Back in 2007, Michael Bay invented the Transformers film franchise as we know it. The first film wowed audiences with its stunning special effects, fast-paced and often hysterical dialogue, quick-cut editing, and robots that felt like people. Each sequel felt bigger than the first in terms of mass destruction, peril, and stunning effects. By the time "The Last Knight" hit theaters, things moved so fast that you almost couldn't see what was happening, and the plot was sometimes transparently thin. Still good fun, but not much to think about. Audiences were divided, and many came away saying Michael Bay should leave the franchise.
Bumblebee is the first Transformers film not directed by Michael Bay, although Bay stayed on as a producer, as did Steven Spielberg and Lorenzo di Bonaventura. First, let me size up the sound and picture on the 4K release. Then I'll have a few comments regarding the film (spoiler-free).
SIZING UP THE 4K HDR PICTURE (2 stars -- bad disc?):
I am a stickler for picture quality. In fact, I am one of the old plasma TV guys who has only just recently made a transition to a very high-end SONY Bravia 4K (backlit) LED. (OLED is still burning in and I don't believe those sets are ready for being daily-watched on any content that has a banner, logo, or anything else. I've seen the burn in patterns myself, and I've heard even worse horror stories from people who liked watching the Animal Planet or HGTV and now have the logos permanently.)
My main complaint about most LED televisions these days is what is called "light bloom" -- a bright light source that creates an unintended white haze or halo around an object when there is shadowing or a dark background. Once you've seen it, you can never unsee it. Fortunately, my new SONY is a real beast at minimizing "light bloom". It is there sometimes in the most severe circumstances, but not enough to drive me nuts. (I compared top-end LED TVs from Samsung, LG, and other companies and dismissed them in favor of the SONY, btw). In the last six months or so, I have been expanding my 4K HDR collection, even replacing some of my older standard blu-rays and comparing them to see what is being accomplished with the HDR effects.
One of the things that I've begun noticing about HDR discs is that they seem to be engineered to minimize the light bloom on LED TVs. Blacks are darker and richer, and light bloom is minimized over the same scenes on standard blu-rays. However, I have also begun to notice that some HDR transfers are more effective at minimizing bloom than others.
In short, the 4K HDR on this disc works flawlessly in some spots, and *very* badly in others. The opening scenes on Cybertron are stunning. However, throughout much of the rest of the movie, the "light bloom" effect is terrible. After watching this film in 4K, I put in the 2007 Transformers film in 4K HDR format, and that 12-year-old film actually accomplished what HDR should do MUCH better. It had darker blacks and richer hues than the brand new movie, played on the same equipment in a pitch-dark room. This simply should not be.
AUDIO (3 stars -- bad disc?):
The audio on this disc was quite good, with one *shockingly irritating* flaw: there was a lag in the audio that placed it a some milliseconds behind the video, perhaps as much as 20-50. I was shocked. At first I thought my Cambridge Audio blu-ray player had gone bananas. I tried several other discs and they were perfectly synchronized. I put Bumblebee back in, and the lag was right there again. The problem was not with my equipment.
Considering the audio/video issues with this disc, I am forced to ask: Perhaps my disc is flawed?
THE FILM (No spoilers, 4 stars):
This film is more family-friendly than other entries in the Transformers franchise. It's cuter, maybe a little more heart, etc., etc. There are some good one-liners and a few really funny scenes. However, it is also much, much "smaller" than any of the later films. Some might argue that is necessary because the world didn't know about Transformers before the events of the 2007 film, and that is true. The effects were great, but without the fast-paced, frenetic cuts of all the Michael Bay films (some love them, some hate them) it didn't really seem like a Transformers movie in places. In fact, some who were watching it in my group were just plain bored. Was the plot somewhat better than the frenetic Michael Bay films? Some would say 'yes', others would say you don't see a Transformers movie for the plot. I tend to fall in the middle of either camp. It was decent, though.
The movie is set in 1987. I lived in 1987. It didn't capture 1987. It was like a bunch of young 2019-ers running around in 1980s outfits while they played some of the cheesier 80s music to try to set the mood. Not very convincing as a "period piece", I'm afraid. I think films like X-Men: First Class or Captain America: The First Avenger accomplished the notion of capturing the period much better.
One final complaint: the score was not very good. I am a huge fan of Dario Marianelli (Pride & Prejudice, The Darkest Hour), but this film is NOT his lane. Love him or hate him, Steve Jablonsky created a sound for the Transformers films, and this score fell FLAT. There was also too much reliance on 80s songs (which still didn't get the period feel just right).
Overall, this film was not terrible, and I would recommend it to anyone who likes Transformers films. However, there were flaws with the audio and video on this disc. That, combined with the out-of-place score and the not-quite-1980s feel of the movie and ... the whole thing left me feeling a little flat.