Transformers: Special Edition (2007)

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Released 31-Oct-2007

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Audio Commentary-by director Michael Bay
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Our World
Featurette-Making Of-Their War
Featurette-Making Of-More Than Meets the Eye
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2007
Running Time 137:37
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (64:37)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Michael Bay
Studio
Distributor
Dreamworks
Paramount Home Entertainment
Starring Shia LaBeouf
Megan Fox
Josh Duhamel
Tyrese Gibson
Rachael Taylor
Anthony Anderson
Jon Voight
John Turturro
Michael O'Neill
Kevin Dunn
Peter Cullen
Julie White
Amaury Nolasco
Case ?
RPI ? Music Steve Jablonsky


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Danish
Dutch
Finnish
Norwegian
Swedish
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes, plenty!
Action In or After Credits Yes

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Plot Synopsis

    Transformers is much better than anyone could have expected. The film is so action-packed, it's almost like a few action films rolled into one. Forget about the actors being upstaged by SFX - here the stars of the movie are SFX! Transformers is not a film for Academy voters or serious, art-house critics, but thanks to Industrial Light & Magic creating some of the best, and most seamless, CGI work I have ever seen, the Transformers brings the toys and TV characters from the 1980s you remember, vividly to life, as huge, detailed, and living characters. Transformers is the latest Michael Bay megaplex, popcorn movie, so if you're interested in heavy drama, or plot or character development, then move on. But if you like your Hollywood summer blockbusters large and loud, and with a fair dose of humour and fun, be sure to pick up (or rent) this year's fastest selling DVD.

    "More Than Meets the Eye."
 
    The concept of the Transformers - battling robots than transform into everyday machines to disguise themselves, such as cars and airplanes - was originally developed by Japanese toy company, Takara, in the 1970s. US toy giant Hasbro (owners of the GI Joe toy empire) bought the idea, and US comic book writers, Jim Shooter, Dennis O'Neil, and Bob Budiansky, were hired by Hasbro to create a back-story, and also create the individual characters of the "Robots in Disguise". In the mid 1980s, their work led to the Transformers appearing in both Marvel comics and as a successful, and fondly remembered, animated television series. The television series ran until 1987, and the Marvel comic books until 1992. During this period, in 1986, an animated film also appeared, and there have also been various animated spin-offs, such as the 1996, Transformers: Beast Wars.

    Apparently, Hasbro had been pushing the concept of a Transformers movie since 2002. The idea always fell on deaf ears in Hollywood, until 2004, when a treatment of the script landed on Steven Spielberg's desk. As a long-time fan of the toys and cartoons, Spielberg signed on as Executive Producer. But it was decided that the film should have a human focus - a story about "a boy and his car", and limit the Transformer characters to only a few Autobots and Decepticons. Michael Bay was recruited to direct, despite being completely ignorant of the Transformers. Bay's initial ignorance has proven to be an asset, as he insisted that the final draft of the script make sense to him, and all other non-Transformer fans. In doing so, he has pleased fans by staying reasonably faithful to the original concept, but he has also broadened the appeal of the movie.

    Cleverly, Bay, who also directed the large-scale action epics, Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, and The Island, has not forgotten those who grew up with the Transformers comics and TV series. Throughout the film Bay seems deeply aware that our nostalgic, childhood memories are at stake here. In this regard there are a number of nice touches that nod toward the Transformers roots. For example, Bay changed the appearance of the character of Bumblebee from a VW Beetle (as he was in the cartoons) to a Camaro. In the movie's car lot, a yellow Beetle is parked next to the Camaro, until it gets violently pushed to the side by Bumblebee. Furthermore, Bay even recruited Peter Cullen, who was the original voice of Optimus Prime in the cartoons, to revive the role.

    If you somehow are unfamiliar with the Transformers, they hail from the planet Cybertron, which was ravaged by a civil war between the good Autobots and the evil Decepticons. The Autobots, led by the noble, Optimus Prime (voiced of Peter Cullen), are People-friendly, living machines, that believe that "freedom is the right of all sentient beings". Meanwhile, the Decepticons, led by the power-hungry, Megatron (surprisingly well-voiced by Hugo Weaving), are angry robots who reek havoc and destruction.

    The film's writers, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, (together with John Rogers), have kept the basic Transformers story intact, while placing them in a modern, urban environment. The movie opens in the deserts of Qatar, where US troops led by Capt. Lennox (Josh Duhamel) and Sgt. Epps (Tyrese Gibson), first encounter the marauding Decepticons, in what will be the first of many, eye-popping, explosive battles. Thoroughly confused and whipped, a few soldiers escape and warn the US Secretary of Defence, John Keller (Jon Voight). Keller calls an emergency meeting to analyse the intelligence data they have gathered, but one of the small Decepticon robots has already hacked into Air Force One's computer systems.

    Keller will need all the help he can get, and will be assisted by young, Aussie, code-breaking hottie, Maggie Madsen (Rachael Taylor), the creepy and off-beat, Secret Agent Simmons (John Turturro), and a loveable hacker, Glen Whitmann (Anthony Anderson). There is also a memorable cameo by the always likeable, Bernie Mac, as used car salesman, Bobby Bolivia.

