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DreamWorks presents
Transformers: Two-Disc Special Edition (2007)

Ironhide: Parents are irritating... Can I take 'em out?
Optimus Prime: Ironhide, you know we don't harm humans! What's with you?
Ironhide: I know, I'm just saying we could. It's an option...

- Jess Harnell, Peter Cullen

Review By: Dan Heaton   
Published: October 18, 2007

Stars: Shia LeBouef, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Rachel Taylor, Anthony Anderson, Jon Voight
Other Stars: John Turturro, Michael O'Neill, Kevin Dunn, Peter Cullen, Julie White, Amaury Nolasco, Mark Ryan, Zack Ward
Director: Michael Bay

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action violence, brief sexual humor and language
Run Time: 02h:23m:18s
Release Date: October 16, 2007
UPC: 097361312743
Genre: action


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B- CAA- A-

DVD Review

Within minutes after the start of Transformers, a military base is under attack from a strange entity that delivers huge explosions and massive destruction. The events display the over-the-top bombast and ridiculous action that could signify only one thing. Be warned, innocent viewers—you’ve entered the crazy realm of Michael Bay, where subtlety and character development are relics of the old world. In this new explosive landscape, the military rules the day and is supported by a glorious patriotic score. Strangely, accomplished actors like Jon Voight, John Turturro and others can live in this supercharged land and in fact seem to enjoy it there. But these mere mortals pale in comparison to the excess of gigantic fighting robots. Known to us as Transformers, the machines can shoot missiles and participate in obligatory car chases. For an “action director” like Bay, this is pure heaven, but the fun might be a little one-sided.

Since we must have some story outlining the mayhem, the young hero is Sam Witwicky (Shia LeBeouf), a high school guy with typical teenage worries. He’s not the coolest kid around, and his dad won’t even buy him an expensive car. Instead, Sam receives a rusty yellow Chevy Camaro that has seen better days. Undaunted, our hero aims to get the girl with nothing but moxie, which might actually work. His eyes are set on Mikaela Banes, played by Megan Fox, an actress who definitely spends some time working on her abdominal muscles. In a DVD feature, Fox even confirms that her role’s requirements were a flat stomach and being able to run fast. This pretty much describes the extent of her character’s development. During their first meeting, Sam clumsily tries to give Mikaela a ride home with some assistance from the Camaro. Considering all the marketing for this movie, I’m giving away little in telling you that Sam’s car is Bumblebee—an alien robot who can transform into a car. This connection draws the teenagers into the much-larger story and gives the audience humans to identify with who aren’t government figures. This is a wise move, but they never feel like tangible people. LeBeouf and Fox do their best, but the script limitations keep them from becoming more accessible.

But what about the Transformers, you ask? The heroic Autobots and villainous Decepticons are obviously the true draw and are remarkable creations. The visual effects crew crafted complex beings that might be more intricate than anything previously rendered. I expect that fans of the long-running series of toys, comics and cartoons will be very impressed. An inventive highlight is the lesser-known robot Scorponok, who decimates the army base and delves underground to chase the escaped soldiers. Watching the tough soliders fleeing in terror from this pursuing menace is one of the film’s signature moments. The immense Megatron—the Decepticon leader&#deserves the lengthy buildup when he appears near the action-packed finale. On the other hand, the Autobots are less memorable and are sometimes indistinguishable. It’s easy to recognize the leader Optimus Prime and Bumblebee, but picking out the other Autobots gets a bit confusing. They also incorporate stunning effects, but are mostly forgettable for a critic who is only mildly knowledgeable about the Transformers. I did enjoy hearing Peter Cullen return as Optimus Prime after originally providing the voice for the popular ‘80s cartoon. Cullen’s booming delivery has appeared in many previews and will be easily recognizable to almost everyone as “that movie trailer guy.”

In such high-grossing films as Pearl Harbor, Armageddon and The Rock, Director Michael Bay has loudly proclaimed his adoration for military might. His trademark sequence involves slow-motion shots of soldiers entering their jets, choppers and tanks while preparing for a major fight. A resounding score pushes them forward and clearly shows Bay promoting the glory of the armed forces. The human side of the armed forces is embodied in this picture by Captain Lennox (Josh Duhamel) and USAF Tech Sergeant Epps (Tyrese Gibson), who fight the Decepticons in close quarters. Lennox even gets a quick scene with his family to show that he’s more than a one-dimensional killer. Unfortunately, their non-battle scenes are obvious and awkward, which leads to some serious tedium. This film’s focus on human warfare is surprising because it detracts from the Autobot versus Decepticon story. Once John Turturro’s Agent Simmons has arrived as a top-secret government agency representative, the number of subplots and unnecessary characters starts to become overwhelming. And I haven’t even mentioned the analyst Maggie Madsen (Rachel Taylor), who struggles to gain the attention of the Secretary of Defense (Jon Voight). Her efforts also involve code-breaker Glen Whitmann (Anthony Anderson), and their scenes feel like excess baggage.

