Monday, April 15, 2019

Bumblebee 4K Ultra HD Review

Reviewed by Jami Ferguson
The Transformers re-boot Bumblebee is now available on 4K Ultra High Definition with included Blu-ray and digital code. As Cybertron falls, Bumblebee heads to Earth where he makes immediate enemies, but also finds an unlikely friend. As he acclimates to his new environment, The Decepticons aren’t far behind, desperate to locate Optimus Prime.

Film (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
The war on the transformers’ home world Cybertron is ending. Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen), leader of the Autobot resistance, sends soldier B-127 to Earth. B-127 is tasked with setting up a base of operations and protecting the planet. B-127 crashes in an unfortunate location, close to a Sector 7 training exercise. Colonel Jack Burns (John Cena) assumes B-127 is hostile, which isn’t his only problem. A Decepticon has followed and demands to know the location of Optimus Prime. When B-127 doesn’t cooperate, his voice box is torn out and his memory is damaged. B-127 scans an old Volkswagen Beetle and assumes its form.

Nearby, Charlie Watson (Hailee Steinfeld) is turning 18 years old. She lives with her mother and brother. Her father died unexpectedly, and she hasn’t gotten over it, nor has she bonded with her mother’s new boyfriend. Charlie and her dad could have fixed any vehicle, but without him things aren’t the same. Charlie hangs out at the local scrapyard, where she uncovers the yellow Beetle. Hank, the owner of the yard gifts the car to Charlie as a birthday present and she takes it home to begin restoration. Quickly, Charlie sees the vehicle transform. She nicknames her new car/friend Bumblebee. Charlie knows that people won’t understand Bumblebee and she aims to keep his existence secret. Sector 7 and the Decepticons are fiercely pursing Bumblebee, while Charlie and her neighbor fight to keep him safe. 

Michael Bay’s Transformers was the beginning of a film legacy that had my interest but went off the rails. Seeing the cars transform from robots to vehicles was pretty cool but after a few films, I lost interest. I wasn’t a big fan of the cartoons, but I know people who were, and they picked apart some of the details. Those same people were relatively happy with the metal characters in this film. Bumblebee is a prequel, and hopefully a reboot of the franchise. The film takes place in 1987, which for fans my age is an era that offers a bit of nostalgia. Charlie’s music, clothes and Walkman choices stand out for someone who remembers the 80s well. Many of my favorite moments from Transformers are between Sam Witwicky and the Autobots. Similarly, the relationship between Charlie and Bumblebee gives this story its heart. 

The film is definitely centered around Bumblebee, and the presence of other transformers is limited. For some people, that will work. For others who want to see Transformers battle for two hours, this isn’t the film for them. It worked for me and this is a film I will watch again, and the story doesn’t lose anything after repeat viewings.
Video (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
As expected, the 4K UHD presentation is preferable to the Blu-ray. Color saturation and textures are improved. The differences are slight, starting with an above average Blu-ray. Pores are more visible in 4K, but skin textures appear accurate in both formats. In the scrap yard you’ll notice rust, dirt and other detail in the clutter. The 4K shines above the Blu-ray the most in the opening sequences in space. The darkness of Cybertron combined with the metallic color palette makes a difference. Watching the cars transform on 4K, the uptick in resolution will allow you to see the fine details as they change.
Audio (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
The Dolby Atmos soundtrack can handle what Bumblebee dishes out. Surround sound is thoroughly engaged during action sequences. Gun fire and metal manipulating rings true and bring bass. This is a large soundtrack with numerous effects, all well balanced. The 80s music feels like you’re hearing remastered tracks. Dialogue is intelligible and without issue.
Extras (3 out of 5 stars) 
Although the 4K Disc contains no extras the Blu-ray includes the following:
  • Sector 7 Archive - 
    • Welcome to Sector 7 (0:50) – An introduction for new recruits
    • Sector 7 Adventures: The Battle at Half Dome (9:19) – the action version of the physical comic included with this purchase. 
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes (19:05 total runtime) – Original Opening, Drive to Karate Class, Birthday Present, Car Wash and Beetle Breakdown, Charlie Drops off Mona and Conan, Decepticons Inspect the Armory, Drive to Cliff, Sector 7 and Appliance War.
  • Outtakes (9:32 total runtime) – Funny clips titled Burns Meets Bee, War Room, There’s a Door in My Way, Charlie in Trash and Saved the World.
  • Bee Vision: The Transformers Robots of Cybertron (3:56) – A closer look at the Transformers in the opening sequence.
  • Bringing Bumblebee to the Big Screen - 
    • The Story of Bumblebee (3:54) – Cast and crew discuss the reboot and the focus on Bumblebee and Charlie.
    • The Stars Align (7:04) – See how John Cena and Hailee Steinfeld came to the project and what they bring to the roles.
    • Bumblebee Goes Back to G1 (10:02) – This featurette looks at the G1 1980s Transformers and the influence from the Michael Bay films.
    • Back to the Beetle (6:20) – Bumblebee in car form and his history.
    • California Cruisin’ Down Memory Lane (19:57) – Production design and the 1980s era.
Summary (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Bumblebee is a great starter film. It’s a nice introduction to the idea of transformers without requiring a lot of backstory. Everyone knows the Decepticons are the bad guys and the Autobots are good. Here we meet and get to know Bumblebee and his first human friend. This film isn’t as in your face as a Michael Bay production is. That can be good or bad, depending on your personality. The 4K version of the film does show improvement over a Blu-ray that looks and sounds pretty good. The supplemental features aren’t as extensive as I had expected but I did enjoy what was provided.

Order your copy today!

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