Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen - Special Edition (Big Screen Edition) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Paramount Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (9th November 2009).
The Film

The first “Transformers” (2007) film was a big, obnoxious, loud and thundering popcorn film that despite its flaws was an overall enjoyable waste of time. Who could resist big robots beating the crap out of each other in epic action scenes filled with gunfire, explosions and overwhelming music? And who better than action maestro Michael Bay to bring it to the masses? "Transformers" was a rousing success for Paramount at the box office earning a truckload of cash at the box office and countless more millions on home video. The obvious next step was a sequel, and like most sequels this one is bigger, louder and certainly longer clocking in at two and a half hours! Seriously Michael Bay what could you possibly have to say in that amount of time that you couldn’t in 100 minutes? Well that’s certainly one of the many pitfalls this films stumbles into.

Set two years after the first film, Sam (Shia LaBeouf) is on his way to University, the Autobots are working with the US Government in a secret capacity to hunt down the remaining Deceptacons around the globe and Mikaela (Megan Fox) is working for her dad’s custom chopper shop. When one day Sam discovers a shard from the allspark cube that was destroyed in the first film, it’s power sets off something in his brain and he starts to see mysterious symbols. These symbols hold the key to saving the world… a key that the Deceptacons are after to restart a device buried deep and used to destroy the sun and sees the return of an evil robot named The Fallen (Tony Todd) back to Earth to enact his ultimate revenge on the human race.

I have to admit that as much as I liked the first I was equally (if not more so) disappointed with the second. “Transformer: Revenge of the Fallen” is essentially a similar film to the first, only just cranked up to eleven with more of everything. There are more robots, more action scenes, more comedic elements and certainly more comic relief character, and there’s more explosions, a lot more. If Michael Bay could practically destroy an entire mountain range and wipe it clean off the face of the Earth, I guarantee he would have. So if it's a bigger and louder version of the first, then why was it such a let down?

The nauseating action starts from the very beginning and lets up for excruciatingly extended moments to explain minor story elements, notably spending an ungodly amount of time with Sam’s irritating parents (Kevin Dunn and Julie White). These scenes with mom and dad could have completely been cut from the film without it missing a beat… after all we came for the action, not the awkward mom moments; embarrassing his son at University. And while I’m on that subject, what University is Sam attending? With all the hot perfect 10 women that populate Bay’s frame it may as well be Playboy University. It’s as if there wasn’t a single “average” looking person on the entire campus. Now this is supposed to be the “absolute” in escapist entertainment and I’m all for pretty girls, but this really does make the eyes roll… repeatedly. It became painfully clear after two movies that in Michael Bay’s world if you’re an older woman then you’re an embarrassment, if you’re young then you are nothing but an over-tanned sex kitten. By the time action was ready to get moving again, I was already beaten into a dumb stupor.

Another problem here is that people assume that escapist entertainment has to be over-the-top and ridiculous in nature, it’s a stigma that unfortunately sticks but there have been plenty of examples of well written and well executed action escapists films out there (“Aliens” (1986), “Terminator 2: Judgement Day” (1991), “The Bourne” trilogy (2004-2007) are a few good examples), it’s upsetting (but not surprising) that this film truly plays on every action cliché known to man and also throws in a lame why-won’t-you-say-you-love-me sub-plot that also has no place here.

The film’s plot or lack-there-of really bothered me, it was so confusing and all over the place it may as well have been written as a series of random scenes, drawn out of hat and cobbled together into script form. Or they just made it up as they were shooting… The first act of the film deals with Sam at University (and not only features the awful parent moments but also an awkward and cring-inducing performance by Rainn Wilson as Sam’s professor who delivers his entire lecture with sexual innuendo that’s so obvious it’s borderline sexual harassment… and with the Dean sitting in on the lecture too!), we learn that Sam has some information in his brain. In the second act Optimus (Peter Cullen) fights Megatron (Hugo Weaving) and falls (much of the film deals with finding a way to bring him back to life, even when it was established that shards of the allspark can bring back other Transformers to life… so couldn’t they simply bring Prime back? This is one of about a hundred plot holes that’ll frustrate viewers), and in the third act all of a sudden we find ourselves back in the Middle East where we learn the device that’s used to destroy the sun is hidden in a pyramid (wait… what?) that’s right a lot of the plot (if you could call it that) is delivered so quickly if you blink you’ll miss it and ask the person next to you what’s going on? A big battle takes place; Prime gets philosophical in his closing narration, the end. There was nothing cohesive about this film and continuity doesn’t even seem to matter. I expected much more from screenwriters Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Ehren Kruger (the first two also wrote the brilliant reboot of “Star Trek” (2009), at least they got one thing right this past summer).

