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Transformers
Two-Disc Special Edition

review by Zach B.

 

 

 

Running Time: 143 Minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (

Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Tyrese Gibson, Josh Duhamel, Anthony Anderson, Megan Fox, Rachel Taylor, with John Turturro and Jon Voight

Screenplay by: Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman
Story by: John Rogers and Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman
Based on: Hasbro's "Transformers" Action Figures

Directed by: Michael Bay

 

Studio: Paramount/DreamWorks

Retail Price: $36.99

Features:
Disc 1:
Audio Commentary with Director Michael Bay
Disc 2: The Story Sparks, Human Allies, I Fight Giant Robots, Battle Ground, Rise Of The Robots, Autbots Roll Out, Decepticons Strike, Inside The AllSpark, From Script To Sand, Concept Art Gallery, Trailers

Specs: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, English Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, French Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selections (23 Scenes)

Released: October 16th, 2007

 

"Transformers" is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, and it looks fantastic. The image quality is remarkably sharp, and color saturation is incredible vibrant and everything really pops out at you. Fleshtones look very nice, and detail is fantastic too, be it the backdrops of the Qatar scenes or what's actually on the robots themselves. The print used is really clean, and there's no edge enhancement whatsoever. My only gripe is the high noise level (which is actually quite distracting), and some edge halos. Other than that though, you won't be disappointed by what's here.

 

The English Dolby Digital 5.1 track, as you'd expect, is a powerhouse. There are a plentiful amount of surrounds, strong dynamic range and deep bass (you'll be sure to enjoy your subwoofer with this movie). Dialogue is clear and easy to hear, and I was really impressed in how well the music was mixed. The pop songs that come up have loads of energy, but I was really amazed how much of Steve Jablonsky's score added to the proceedings.

Still, the main attraction to this track is the sound effects - and you'll probably swear that giant robots are fighting right there in your living room. The surrounds are quite discrete and powerful, and you definitely feel part of the action. Be it the actual transformations of the robots, Optimus Prime swinging his sword or robots thumping on terra firma, this is a quality mix (the highway sequence and the final battle are real treats). Crank up your receiver, and have fun.

5.1 Dolby Digital tracks are also available in French and Spanish, and there's subtitles in English, French and Spanish... plus there's English closed captions.

 

 

The first disc's sole extra is an Audio Commentary with Director Michael Bay. Once Bay starts, he doesn't stop. No matter what you may think of the man and his films, you have to admire his commitment to his work, and his seemingly boundless enthusiasm. Here, Bay covers all the stops (just to let you know, there is some overlap here and on the second disc's special features): getting offered the job, going to "Transformers school," staging action sequences, flaunting his various connections and his overall vision for the movie (which seems to have been inspired by Japanese animation). He's a bit cocky at times but also pretty honest, especially about his temper, as he seemed to have lost it a little little during pre-production shooting, when he was all ready to go but his crew was eating dinner. Bay does go into his work ethic too, saying he averages between 50-75 camera set-ups a day (wow).

If you're looking for insight into Transformers lore you'll come away disappointed; but if you want to know what it took to bring such a large film to life, you'll come out enlightened. I wasn't big on the movie, but as a fan of filmmaking and always wanting to know more, I heartily enjoyed this commentary.

The second disc is divided up into three sections... all named after the film's taglines. First up is "Our World," and leading it off is the eight-and-a-half minute featurette The Story Sparks. The first half actually focuses on the development of the script, if a bit abstractly: Steven Spielberg gives his take on what he thought the story should be, writers Roberto Orci and and Alex Kurtzman talk about their hesitance, and Michael Bay outright rejects doing the film - but then a trip to Hasbro changes his mind. The second half of the featurette focuses on Bay's intensity as a director, and his staging of action scenes. Producer Brian Goldner, toy designer Aaron Archer, producer Lorenzo Di Bonaventura, Shia LaBeouf, Jon Voight and stunt coordinator Kenny Bates give thoughts too - and there's a lot of clips from the set and the original cartoon series.

Human Allies lasts 13 minutes, and focuses on the actors. In addition to finding out why they were hired, anecdotes from the set are shared specific to each actor covered. Shia LaBeouf shows a wry sense of humor, and that he's quite the runner. Megan Fox gives her impressions and we see audition footage of her, and there are portions focusing on Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Anthony Anderson, Rachel Taylor, Jon Voight and the very talented John Turturro. Casting director Michelle Lewitt, casting director Janet Hirshenson and stunt coordinator Kenny Bates also chime in throughout, and there's even clips of deleted scenes being shot.

