The Autobots are back for a new battle in Transformers: Age of Extinction
. This time Sam Witwicky is gone, but a brave inventor named Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) has stepped in to help Optimus Prime bring down the evil Decepticons, who once more threaten humanity. With the help of some new Autobots and some new human characters, a new battle for the Earth begins.
Our theatrical review
will weigh in on whether or not this new release is worth your time, while this column will focus solely on the film's use of 3D. Considering seven separate categories, To 3D Or Not To 3D evaluates the full scope of the 3D viewing experience. Think of it as a consumer's guide for your movie-going, complete with a viewers poll where you can weigh in on how you plan to see Transformers: Age of Extinction
3D is made for spectacle. Michael Bay's middle name is "spectacle." Giant battling robots. Massive metropolis destruction. Transformers: Age of Extinction
seems custom-built to be dazzling in 3D.
Planning & Effort Score
Bay is no newbie to 3D, as Transformers: Dark of the Moon
was the first in the franchise to go with the added dimension. For that film, Bay shot sections of the film in 2D with a 3D post-convert, and others in 3D. For Transformers: Age of Extinction
, he did the same, though this time the 3D cameras he employed are a new smaller digital IMAX camera. You can bet that a great deal of care was put into both the in-camera 3D and the post-converted. Or at least with a budget of $165 million, you'd assume so. I won't pretend that I could pick out what scenes where shot in 3D and which were post-converted.
Before the Window Score
This is that element of 3D that seems to reach right out into the theater. Unfortunately, for all its robot battles, flying metal, explosions and hurled debris, very little noticeably breaks out in Transformers: Age of Extinction
. I saw some soot. And the opening credits penetrate into the theater. Sadly, that's about it.
Beyond the Window Score
Conversely, this is the aspect of 3D that reaches beyond the screen, giving a deeper sense of depth to the film's world. Unfortunately, Bay's fondness for very tight close-ups truncates much of this option's use. There are scenes of sprawling valleys, cavernous space ships, and bustling cities, but by and large the added depth is barely noticeable because Bay's camera is so often in motion. One scene where Beyond The Window does have impact involves the human heroes scuttling down some thick wires, making their way from a spaceship to a skyscraper. An overhead shot looking down, down, down to the streets many stories below is shocking, and actually better sells their plight than a 2D version would.
Those 3D glasses make 3D pop, but also make the movie darker. To combat this, 3D prints must be adjusted accordingly. Honestly,Transformers: Age of Extinction
actually does this perfectly. It’s possible that this is because most of the movie seems to take place during magic hour, but nonetheless, it's never too dark to make out what's going on, whatever the setting.
This is a very simplistic way of seeing how much 3D you're getting in a given scene. Remove your 3D glasses; observe the blur, and you can see just how many levels of depth the movie is employing at any given moment. Running this rudimentary test a couple of times in Transformers: Age of Extinction
, I did observe a good amount of blur, but as there's a lot of smoke, and blank backgrounds of open sky, the 3D often felt cut off by Bay's aesthetic.
Audience Health Score
Bad 3D can be bad for you, causing nausea, headaches and/or eyestrain. I actually had repeated troubles focusing on Transformers: Age of Extinction
as a result. Bay is a big fan of swish pans, and moving his camera in elaborate choreography, but with dueling planes in my right and left eye, my vision couldn't always keep up. Certainly not helping things is that Bay's use of lens flares is literally painful in 3D, as the light doesn't only shine bright, but seems to be directly targeted at the audience and their retinas.