Transformers: Special Edition (Blu-ray) (2007)
Audio Commentary-Michael Bay
On-Screen Information Track-Picture-in-Picture: Transformers H.U.D.
Featurette-More Than Meets the Eye
|Year Of Production||2007|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Dual Disc Set
|Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Michael Bay|
Paramount Home Entertainment
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (640Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (640Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (640Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (640Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.40:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||Yes|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes|
Finally! Transformers was the highest profile BD casualty of the HD-Format War. Dreamworks and Paramount studios' failed exclusive arrangement with the now defunct HD-DVD format meant that previously, consumers were denied Transformers on Blu-ray. At the time this caused a lot of anger among Blu-ray owners, and even the film's Director Michael Bay shocked everyone by announcing that if Transformers were not released as a BD, that there would be no sequel. He later toned down his comments, and thankfully the format war ended with Blu-ray the victor. Now a year after it was originally released on DVD, the sheer mindless fun and excitement of Transformers is finally available on Blu-ray. Designed to provide a rollercoaster ride of action and thrills, Transformers is one of the most fun and visceral movies in recent years - low on exposition, but high on action and entertainment. Is it worth the wait? With the excellent high definition transfer and a bonus disc of extras with a number of hidden 'easter eggs', Autobots roll out and upgrade your DVDs!
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 a Michael Bay megaplex, popcorn movie, so if you're interested in heavy drama, or plot or character development, then move on.
"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 Transformers: Beast Wars in 1996.
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 to avoid comparisons with Herbie. 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 desserts 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 Defense, 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 technology 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 recent years, but of all-time.
Visually Transformers is stunning, and the BD's high definition transfer is truly magnificent, and noticeably more striking and more detailed than the DVD's transfer.
Transformers has been authored in 1920 x 1080p. The film has been encoded using AVC MPEG-4 compression, and is presented in a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.40:1, in a native 16x9 frame, which is close to its theatrical 2.35:1 aspect ratio.
As one should expect with a high definition transfer, the sharpness of the image is excellent. For example, consider the perfect delineation in the sweeping exterior shot of the school at 8:58. The sharpness of the BD's transfer is noticeably better than that of the DVD's. For example, with the high definition transfer, consider the intricate detail now visible in the aerial shot of the Pentagon at 27:43. 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.
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?).
The BD's transfer has an average bit rate higher than what I have seen on other BDs that I have reviewed. It ranges between 25-35 Mbps, compared to 15-20 Mbps. There are no problems with MPEG artefacts, such as pixelization. There are also no problems with Film-To-Video Artefacts, such as aliasing or telecine wobble. A pristine print was used for the transfer, and I never spotted any film artefacts.
Very occasionally there appeared to be very slight edge enhancement, but this might relate to the enormous amount of blue or green screen content, and SFX throughout.
25 subtitle streams are included. The English ones are accurate.
This is a two disc set. The feature is presented on a BD-50 (50 GB) disc, divided into 23 chapters.
The original sound design for the Transformers film was truly awesome, and the BD's surround audio is a real treat. Indeed it easily rivals Iron Man as this year's Best Home Theatre Audio Experience!
Originally released theatrically with a choice of Dolby Digital, dts, and SDDS sound, there are six audio options for the feature on this BD. The default option is English Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1. Dolby TrueHD Lossless audio is capable of carrying up to eight discrete audio channels, at a sample depth and rate of 24-bit/96 kHz. The maximum bitrate that can be encoded is 18 Mbps. Also included are German, Spanish, French, and Italian dubs presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 (all encoded at 640 kbps). There is also an English Audio Commentary by Director Michael Bay 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, Ethan 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. As with the DVD, the surround presence and activity is immersive and impressive, and it really adds a lot to the film. The surround sound mix is very aggressive, and the rear speakers are used throughout to help carry the score and to provide ambience. As I have noticed with other BDs, there is also a very noticeable improvement in the clarity of the sound in the rear speakers.
The subwoofer is also utilised throughout, as this is a very LFE heavy film.
|Surround Channel Use|
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 last year's DVD release. 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 has a number of genuine extras spread across two Blu-ray discs, with most being presented in high definition. These extras have been ported from last year's HD-DVD.
As with other BDs, the menu can be accessed while the film is playing. There is also an animated Main Menu.
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. This is the same commentary as was on the DVD.
Picture-in-Picture: Transformers H.U.D.
This extra allows you to watch the movie with a P.I.P overlay. This mainly involves a trivia box that pops up with additional information which could be anything from a description of the aircraft onscreen to a list of an actor's other film or TV credits. There are also some animatics and behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with cast an crew that appear throughout.
BD-Live promises to include advanced web-based features in a Blu-ray title, that might include downloadable video content, 'wallpaper', mobile phone ring-tones, interactive movie-based games, or even web-based shopping for product-placed items in the film. Furthermore, with BD-Live, some movie distributors will attempt to create online movie fan-based communities, such as those currently found on Facebook, MySpace or YouTube. In time, BD-Live should create a far more interactive home theatre experience, and perhaps more importantly, the distributors are no longer limited by the finite capacity on the Blu-ray disc in providing extras.
Here BD Live offers an Intelligence Center with an "enhanced playback mode" which resizes the film within a customised Transformers-themed skin. There are "on-screen widgets to track the action of the film". These widgets include a GPS Tracker, Robot Status Alerts, and a Data Panel.
Our World (49:17)
Presented in high definition in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, in a native 16x9 frame, 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:
Their War (65:13)
Presented in high definition in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, in a native 16x9 frame, with Dolby Digital Stereo Surround Sound, this is another genuine documentary, that comprehensively looks at various aspects of the Transformers universe.
The Chapters are:
Transformers Tech Inspector
This interactive extra allows us a closer look at the detailed design of the Transformers. Once you select an "N.B.E", that section will rotate in close-up on screen.
More Than Meets the Eye
Again, these have been presented in high definition with stereo audio:
These are all found on Disc Two:
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
Transformers was released on DVD and HD-DVD in October 2007. A year later it has been released on BD globally. In terms of content, the HD-DVD and the various BDs are all pretty much the same, with only slight and minor variations.
If you like your Hollywood summer blockbusters large and loud, and with a fair dose of humour and fun, you can now upgrade your DVD copy of Transformers to high definition.
The video quality is excellent.
The audio quality is also excellent.
The extras are genuine and enrich the movie experience.
|DVD||Sony Playstation 3 (HDMI 1.3) with Upscaling, using HDMI output|
|Display||Panasonic 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 Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Amplification||Samsung Pure Digital 6.1 AV Receiver (HDMI 1.3)|