Bumblebee 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray review

The law of averages suggests that if enough Transformers movies are made, eventually a good one will come along by mistake. Bumblebee isn't a mistake, but it's definitely a good movie. Michael Bay relinquishes the directing duties in favour of Kubo and the Two Strings helmer Travis Knight, and the result is a prequel that relies on story, character, and humour rather than globe-trotting metal mayhem.

The film opens with an epic battle on Cybertron but then deliberately scales down the action, allowing the relationship between Hailee Steinfeld's Charley and the titular Autobot to take centre stage. Steinfeld shines as the rebellious teenager, and Bumblebee is completely endearing thanks to some top-notch VFX.

The plot even makes sense for a change, with Bumblebee on the run from Decepticons and sinister government agents. Meanwhile, the 1987 setting allows for plenty of nostalgia, as the filmmakers borrow from the likes of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, WarGames, and The Breakfast Club. As a result Bumblebee is a big-hearted and fun adventure for all the family, with well-choreographed and coherent action set-pieces.

Who knows, it might be the first Transformers movie you actually enjoy watching, rather than just using as a demo disc for your mates.

Picture: That said, if you do want to show off the benefits of HDR, then Bumblebee makes for a great reference platter. While shot at 3.4K and finished using a 2K DI, the difference between the UHD disc and the regular Blu-ray is astonishing.

There isn't a huge increase in resolution, although the 4K presentation has a smidge more detail in the CG animation. However, in direct comparison the 1080p version looks so dull and insipid that if it didn't contain all the extras, you'd be using the disc as a shiny drinks coaster.

The HDR grade (which includes a Dolby Vision encode in addition to HDR10) is a delight, with the opening shots of Cybertron bursting off the screen. Glowing canyons of yellow light descend into the machine planet, and as the civil war rages the laser fire and explosions tear across the screen with a vivid intensity.

Yet it's the vibrancy and saturation of the colours that really blow your mind, with the Transformers' metal bodies shining like freshly burnished paint jobs. Bumblebee's signature yellow really pops, and the specular highlights as sunlight reflects off chrome bumpers and windshields help bring the robots to life.

Thanks to the increased dynamic range there's greater detail in Bumblebee's blue eyes and the colour is more solid. The blacks retain depth and there's plenty of detail in the shadows, as evidenced during the climatic night-time battle in a naval shipyard. There's a healthy sheen of digital grain, but otherwise this is a pristine transfer with no compression artefacts.

Unusually for a Transformers film, Bumblebee was released theatrically in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, perhaps as a nod to its '80s influences. The disc opens the image out slightly to 1.78:1, filling your 4K TV screen with all its HDR robo-goodies.
Picture rating: 4.5/5

Audio: Bumblebee might be a better film than previous entries in the franchise, but it's still a Transformers movie. That means a big and brash soundtrack that relies heavily on prodigious amounts of bass. The robots generate plenty of low-end slam, while gunfire and explosions give the LFE channel a thorough workout.

The Dolby Atmos mix puts all the Autobot action within a hemisphere of sound that produces very precise imaging. There's extensive use of the overheads and effects are often highly directional. At one point a character circles another while speaking, and their voice moves fluidly from one channel to the next.

The score is rendered with pleasing clarity, and spread across the front channels to create an effective aural accompaniment. The '80s pop songs that weave their way through the soundtrack sound toe-tappingly good, helping to sell the period setting. Dialogue is prioritised, remaining clear and focused, while bass is used to give the Transformers' voices more depth.
Audio rating: 5/5

Extras: Paramount includes a solid set of extras on the 1080p disc, headlined by Bringing Bumblebee to the Big Screen. This five-part feature runs for nearly 50 minutes (annoyingly there's no 'Play All' option), and covers the genesis of the project, the casting, the retro look of the Transformers, Bumblebee's classic VW Beetle disguise, and the 1980s production design.

Then there's 20 minutes of deleted and extended scenes, including a different opening that suggests the film originally had a less linear narrative. You also get nine minutes of outtakes that mostly involve John Cena ad-libbing; a 'Bee Vision' guide to the Transformers involved in the film's opening battle; and a motion comic that explicitly confirms Bumblebee is a prequel to the earlier films.
Extras rating: 3.5/5

We say: Saturated HDR visuals and seismic Dolby Atmos sonics enhance this touching tale of a girl and her robot on 4K Blu-ray.

Bumblebee, Paramount, Ultra HD Blu-ray & All-region BD, £30