- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Director Travis Knight’s welcomed reboot of producer Michael Bay’s live-cinematic adaptations of Hasbro’s beloved “robots in disguise” toy line goes from its blockbuster run to ultra-high definition in Bumblebee (Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment, rated PG-13, 114 minutes, 1.78:1 and 1.78:1 aspect ratio, $27.95).

The sixth installment to the series takes place in 1987 and offers an origin as well as coming-of-age tale about a teenage girl named Charlie Wilson (Hailee Steinfeld) mourning the loss of her father, coping with a too-happy remaining family and befriending a robot sent from a distant planet to protect Earth from an impending invasion.

The robot is the popular Transformer’s Autobot B-127, eventually named Bumblebee by the girl, that must learn to adapt to Earth and humans after a massive battle where he is exposed to Sector 7 and agent Jack Burns (John Cena).

The secret government organization, tasked with tracking extraterrestrials, gets hoodwinked by the evil Decepticons Shatter and Dropkick to find Bumblebee. It leads to some intense battles and torture of the heroic robot until Charlie helps save the day.

Mr. Knight’s greatest accomplishment throughout is giving a clunky robot a wide range of emotions, thanks to the digital effects team’s meticulous work to capture facial expressions from twisting facial metal cheeks and eyelids.

Fans of the franchise will appreciate some of the scaled-down versions of the Transformers (Generation 1 models to be exact) as well as the immersion into 1980s culture, where Hasbro’s famed toy line started.

When compared to the previous movies, this effort is truly, as the Transformers slogan goes, “more than meets the eye.” It ratchets down the headache-inducing, bombastic battles of the bots and within a coherent teen drama focuses on the robots interactions with humans and their human-like qualities.

4K in action: As with all live-action “Transformers” movies, the UHD and high definition shine when examining the wondrous, often multistory-tall robots and their alter egos.

Although simply a 4K upscale from a 2K master, the movie stays sharp throughout with strong color saturation but, worth noting, is not a reference quality release. Viewers will appreciate “Bumblebee” equally well in the Blu-ray format.

However, It’s hard not to slightly gasp when watching the meticulous digital design in 4K when applied to Bumblebee changing into the beat-up VW Volkswagen while being able to identify many of the dented, scuffed car parts becoming its body thanks to a crisp transfer.

Better yet, since the release offers a complete screen-filling presentation, the opening fight on Cybertron is so much more enjoyable while watching numerous and very colorful Transformers such as Optimus Prime and Soundwave fight amid explosions and laser blasts.

One of my favorite examples of appreciating the 4K upscale is the frenetic fighting at night and the final demise of the Decepticon Dropkick. It pays a heavy price when attacking Bumblebee as a Bell SuperCobra helicopter.

And, as always, the added Dolby Atmos soundtrack offers room-shaking moments during Transformer battles but also highlights a pure 1980s musical soundtrack and bands such as “The Smiths,” “Simple Minds” and “Oingo Boingo.”

Best extras: The included Blu-ray disc contains all of the digital goodies and starts with the opening scene of the movie and learning just a tiny bit about the engaged Autobots and Decepticons.

Called Bee Vision, viewers rewatch the roughly 4-minute battle for Cybertron that gets interrupted with a full-screen encyclopedic display.

Each of the roughly dozen entries offer images of combatants such as Arcee, Wheeljack and Soundwave along with their designation, allegiance and transforming modes.

Next, viewers get a nearly 10-minute-long motion comic (remember those?) sequel to the movie called “Sector 7 Adventures: The Battle of Half Dome” that slightly brings to animated life a battle between the evil Soundwave versus Sector 7 agents, Bumblebee and Brawn.

A hard-copy, 15-page, full color mini-comic produced by Avalanche Comics Entertainment, that duplicates most of the digital tale, can also found in the shrink-wrapped package.

Finally worth noting is an almost 47-minute-long, five-part look at the production of the movie that covers the cast, 1980s-style production design, locations and the reboot of the franchise.

Most interesting are segments about the origin of Bumblebee and digital designers attempting to model the film’s Transformers to look like their first-generation cartoon, toy and comic book counterparts.

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