I Fight Giant Robots runs 14 minutes, and is an extensive look at the military training the actors playing the army guys went through... all to make it quite believable when they're put against CGI robots on screen. There's also a focus on a climactic scene involving Shia LaBeouf and a very tall building... and despite the safety precautions, he's clearly a bit nervous (I don't blame him... and on a different note, it's quite amusing when LaBeouf has issues with some of the dialogue - I don't blame him for that either). It's a good watch, and really shows the amount of planning and effort that went into making such a big film.

Battle Ground lasts 13-and-a-half minutes, and covers the extensive location shooting done in America. There was consideration of doing the movie overseas, but that was nixed - and Bay even cut his fee - so he could shoot in the States and keep his crew. This piece is a good overview of the shooting done in New Mexico, some shooting in Los Angeles plus the building of the gigantic sets. Producers, location managers, the actors and Bay himself talk about what they wanted and the challenges they faced. Interesting stuff.

The second section is "Their War" and begins with Rise Of The Robots (about 14 minutes) - which acts a continuation of sorts to "The Story Sparks" featurette in the first section. Spielberg talks about his personal connection with Transformers, and Hasbro executives discuss how they imported the toys from Japan and gave them backstories and personalities. Orci and Kurtzman talk about their love of the series as kids, and there's a bit on the die-hard fans. There's also a lot on the Internet leaks the film faced (and those upset with Bay), and updating the film's mythology for the film. Also of interest is picking what robots to use in the movie, the making of the robots used in the movie, and Peter Cullen and Hugo Weaving recording their lines for the film. Lots of info, making this is a must watch.

Autobots Roll Out is a 20 minute look at the vehicles in the movie that ultimately transform into robots, and what technical challenges that sometimes presented as far as color, lighting and stunts (and of course, a plug for Chevy with the Bumblebee car in the movie, which is going to be a real car come 2009 - just in time for the sequel!). As you'd expect, there's a lot of planning and effort that goes into elements like these, and there's a big dissection of the highway chase in the film... which is pretty insane in its own right. (Bay even vows to never do a highway sequence again, as it has become a motif of his in his films.) Special effects and stunt geeks, you'll love this.

Decepticons Strike runs almost 15 minutes, and focuses on those bad guy robots - and what they transform from. Kind of similar to the Autobots featurette, there's bits on shooting with aircraft carriers and tanks. But there's more of a focus on these robots as characters, as Kurtzman and Orci give thoughts on changing the Decepticons' alter-egos... namely Megatron no longer being a gun. I think those really into Transformers mythology will really appreciate this featurette.

Inside The AllSpark lasts 17 minutes, and is a great look at bringing all aspects of the production together to make it look seamless: the designs of the robots, animatics, the actual shooting, computer animation, lighting and coordinating it all with the geniuses at Industrial Light and Magic. It's all tremendously tough work, and it's astounding how the slightest little details need to be perfected... but everyone clearly knows what they're doing. If anything, this featurette shows how much filmmaking - especially in big-budget blockbusters - truly is a team effort. Technical buffs might get the most out of this piece, but if you sit through it, you just have to appreciate how all the artistry and wizardry comes together.

The last section is entitled "More Than Meets The Eye." The main goody here is a nine minute featurette entitled From Script To Sand: The Skorponok Desert Attack. Here we learn how this key action scene was shaped from all sorts of angles: writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman literally picked Skorponok from a book to use in their script, production designer Jeff Mann talks about the 3-D modeling of the Transformer, Josh Duhamel discusses a bit how it's all planned out, location scout Michael Burmeister gives thoughts on literally setting the scene, special effects supervisor John Frazier reveals some movie magic, and Michael Bay throws in a few words too - as well as some other members of the cast and crew. And of course, you also have a lot of behind-the-scenes footage, animatics and concept art peppered throughout. This is a very thorough look at what it takes to make an action scene, and is a pretty entertaining view.

Concepts is an automated still gallery of a lot of beautiful concept art - I just wish there was an option of looking at each image individually. Finally, there are three Trailers - all in anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1.

I must also note all of the features are in anamorphic widescreen and have subtitles in English, French and Spanish. Woo!

 

 

I've tolerated some of Michael Bay's films before, but "Transformers" is one of the worst movies I have seen in quite awhile. As far as a DVD package though, you really can't go wrong here: the movie looks and sounds great, and all of the supplements provide a lot of depth into making of the movie. I must also say that it actually gave me an appreciation for Michael Bay, and his phenomenal work ethic. Fans of the movie, it's a definite must-buy. If you haven't seen it, I'd strongly recommend it as a rental first.