This film features a slew of new robots here, but the main characters that were established from the first film seem largely absent here, aside from Optimus and Bumblebee the rest of the Autobots were relegated to the background or were just not present, and the rest of the film spends its time filling us in on the new bad guys and some comic pratfalls courtesy of the new cast of robots that populate this monstrosity. Devastator was the coolest transformer (scrotum joke aside) to hit the screen since seeing Optimus for the first time, sadly he perishes rather quickly only spending under 10 minutes of total screen time devoted to the massive amalgamation.

Now we get to serious point of contention with this film… I really don’t know where to start with the characters Mudflap and Skid (both voiced by Tom Kenny), two painfully offensive black stereotypes. If people thought that Jar Jar was offensive and annoying you ain’t seen nothing yet. These two really take the “ghetto” thing to a whole new low. It was embarrassing to say the least. But to say that this is new to a Michael Bay film is incorrect, just look back at his filmography and you’ll see a plethora of zany black characters that provide moments of comic relief. Most notably the “sassy” big black lady character (“The Island” (2005) had the receptionist and “Bad Boys II” (2003) had the Jesus lady at the electronics store…) so he’s been doing this for a while now, only this time it’s not just for a few minutes but are actually supporting characters and take up too much screen time.

There’s some good, but it’s few and far between. The action is, as expected, impressive. The explosions are exciting and I'll admit there are parts of this film that are pure fun, and Bay knows how to get the most bang out of your buck, but the whole affair gets tedious and can be compared to running a marathon - you’ll feel exhausted by the end of it. If we’ve learned anything here it’s that sometimes bigger and longer isn’t necessarily better. Please take note Mr. Bay and adjust your plans accordingly for the third go-around.

If the first “Transformers” was like the cinematic equivalent of getting punched in the face then “Transformer: Revenge of the Fallen” is like getting repeatedly punch in the face beyond all recognition, thrown in front of a fast moving truck, set on fire and then blown up into a thousand pieces for good measure. There is comfort in knowing that “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” is what it is… a big-loud-summer-popcorn-event-picture. I wish it was much more than that.

This edition is the "Big Screen Edition" which presents the "IMAX" version of the film running at 149 minutes 53 seconds. This version runs 32 seconds longer than the standard "Theatrical" version of the film. The forest battle includes an additional 22 seconds and the Devastator scene adds 10 extra seconds. This version also features a slightly shorter introduction from Professor Colan and some dialogue has been altered.

Video

Presented in a widescreen ratio of 2.40:1 in high-definition 1080p 24/fps and mastered in AVC MPEG-4 compression (note that this is the "IMAX" edition and those scenes revert to the 1.78:1 ratio for those shots). Much like the first film this is exactly the type of eye candy that works best in HD, this film has "reference quality" written all over it. Attention shop keepers, want to sell more TV's and Blu-ray players, put this disc in and watch the customers look on in awe that is this image. Whether you liked the film or not, there's no denying that this is one of the best HD transfers out there. To begin with the sharpness is incredible, close-ups are so detailed you can virtually wipe the sweat off of Megan Fox. The detail also shows off the incredible CGI (if you press the slow-motion button to actually take in the incredible work put into this film). The Transformer's level of detail is certainly stepped up for this film. Colors are incredibly well rendered and retains the stylized high-contrast look of the film. Skin tones can lean towards the orange hues but I think that's actually the amount of fake tan on the actors more than the transfer itself. Blacks appear a little crushed and some shots are a little on the soft side, grain is evident but mostly this image is crisp and clean. Things are stepped up considerable for the IMAX scenes, as 70mm footage retains much more detail, also taking up 4K resolution increases everything, detail, color presentation, textures, depth, everything... as well as opening the battle scenes from what was previously a cramped 2.40:1 presentation makes them feel much more epic in scale, this is tremendous stuff that looks in a word, breathtaking in HD.