    At the centre of the story, an ordinary Californian teen, ladiesman217 on eBay, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), buys his first car. As a right-of-passage in western youth culture, this is his first step into manhood. He attempts to traverse his nerdiness, by opting for a run-down, muscle car, which is within his budget. It's a dented, mustard 1970s Camaro, but "it's got racing stripes!" What Sam doesn't realise is that the car, Bumblebee (voiced by Mark Ryan), with some not-so-subtle intervention, has actually picked him, due to a startling discovery made by Sam's great-great-grandfather in the 1870s. Sam has asserted his manhood, and he loves his muscle car, he's even driven a hot girl home in it (a first), so imagine his shock of watching it transform before his eyes into a 20-foot robot at will.

    Sam soon learns that Bumblebee and other Autobots need his help recovering the AllSpark - an all-powerful cube of life-giving energy, hidden somewhere on our planet. Sam also discovers that their enemies, the evil Decepticons, are planning to steal it for themselves.

    What this means for Sam is a frantic race to save our planet. What it means for us, is a movie packed with giant, well-armed, transforming robots, battling other giant, well-armed, transforming robots to the death; Plenty of ear-shattering, eye-popping stunt and action sequences, great touches of humour, and some fantastic car chases and explosions. As a young character watching the robots wreak havoc excitedly exclaims: "This is 100 times cooler than Armageddon!"

    However, Sam not only has to help the Autobots save the world, but he also has to avoid upsetting his well-meaning, but nosy parents (Kevin Dunn and Julie White), and also avoid his natural nerdy comments and dorky behaviour that might jeopardize his other important goal - trying to hook up with the very beautiful, Mickaela Banes (Megan Fox).

    One might suggest that Transformers reflects how much emotion we invest in our cars and technology. After all, we personalise our cars, computers, and mobile phones as if they were pets. We customise computer wallpaper and mobile phone ring tones. We communicate via emails, Facebook and My Space. We forward MPEGs, JPEGs, SMS, and web-links to each other to maintain our online friendships. Do the characters in Transformers reflect the merging of emotion and machines in our modern age? Others in the media have pointed to the US military's huge support and cooperation in making the film, and to current world events involving the US Government and its War on Terror. Is this a post-9/11 political film, warning us collectively of the threat of invasion from unfriendly powers - leading us to give thanks for a well-funded and well-armed US military to protect us?

    Perhaps it's both of these, and perhaps it's neither. Perhaps the film is just one long product placement for Hasbro, General Motors, and a collection of other US corporate "Sponsors". Regardless of motives, Transformers can be enjoyed as sheer mindless fun and excitement. Hugely entertaining, and exceptionally well-made, Transformers is one of the best popcorn films not only of this year, but of all-time.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The quality of the transfer is excellent for a standard definition DVD, and I enjoyed watching this film with both a widescreen television, and a projector.

    The widescreen transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1, which is close to its theatrical 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The DVD's transfer is 16x9 Enhanced.

    The image is sharp and well defined throughout, for example, consider the detailed and well delineated aerial shot of Washington DC at 14:56. The film has a higher than average contrast, and the black level is excellent, with true, deep blacks. There are many dark scenes, and fortunately the shadow detail is great. For example, look at the detail in the shadowy shot of the car interior at 25:49, or the dark street exterior at 32:07.

    I assume the entire film has undergone digital grading, and the approach to colour is consistent and excellent throughout. There are many scenes with themed and highly stylised lighting and/or use of coloured lenses, such as those inside the sterile NSA labs, and with the Autobots, there is a perfect palette of well-saturated primary colours on display. The skin tones (of the human characters) often seem a little too brown, but I believe this is an accurate reflection of the original print (make-up?).

    There are absolutely no problems with MPEG or film artefacts throughout, but I did notice some Film-to-video artefacts in the form of aliasing, such as the slight shimmer on the side of the school building at 8.35. I only spotted a few occasions of aliasing throughout, and to be fair, it is hardly noticeable. This is a pristine print, with a expertly authored transfer to DVD.

    Very occasionally there appeared to be very slight edge enhancement, but this might relate to the enormous amount of blue screen content, and SFX throughout.

   Eight sets of subtitles are present on this DVD, and the English ones are slightly simplified, but accurate.

    This is a two disc set. The first disc houses the feature, and is a Dual Layer disc, with the layer change well-placed at 64:37.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The original sound design for the Transformers film was truly awesome, and the DVD's sound is of excellent quality for that format.

    Originally released theatrically with a choice of Dolby Digital, dts, and SDDS sound, there are two audio options for the feature on this DVD: English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s), and an English Audio Commentary presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).

    Despite the extensive use of ADR, the dialogue quality and audio sync are fine throughout.

    The film's original score is credited to traditional orchestral composer, Steve Jablonsky, who also scored The Island. The music suits the look and feel of the Bay film, and certainly underscores the over-the-top action sequences.

