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  • Transformers (Two-Disc Special Edition)

    Posted in: Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on October 15th, 2007

    Overall
    Film
    Video
    Audio
    Extras
    (out of 5)

    I had a decided advantage going into the Michael Bay extravagance that is Transformers. Unlike the majority of the film’s target audience, I have had almost no exposure to the other incarnations of Transformers. I was already too old for the toys when Hasbro launched them, and so it was true for the cartoon and comic versions that quickly followed. Like everyone else I have a passing familiarity with the things, but nothing more. How is that an advantage, you might very well ask. Like any film that dares to attempt material often considered sacred by its followers, Transformers had to play the game of expectations. I don’t carry any of the baggage that often keeps an audience from enjoying a film because they already think they know what it should look like. Armed with just the most basic of knowledge, I was able to approach the film freshly and enjoy it as a standalone entity. With that said, I had a pretty rockin’ time of it.

    In this version of The Transformers Earth is caught up in an age-old conflict between two factions of an autobot society. These sentient mechanical beings ravaged their own planet with war and now threaten to continue their struggle on a new battlefield: Earth. The bad guys are the evil robots called Decepticons. They see Earth as a new place to sow their seeds of destruction and humans as a minor infestation to be eliminated. The leader Megatron has been secretly kept in suspended animation by the government since the 1930’s. The good guys are a guardian group of robots called Autobots led by a bot named Optimus Prime. Both groups are in search of a cube structure that is more than a little reminiscent of a Borg cube, called The Spark. This cube contains the power of life that can be spread to any technological device to create new Decepticons. So our evil friends envision an Earth overrun by newly created bots from Earth’s own machines.

    Michael Bay made the very smart decision to mold this film not around the Transformers, but around a distinctively human element. Thus the film was made far more accessible to folks like me, not particularly big Transformer fans. Shia Le Beouf has been getting a ton of work lately from last year’s Disturbia to the upcoming Indiana Jones film. His performance here is a good example of why he’s becoming so busy. LeBeouf does a fine job of providing the human face to the f/x spectacular. His character, Sam, has two important connections to the bots. His grandfather is the explorer who discovered Megatron and has left him a pair of reading glasses that are far more than they seem. He also comes to own the popular transformer, Bumblebee, when he buys a rather broken down yellow and black Camaro. His romantic interest and fellow adventurer is Mikaela played wonderfully by Megan Fox. There’s a good amount of chemistry between these two that appropriately begins as quite awkward but develops slowly into a camaraderie during the film. Las Vegas’ Josh Duhamel is underused as a soldier who is one of the first to engage a Decepticon. Jon Voigt also adds believability to the film in his role as Secretary of Defense. John Turturro adds the comedy relief as special agent Simmons who attempts to force the kids to help them.

    Of course, most of us came to see f/x and lots of them. You won’t be disappointed, as this film does it all. While the first hour of the film moves along rather slowly, there’s no doubt that the last hour of this film is one long action sequence after another. The final battle takes place with all of the explosions, weapons fire, and Transformer battles you could want. I wasn’t completely happy with the actual transformations, because most of them happen with alarming speed, so you don’t get to take in the dynamics of what part becomes what on the actual fighting robot. Again, I never saw the cartoons or the 1984 animated feature, but these Transformers come armed to the teeth, often literally. Mortars, lasers, and powerful bombs and missiles populate nearly every inch of these bad boys, and they’re not afraid to use them. The result is a wonderful culmination of mostly CGI mixed in with practical stunts and gags, with some miniature work as well. The final hour… well, that’s just showing off.

    Finally I was actually impressed with the script. Often in films like these the alleged story is lost somewhere between f/x shots and no one seems to worry too much about it. I found this story built a solid foundation for all the mystery and mayhem to follow. Bay actually gives credit to his audience and gives them a complicated plot with plenty of B and C arcs going on to keep you happy between the action sequences. I don’t really know how this story fits in with the original Transformers lore, but enough was explained that I felt pretty comfortable that I knew who these things were and what it was they wanted to do. You do not have to have seen anything Transformers before to totally enjoy this incredible rollercoaster ride. When it comes to Transformers, as Sgt. Shultz might have said, “I know nothing,” but that didn’t stop me from, did I say, having a rockin’ time?.


    Video

    Transformers is presented in its original release aspect ratio of 2.35:1. In a word, the picture was awesome. The f/x shots blended seamlessly with the live action, and there were no awkward quality jumps at all. The color was outstanding. The yellow Bumblebee stood out beautifully against many of the darker tones present in the film. Contrast and sharpness were nearly perfect. Black levels held great shadow detail and provided a nearly compression artifact free finish. OK, so there was some shimmer in a few shots, but you had to look really hard to catch it, and you should have been paying attention to the bots anyway.

    Audio

    The Dolby Digital 5.1 track manipulated the sound field flawlessly. I was able to completely immerse myself in the action. Dialog somehow cut through all of this high powered sound without a single problem. I have to admit I was just a little disappointed in the sub response, however. There were times I felt the explosive nature of the woofers did not match the grandiose image. There’s certainly some fine bottom there, but it was somewhat inconsistent. Everything else carried a very fine clarity throughout. The surrounds benefited from subtle nuance effects to full blown ear shattering screams of power so that you never find yourself bored with what you hear.


    There is a Michael Bay audio commentary, and while he does offer a lot of cool insights, you can get them in the features. He does tend to drone on somewhat, while having nothing to say for minutes at a time. For me there’s just too much going on in the film, and I often found myself tuning him out to concentrate on the film.

    Special Features


    All of these features can be found on the second of the 2-disc release of the film.

    Our World: This nearly hour long feature can be viewed as a whole or broken into four segments dealing with: the story, actors, military consultations, and the battles. Even Steven Spielberg, one of the producers, is involved, as is pretty much everyone else in this rather inclusive feature. Hasbro talks about the line of toys, so you really get a solid look at the ideas from every angle.

    Their War: Again you can watch it in chunks or all at once for an over an hour feature. This is really what you got the 2-disc version for. Here it’s all about the robots. You’ll get a peek into the voice actors and all the changes from the original concepts. Talk about product placement — wait till you see the GMC stuff here. I actually enjoyed the look at the All-Spark more than anything. I couldn’t help but expect someone to tell us that “resistance is futile”.


    More Than Meets The Eye: There’s certainly a bit of overlap in these three rather shorter pieces. A lot of the conceptual stuff can be found here such as storyboards and early conceptual artwork. There are plenty of production stills and the like to be found here. Overall this stuff is a bit of a letdown after watching the nearly 2 hours of stuff from the previous two entries.

    Final Thoughts

    I missed Transformers at the box office. I was impressed enough with the film that I’m just now planning to catch an IMAX version of the film here locally in Tampa. While this is not a great film by any stretch of the imagination, it is a great ride. If you’ve read my reviews with any regularity, you’ll find I love a great ride as long as it continues to entertain. Transformers? “Easily 100 times cooler than Armageddon.”




    Posted In: 2-Disc, 2.35:1 Widescreen, Action, Disc Reviews, Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French), Dolby Digital 5.1 (Spanish), DreamWorks, DVD, Sci-Fi / Fantasy, Special Edition

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