Audio

Three audio tracks are included in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround and mixed at 48kHz/24-bit, as well as French Dolby Digital 5.1 and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its DTS-HD audio. Much like the image the audio simply explodes off the screen and throughout your surround system in a massive, robust and dynamic manner. Throughout the film and for the most part the Dialogue is clear and free from distortion, but the real selling point of this soundtrack is the intense action overload, the immersive nature of the track is evident from the start as the surrounds envelope the viewer in the action. The sound effects are well placed and sound natural, action scenes feature an active and complex mix of sounds. The score is overwhelming and sweeping and the bass rumbles throughout the film. This mix will likely annoy your neighbors and shake your house, so play this one loud. I mentioned at the start that the audio remains excellent "for the most part" and reason being is that there appear to be a slight audio volume drop in relation to the IMAX scenes. This drop is small but noticeable, there's already some chatter online of reports that the IMAX scenes have been mixed at a lower level, which means to get the most of the audio make sure your volume level is bit louder to compensate. I'm not entirely sure why this is and Paramount have not commented yet. However, the quality of the track remains intact, and by no means does this effect the presentation negatively as most viewers will likely be watching this one loud to begin with.
Optional subtitles are included in English, English for the hear impaired, French, Portuguese and Spanish.

Extras

Paramount has loaded this disc with a decent collection of extras, included is an audio commentary, a 7-part documentary, four featurettes, an interactive feature, deleted scenes, a music video, a couple of theatrical trailers, some TV spots and a couple of galleries. Below is a closer look at these supplements broken down per disc.

DISC ONE

The only extra on this disc is a feature-length audio commentary by director Michael Bay and screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. This track was recorded separately and edited together, Bay alone and the writers in a separate recording. Throughout the track I noticed that the writers aren't given nearly enough screen time to talk as Bay does. After the critics slammed this film it's not hard to imagine that someone would take the defensive, while Bay's tone is a little obnoxious, he takes the defensive by not outright addressing the critics' instead jumping in whenever possible to talk about how great certain aspects of the film are. From the fast-cutting action to the insipid humor of the film. He does comment on the production process, the locations and challenges of the shoot, many things were a little easier this time around having learned a lot from the first film's process. The writers talk about the rushed nature of the script, Bay started plotting out the story during the writer's strike, as soon as the strike was over the script was underway. They comment on the plotting, the character's roles in this sequel and themes among other things.

DISC TWO

The major feature on this disc is the in-depth "The Human Factor: Exacting 'Revenge of the Fallen'" documentary which is broken down into seven parts that can be viewed individually or with a 'Play all' option. This is a massively comprehensive look at the entire production from conception to completion, the total running time is 134 minutes 31 seconds:

- "Seed of Vengeance - Development and Design" this clip runs for 30 minutes 3 seconds, and takes a look at the green lighting of the sequel after the success of the first film and how the filmmakers aimed to up the ante for the second where everything had to be bigger and better and done on a much larger scale It covers the response to the first film, the genesis of the sequel's story, the development of the script through the writer's strike and having a limited time to deliver the final product, and overall design of the film and the locations of the filming. The clip also looks at preparing the film for production, on designing the new robots and incorporating new cars from GM, designing the sets and setting up the big scenes in the film among other things.
- "Domestic Destruction - Production: United States" runs for 24 minutes 27 seconds and takes a look at the shooting of the film in the U.S. locations and the logistics involved in creating some of the key scenes in the film. The production used just about every piece of film equipment known to man and shooting numerous cameras as well as shooting at a very fast pace. Bay is a director that likes to set a quick pace and tone for the film from the very start and incorporates different set-ups each day from dramatic scenes, to action scenes and stunt sequences. The production shows off the challenges and physicality to the production having put through the actors through a lot. The clip focuses on the energy and working style of Michael Bay.
- "Joint Operations - Production - Military" runs for 9 minutes 59 seconds, Michael Bay is a filmmaker whose been known to garner the co-operation of the U.S. Military, and with this film it's no different. From the portrayal of the armed forces to the vehicles and weapons used, the film is filled with realistic operational military services as we see the level of technical support given to the film including Military advisers that helped make this production possible. The feature takes us into Edwards Air Force Base, Hollowman Air Force Base, shooting at the White Sands Missile range, on the USS John C. Stennis aircraft carrier among other things that involve Military support and sort of acts like a recruitment video... so essentially both the film and this clip make the Military look cool (this clip is short of being sponsored by the Republican party).
- "Wonders of the World - Production: Middle East" runs for 13 minutes 19 seconds, the production moves from the U.S. to iconic Middle Eastern locations in Egypt and Jordan, this clip takes a look at the logistics and challenges of shooting in these locations. The epic scale of these locations adds immense production value to the picture, we also get a sense of what it's like shooting in these locations, the trouble in getting filming permits and dealing with foreign bureaucracies, shooting around tourists and how the production got around that.
- "Start Making Sense - Editing" runs for 9 minutes 24 seconds, ironically titled as the film's story hardly makes sense, but this clip takes a closer look at the grueling task of taking all the footage Bay shot and cut it into the finished product that it became. We get an inside look at the Bay's film company offices where the post for the film was done. There were several editors that constructed the film in what is essentially a building process.
- "Under the Gun - Visual Effects" runs for 29 minutes, before the film is even shot, the designs are signed off and throughout the production and post-production is taking place the visual effects are being produced by ILM as well as Digital Domain. The clip follows Bay as he works with one of the leading visual effects companies in the world creating the groundbreaking effects seen in the film. The effects were under a massive time crunch and managed to produced an astounding amount of effects in order to meet the deadlines and eventually premiere of the film. To give perspective of the production there were over 500 effects shots with triple the amount of Transformers than the first and two years worth of work on a much larger scale to deal with.
- "Running the Gauntlet - Post-production and Release" runs for 16 minutes 36 seconds. This clip takes a look at the sound design of the film, in creating all the sounds from scratch and how the artists created the complex sounds for each character. The clip also takes a look at the color grading process leading up to 2 hours from the premiere of the film, as well as the premiere of the film in Tokyo, the Berlin and London and U.S. premiere as it ends with Bay defending the film against the critics who trashed the film with the massive box office numbers that it brought in.

"A Day with Bay: Tokyo" is a featurette that runs for 13 minutes 23 seconds. Leading up to the world premiere of the film, this clip spends a day with the director while he's still working on the film mere hours before it has to be screened for the first time in front of an audience. We see the director go through the press junket process being interviewed by various media, meeting the cast ahead of the premiere in front of the world press and finally walking the red carpet to the big premiere.

"25 Years of Transformers" is a featurette that runs for 10 minutes 44 seconds and takes a look at the history of the Transformers and on staying relevant over so many years and is also part marketing fluff about the characters and toys and how new audiences and fans were being generated from the movies that gave Hasbro a new lot of fans to sell product to as well as the older established fans that grew up with the brand.

"Nest: Transformer Data-Hub" is an interactive feature is a collection of character profiles, bios, statistics and art gallery that features a ton of material for the key characters seen in the the film. It provides a wealth of information on each of the characters and if you have the time it's worth exploring, the characters covered in this feature are:

- "Optimus Prime"
- "Bumblebee"
- "Ironhide"
- "Jetfire"
- "Skids & Mudflap"
- "Megatron"
- "Starscream"
- "Devastator"
- "Soundwave"
- "Ravage"
- "The Fallen"

"The Allspark Experiment" is an interactive feature, this allows you to Build-a-Robot from a workshop, you essentially pick your vehicle, there are five to choose from and you can customize them by selecting parts and accessories, once you have created your vehicle and customized it, you apply the Allspark to it and voila. This is a neat feature, but i got bored with it rather quickly.