    As you might expect, Transformers has a very high level of surround presence and activity. Supervising Sound Editor, Etahn Van Der Ryn has done a wonderful job, and from the opening scenes of the helicopters over the desserts of Qatar, the film announces very early to listeners the excellent sound design, and subsequent use of the rears. The rear speakers are used extensively throughout to help carry the score, and for ambience, such as the traffic at 11:50. There are also a few clever panning-between-speaker moments, such as the chaotic gun battle at 39:49.

    The subwoofer is also utilised throughout, as this is a very LFE heavy film.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    US Toy giant Hasbro must be rubbing its hands. If the TV cartoon was a commercial for its toys, this movie is one long product placement. But it's not only product placement for Hasbro and General Motors, a number of other US corporate giants (referred to in the Extras as "Sponsors") also helped fund the film with their advertising. Interestingly, some further product placement was added to the DVD. An eagle-eyed viewer in the US noticed that the film has been digitally altered in the DVD in parts to advertise some products, such as adding a logo for Cisco's Unified Communications, to the screen when Capt. Lennox 'phones' home - sneaky!

    Transformers is released as a two-disc DVD set, and there are a collection of genuine and interesting extras. But in a recent interview in USA Today, Director Bay said: "It's a good DVD. But not as good as it could have been”. Bay claims a hectic studio schedule prevented him from being personally involved in the DVD. "I was travelling promoting (“Transformers”) while they were doing the DVD," he says. "You try to guide people as to what to do, but ultimately if you rush your date, you are not going to get the DVD as good as it could be . . . Studios want to pump this stuff out. They just see it as a show they are selling, and I see it as a movie."

    Considering that Bay released extended DVD versions of both Armageddon and Pearl Harbor, and also factoring in the film and DVD's success financially, in the future we might see something similar to Bay's four-disc, extras-packed DVD of Pearl Harbor. In the meantime, there is still plenty here to enjoy:

Disc One

Menu

    Animated with audio.

Audio Commentary

    Presented with Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s) audio, director Michael Bay provides a chatty, screen-specific commentary which is loaded with information about the film. Apart from the production, Bay also discusses the business behind getting the film made and distributed. There are a number of anecdotes and interesting trivia throughout.

Disc Two

Our World (49:15)

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 Enhanced, with Dolby Digital Stereo Surround Sound, this is a genuine and meaty, 'making of' documentary, that looks at various aspects of making this film. There are a number of interviews with key cast and crew, including Steven Spielberg and Michael Bay, footage taken from the original cartoons, and a lot of behind-the-scenes footage.

    The Chapters are:

Easter Egg

    A mocked-up television commercial for the 'Bay Bot' Transformer

Their War (65:07)

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 Enhanced, with Dolby Digital Stereo Surround Sound, this is another genuine documentary, that comprehensively looks at various aspects of the Transformers universe.

    The Chapters are:

Easter Egg 2

    A behind-the-scenes look at filming Bay's cameo, which was later cut from the film.

More Than Meets the Eye (65:07)

Easter Egg 3

    A behind-the-scenes look at filming the moment when a model's dress is torn off by a small Xbox 360 that has transformed into a naughty robot. This moment was later cut from the film.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Transformers was released on DVD in Region 1 in October 2007. In terms of content, our two versions are the same. The two-disc DVD is also offered locally with various packaging, including one that "transforms".

    In a coup for the HD-DVD camp, Transformers has also been released exclusively in high definition on HD-DVD, and sold a record 190,000 units in its first week of release - a record for any high definition disc! Furthermore, Dreamworks and Paramount studios claim that over 20% of purchasers have connected to the web-enabled extras available on the HD-DVD in the first week alone. However, perhaps the now HD-DVD exclusive Dreamworks and Paramount studios should consider how many more high definition sales they would have enjoyed if the title was released on Blu-ray as well? For example, previously, Dreamworks and Paramount studios' two top selling High Definition titles were Disturbia and Shooter, which were released on both formats. Sales figures showed that Blu-ray discs accounted for about 60% of Shooter sales, and almost 70% of Disturbia sales. Bay originally announced that if Transformers were not released on Blu-ray, that there would be no sequel. He later toned down his comments, and as for the format war, added: "It's short-sighted and it has delayed consumers' moving to HD."

Summary

    Sheer mindless fun and excitement, Transformers was never destined to win the Best Film Oscar - it’s designed to provide a fun, rollercoaster ride of action and thrills, and in that regard, it certainly doesn't disappoint. I personally think it's one of the most fun and visceral movies in recent years - low on exposition, but high on action and entertainment.

    If you're a fan of the original TV cartoons, or of the movie, this is a must buy DVD!

    The video quality is excellent for standard definition DVD.

    The audio quality is also excellent for standard definition DVD.

    The extras are genuine and enrich the movie experience.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Brandon Robert Vogt (warning: bio hazard)
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDSony Playstation 3 (HDMI 1.3) with Upscaling, using HDMI output
DisplayPanasonic High Definition 50' Plasma (127 cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationSamsung Pure Digital 6.1 AV Receiver (HDMI 1.3)
SpeakersSamsung

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Confusing MTV style battle scenes - Matt
A little underwhelming - Gavin Bollard (bio - updated 9 Nov 2005)
You obviously have never seen the original cartoon series... - Anonymous
Further to Matt's comments - Le Messor (bio logy class)