their home planet Cybertron into Earth€™s atmosphere so it can be re-built using mankind as slaves. With the help of their human counterpart, Sam Witwicky (Shia LeBeouf), the Autobots once again find themselves at war with the Decepticons in a battle to save humanity. Michael Bay can be accused of many crimes against film. He is a purveyor of style over substance, under-developed characters, misjudged humour, covering over plot holes with flashy special effects, overly loud sound tracks and bloated running times. Sadly the majority of these attributes appear in some shape or form during this film. The human characters are mostly given short shrift with some, seemingly having undergone their own transformation since the last film. The biggest change seems to be in the character of Sam Witwicky, played once again by Shia LeBeouf. Since the last film he seems to have had a complete personality transplant and is now an intolerable, arrogant brat who is permanently angry that he is not still working with the Autobots. Despite all this we are supposed to feel sympathy for him because he cannot find a job he does not deem to be beneath him. He is a far cry from the likeable character from previous instalments and there is little explanation as to why. With Megan Fox unceremoniously fired for likening Bay to Hitler, the role of Sam€™s girlfriend is filled by British model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. When the film was first released this summer she was on the receiving end of a lot of criticism and I have to agree she is pretty awful most of the time finding herself acted off the screen by her CG robot counterparts. Even though Fox should not have been a tough act to follow, Huntington-Whiteley makes Fox€™s performances seem Oscar worthy by comparison. Moments of unnecessary, out of place comedy come courtesy of Ken Jeong performing pretty much the same schtick viewers of his performances in The Hangover movies will be used to. John Malkovich makes a largely embarrassing appearance as Sam€™s eccentric new boss and Sam€™s parents return with more inappropriate humour in completely pointless scenes that really should have been left on the cutting room floor. As a result of Bay attempting to crowbar in as many worthy actors as possible they are given little chance to make an impact. The always good value John Turturro returns but plays only a minor role, again mostly for comic relief. Frances McDormand is a new addition to the human cast and has some good scenes with fellow Coen Brothers favourite Turturro but ultimately has little bearing on the overall plot. Thankfully the robot characters benefit from having a little more attention given to their story arc and character development. As with previous Transformers movies the special effects are absolutely superb courtesy of the team at ILM. They seamlessly interact with their environment and every moving part is delicately rendered to give each robot individual characteristics and personalities. Ironically they convey more real emotion than any of their human companions so much so that a scene where Bumblebee looks to be outnumbered by Decepticons and facing defeat it is surprisingly quite heart rending. One area where Michael Bay excels is in his orchestration of action and destruction. There are a number of standout sequences including a spectacular highway chase and the final hour of the movie which sees an all out explosive battle lay waste to the city of Chicago. The highway sequence, while initially similar to a chase scene in the first film, manages to completely out do previous action scenes leaving a trail of destruction, again with CG elements interacting with real world effects as well as a standout shot which sees Sam thrown from inside Bumblebee as he transforms from car to robot and back to a car again. The attack on Chicago also benefits from excellent photorealistic CG effects and beats any of the recent wave of alien invasion movies such as Battle: Los Angeles and Skyline for sheer scale and audacious visuals. A scene involving a collapsing building is breathtaking as is the skydiving military, infiltrating the city in wingsuits literally flying between the buildings as the city collapses around them. The film moves along at a rip-roaring pace rarely pausing for breath however it could easily have been trimmed down from the two and a half hour running time to less than two hours. Bay has certainly improved on his previous effort but despite the stunning visuals the film is still dogged by flaws associated with his directorial style. On this evidence if Bay was to make another Transformers film he would be far better to produce a film purely involving robots and forget about the human aspect to avoid a repeat of the problems that drag this film down. Quality The film is presented in Full 1080p HD and looks stunning. The fact that the disc is extras free means more space can be used for the film and it really shows. The image quality remains consistent with naturalistic colours and the finest details presented with a depth of clarity. The sound quality follows the same perfect presentation as the picture quality. The Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio mix is expertly put together with every minute sound effect presented so clearly it made me look around thinking something was behind me on more than one occasion. This disc is no doubt destined to become an ideal demo to show the full capability of the format. Extras Bay has decided to take inspiration from James Cameron€™s Avatar Blu-ray model and release a bare-bones, extras free disc to capitalise on the seasonal period before treating us to a deluxe edition and 3D edition next year. This is apparently due to the fact the conversion process for the 3D version is so involved he did not want to rush the release and put out a sub-standard version of the film for home entertainment. So if you are a fan of special features then it would be worth waiting to see what next year brings. Film €“ 3 out of 5 A big improvement on Revenge Of The Fallen but still flawed. It€™s overlong with too much time wasted on pointless humour that for the most part falls flat. However it is one of the best looking blockbusters of the summer and the special effects are jaw droppingly good. Visuals €“ 5 out of 5 A brilliant transfer shows off the best of Blu-ray€™s capabilities. Audio €“ 5 out of 5 As with the visual presentation the audio presentation has been expertly crafted. Extras €“ 0 out of 5 No extras whatsoever. You€™re going to have to wait until next year for a deluxe edition. Presentation €“ 3 out of 5 Striking cover artwork and available in the Triple-Play format so you can literally watch the film everywhere. Overall €“ 4 out of 5 As a demo disc this is a must-have, it shows just how good Blu-ray can be. With incredible special effects the film delivers some solid robot action it€™s just a shame so much time is wasted on the poorly drawn human characters. Transformers: Dark Of The Moon is available on Triple-Play Blu-ray and DVD now.
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