Following that is "Deconstructing Visual Bayhem" another featurette which runs for a total of 22 minutes 46 seconds. This is basically a look at 15 sequences created for the film in pre-vis animatic form and features audio commentary by pre-vis supervisor Steve Yamamoto. These scenes can be viewed individually or compared to the finished product using your remote to switch the viewing angles. If you're interested in this sort of stuff, then this is a neat look at the progression of visual effects. The clips included in this section are:

- Introduction by Michael Bay which runs for 24 seconds.
- "Hunting Party" which runs for 33 seconds.
- "Wheelbolt Freeway" which runs for 1 minute 41 seconds.
- "Lamborghini Jump" which runs for 58 seconds.
- "Optimus Parachute" which runs for 34 seconds.
- "Kitchen & Backyard" which runs for 2 minutes 16 seconds.
- "Vault Theft" which runs for 3 minutes 6 seconds.
- "Sam Foundry" which runs for 2 minutes 4 seconds.
- "Forest Fight" which runs for 1 minute 58 seconds.
- "Eiffel Tower" which runs for 58 seconds.
- "Jetfire Awakens" which runs for 1 minute 41 seconds.
- "Desert Drop" which runs for 21 seconds.
- "Egyptian Hideout" which runs for 1 minute 26 seconds.
- "Devastator Mouth" which runs for 4 minutes 3 seconds.
- "Jackhammer Fight" which runs for 36 seconds.
- "Optimus Power Up" which runs for 23 seconds.

There are 3 deleted and alternate scenes, these can be viewed individually or with a 'Play all' option, they include:

- "Sam and Alice at the Dorms" is an extended version of the scene already in the film, Sam spots Alice and she introduces herself to Sam, it runs for 2 minutes 10 seconds.
- "The Witwickys in Paris" more footage of the parents, this time while on vacation in Paris at a cafe, thankfully after the screen time these two characters got at the beginning of the film I was happy that this scene was cut, it runs for 2 minutes 54 seconds.
- "Leo refuses to go to Egypt" runs for 56 seconds, Sam's highly annoying roommate Leo (Ramon Rodriguez) refuses to go to Egypt after all he's been through already.

"Giant Effing Movie" is the final featurette which runs for 24 minutes 3 seconds. This is essentially a collection of behind-the-scenes footage taken during the film's principle shooting. It basically shows viewers how much fun they all had making this movie, in contrast to the interview footage in the "The Human Factor: Exacting 'Revenge of the Fallen'" documentary where the cast and crew talk about how Bay can be hard to work for, is a task master and pushes people...

The disc also features the "New Divide" music video by Linkin Park which runs for 4 minutes 40 seconds, it's a cool video for an otherwise bland song that sounds about the same as all of their previous efforts... yawn.

"The Matrix of Marketing" is a section that features:

Both theatrical trailers are included, they can be viewed individually or with a 'play all' option, they include:

- "Reveal" which runs for 2 minutes 18 seconds.
- "Revenge" which runs for 2 minutes 32 seconds.

There's a collection of 6 TV spots are also included. They can be viewed individually or with a 'play all' option, and run a total of 2 minutes 12 seconds. They are:

- "Destiny - Event" which runs for 16 seconds.
- "Destiny: 15" which runs for 16 seconds.
- "Destiny: 30" which runs for 31 seconds.
- "Adventure Kids" which runs for 31 seconds.
- "Fun Review Moms" which runs for 16 seconds.
- "Magic Kids" which runs for 16 seconds.

This section is rounded off with 2 photo galleries for:

- "Theatrical posters" which features 23 images of posters and banners created for the film's marketing campaign.
- "Promo/marketing" includes 41 images of promo products created for the marketing campaign of the film.

Finally, you can "unlock an exclusive augmented reality experience" which is fancy marketing speak for being able to access a 3D model of Optimus that you can explore and manipulate. You can access this material by placing the Blu-ray packaging in front of your webcam. You can learn more about this here.

This 2-disc set is packed with a massive collection of extras that goes beyond the call of duty to provide viewers with a comprehensive package that's worth picking up even if you didn't like the film. The sheer amount of behind-the-scenes footage that shows the production process is fascinating to watch and Bay is as loud and demanding as his movies are.

Packaging

This 2-disc set is packaged in a Blu-ray case housed in a cardboard slip-case.

Overall

This disc can be purchased at HD Movie Source. Your HD movie specialists.

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The Film: D- Video: A Audio: A- Extras: A- Overall: B-

 


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