Transformers features some striking effects and a few exciting sequences, but it feels like a 100-minute movie stretched to nearly two and a half hours. The battles of the final 30 minutes should please many car-chase and action junkies, but they’re mostly loud and dull. By the end, we hardly care whether Optimus Prime can defeat Megatron and save the universe. Many scenes lack the absolute wonder needed to truly draw us into the mayhem. The explosions and rampant destruction are present, but audiences have seen this type of action way too many times. Even Bay tread on this same territory in the finale of The Island, which involved a highway chase and countless near-death moments. While he strives to deliver a riveting crowd-pleaser, the experience devolves into a big-budget yawner. It’s passable entertainment, but is a misfire when you consider the wide range of possibilities available in a film about the Transformer universe.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Transformers offers an excellent 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that presents all the action clearly. The colors are bright and sharp, which helps to enhance the busy, frenetic visuals. This is the type of DVD that you'll use to wow friends when presenting your new HD TV. It's a reference-quality transfer that should make this release a worthwhile purchase if you enjoy this type of film.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0French, Spanishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The 5.1-channel Dolby Digital audio transfer ranks only slightly below the excellent images. The audio's complexity and power are impressive, and the quality remains consistent throughout the movie. However, the sound lacks the extra punch needed to reach the highest level. The experience isn't a disappointment, but could have used a few extra touches to match the quality of the visual transfer.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 23 cues
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
3 Original Trailer(s)
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Iron Man
2 TV Spots/Teasers
2 Documentaries
8 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director Michael Bay
Packaging: 2 disc slip case
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: This two-disc special edition of Transformers includes an exciting collection of features with plenty of valuable material. The first disc offers a commentary from Michael Bay that showcases his enthusiasm for filmmaking. I was not looking forward to this track and was surprised at how engaging Bay could be. He clearly enjoys the directing process and understands how to discuss it. His comments don’t fall into the trap of describing plot and often avoid being scene-specific. I’m not sure this entire feature is worth your time, but it deserves at least a partial listen. There’s also an easily found Easter Egg on the first disc. To access the trailer for 2008’s Iron Man and two Transformers previews, simply fast forward to the end of the closing credits.

The remaining features appear on the second disc and provide more than two hours of behind-the-scenes information. These segments appear within three simply titled areas: Our World, Their War and More Than Meets the Eye. The individual features located within each area are described in the following sections:

Our World (49:19)
This area’s four featurettes concentrate on the people involved with the film, particularly the actors and the director. The Story Sparks covers the script’s origins and includes comments from Steven Spielberg plus writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci. Bay discusses his initial reluctance to direct a movie about toys, which led Hasbro to invite him to “Transformer School.” Human Allies is the standard casting piece with the usual brief statements from the key actors. Obviously, the cast and crew are enthused about the production. The best segment of the bunch is I Fight Giant Robots, which shows Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson and others going through basic training. It looks pretty easy compared to some other movie boot camps, but we do see the guys working hard. Finally, Battleground shows the meetings involved with choosing locations and then presents the immense settings. The Hoover Dam footage is stunning and reveals the site’s gigantic scope.

Their War (1:05:13)
This extensive group of four segments focuses on the film’s technical side, particularly involving the robots. Rise of the Robots offers informative, entertaining background into the Transformers with clips from the cartoon series. We also hear about changes that were made to modernize the franchise. Autobots Roll Out provides a 20-minute look at the creation of the Autobots. Car junkies should enjoy the details about each robot and the particular vehicle. The feature contains remarkable behind-the-scenes footage of a bus explosion that mostly uses live action. The villains are the focus of Decepticons Strike, which describes the powerful military vehicles involved. Bay’s eyes light up as discusses the ospreys, warthogs, and stealth fighters used for the enemies. Easily the best feature on the entire release is Inside the Allspark—a compelling examination of the visual effects and many on-set tools needed to craft the picture. Visual Effects Supervisor Scott Farrar illustrates the extremely difficult process of creating the robots. For example, Optimus Prime requires 10,108 working parts that need to make sense on the computer.

More Than Meets the Eye (17:41)
The final collection is oddly grouped and houses extras that don’t seem to fit anywhere else. The most prominent entry is From Script to Screen: The Scorponok Desert Attack, which presents interesting animatic footage about the robot’s creation. We also see the actors running from actual explosions in the ground that are no joke. Concepts provides a brief slideshow of full-color artwork set to music and offers some high-quality images. Finally, three more trailers tease us and spotlight the robot effects. They actually avoid giving away plot specifics and don’t spoil the film, which is rare for such a big-budget product.

Extras Grade: A-

 

Final Comments

After grossing more than $300 million in the U.S., Transformers will certainly produce a few sequels. I hope they will delve more into the robots and spend less time with the armed forces. This DVD has “#1 on the charts” virtually stamped on it, but I would have liked to see a more original production. Michael Bay has a license to print money and understands technical filmmaking. If you enjoy a little subtlety and character with your explosions, however, I would seek them elsewhere.

 


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