When Transformers was initially announced, I had no desire to see it. I never played with the toys (blasphemous, I know) and I never watched the legendary animated movie (more blasphemy). As the film drew closer and more trailers and footage was released, my interest in it grew a bit. But when I saw one of the final trailers for the film, showing the Decepticon “Starscream” flying between buildings and transforming all at once, I knew I had to see the film, if only for the action scenes, which, if they were anything like what was shown in the trailer, would be worth the price of admission alone.
Transformers, based off of the wildly popular toy line by Hasbro, tells the story of the Autobots and Decepticons and their fight for the All Spark. The story, when it’s boiled down, is about good versus evil and the goods attempt to protect the innocent (in this case, humans and Earth). After one of the Autobots makes contact with the ancestor of one of the human who first laid eyes upon the Decepticon “Megatron”, a battle between the two massive beings from Cybertron slowly begins to unfold on Earth.
The plot of Transformers is nothing that will win an Oscar. It’s overly simple and is nothing more than popcorn fluff; our characters are largely of the stereotypical variety and we never really explore too much more into their personalities than we need to. Of course, Sam Witwicky (Shia LeBeouf) and Mikaela Banes (Megan Fox) are the most fleshed out as they are our main characters, but nearly all of the supporting cast are cut out of the usual dough for whatever persona their character needs to fill (i.e., soldier who needs to get back to his wife and baby daughter, bumbling computer hackers and mysterious government agents).
Not that I’m faulting the film for a lack of personality. Between LeBeouf and the robots in the film, it’s hard not to be entertained by it all. As with all sci-fi films, a suspension of your belief in what can be “accepted” is pushed to the limit, but for a film that’s based off of a line of toys, I don’t think walking into this film believing it to be Close Encounters of the Third Kind is necessary. It’s something to kill a couple hours on a lazy day and nothing more.
Well, maybe a little bit more. Before I get too far into this review, I have to mention the animations of the robots in the film. I mentioned Starscream previously, but there are so many excellent elements in the film, purely from a visual standpoint. The first that comes to mind is Barricade (the Ford Mustang), who lunges at the screen shortly after he and Bumblebee engage and immediately goes from full-on-robot form back to the police car. The animation is so fluid, that I’m continually astounded by it—more so than the visual effects in other films, Transformers really just made me giddy to watch giant robots pummeling the crap out of each other.
There were drawbacks to the film, however. The Decepticon “Frenzy” annoyed me to no end; it was like having Jar Jar Binks in a film again and I absolutely cannot stand him. From what I’ve heard, he acts the same way in the film as he does in other adaptations, but it doesn’t make it any less annoying. Seeing him die in the end of the film was probably one of the more joyous moments. I also felt the same about Anthony Anderson’s character—I seriously hope he doesn’t show up in the sequel, because I cannot stand the man. As a rule I try to avoid things he’s involved in as his obnoxious behavior drives me up the wall—his constant screaming and flailing around is like nails on a chalkboard.
Also annoying was the whole Sector 7 thing. Something about the whole organization, and John Turturro’s character, really irked me. I don’t know what it is—I was less annoyed by it watching it on DVD, but in the theaters, something about Turturro’s arrival in the film just seemed really off. On top of that their arrival slowed down the film a bit, almost needlessly so, that I feel the discovery of the Allspark and Megatron could’ve been done in a different way.
My only other issue with the film that comes to mind is Bumblebee’s sudden switch to the new-style Camaro. As he drove by the new Camaro in the tunnel and “transferred” himself into it…what exactly happened to those driving it? It’s not like he just disappeared and then showed up again…he literally just took over a car and the people inside of it disappeared. Weird.
One element of the film I heard a lot of people complain about was the slow-motion and close-up effects that director Michael Bay shoved into the film. I don’t know why, but the excessive slow-motion in the film didn’t bother me in the least—it actually allowed me to see what was going on and the close-ups just showed off the awesome detail on the robots. It’s hard to fault the man for wanting to show off the hard work of the animators a bit more.
There isn’t a whole lot more to say about Transformers. It’s an excellent popcorn flick, watching robots fight each other is awesome and Megan Fox is hot. It’s got everything the mindless summer flick needs and I hope it can return bigger and better than ever; perhaps a bit shorter next time with more robot fights, but other than that, the films just a treat to watch. Highly Recommended.
As is to be expected, Transformers comes in an array of DVD releases. A single disc DVD release, a two-disc DVD and of course an HD-DVD version, Transformers arrival onto the digital video disc is no slouch. For this review I’ll be tackling the two-disc DVD edition which comes in a rather nicely put together DVD package. If you were around for the barrage of images that were released when Paramount initially unveiled the packaging, you no doubt know the “trick” that the Transformers set includes.
Packaged in a clear two-disc amaray amaray case (a disc on each side of the packaging—no tray) and a plain white insert with Optimus Prime on one side and Megatron on the other, a clear plastic slip cover is included with the movies name written on the edges. A paper slip details the film and contents of the two-disc set. Inside are the generic grey Paramount DVD disc art with an insert advertising the new Chevy Camaro and a sweepstakes to win one. What’s odd about this insert is it completely covers up the first disc—strange packaging. Also the disc holders are so close to the backs of the packaging that the discs are literally resting on the plastic backing; my copy arrived with both discs floating around inside and completely scuffed up. Luckily I had some disc cleaner that, for once, actually worked and took the scuffs off. Behind the discs is a “steel” backsplash. Very simple and very effective packaging. Menus for the DVD are wonderfully laid out, complete with music and subtle yet effective animations.
Now for the audio and visual part of the package. I knew when I saw this movie in the theaters that watching it was going to be a treat for the eyes and ears and the DVD, oddly enough, made the film more enjoyable. Perhaps it’s because I saw it on a bigger screen initially, but the fast paced fights that occurred in the latter half of the film are easier to make out and the audio…man, the audio on this film is really something. Surrounds are constantly being used and it really immerses you into the world of Transformers. There’s a specific bit around chapter 19 or 20 where one of the Autobots (sorry, I don’t know all of their names) transforms, flips up and, in slow motion, does a hand-stand, sending shockwaves across the ground. The LFE for this specific bit really shook the room—I’ve heard some movies push some air through a subwoofer before, but the shockwave came in two stages: one large wave and then a resounding reverb that shook the roof. If you have any cobwebs in the corners of your ceiling, this movie will help shake them loose for you.
Moving onto the special features, we get a full-length commentary with Michael Bay on the first disc of the film. Those who have seen his films or listened to the man talk know how pretentious he can be and when he mentions that he didn’t want to make a film just for the “fans” (considering they’re what kept the Transformers property alive through the years, I can only shake my head at this ludicrous statement), I nearly wanted to shut it off. Still, in-between the pomposity we get plenty of interesting behind-the-scenes tidbits; fans of the film will likely want to check it out just for the information he does let drop, including a few brief bits on what might happen should another Transformers occur. I would’ve liked to have a few actors on the track with him, but I guess we hear enough from them on the extras on the second disc of the set.
Moving onto the second disc of the set we get a set of three extras, as listed on the back of the DVD. Not a lot, right? That’s what I thought until I sat down to watch them. The three extras in total add up to a little over healthy two-hours, nearly the length of the film itself. The first of these extras is the “Our World” extra where the making of Transformers is focused. Interviews with cast and crew, on-set footage and the training that everyone on the film went through, including the people hired as military personnel; plenty of in-depth coverage is given here and it’s a real delight to watch. It details and sums up the production of the film beautifully and I don’t think it could have been done any better.
Next up is the hour long “Their War” which revolves all around the bots themselves. Starting with the toy line and moving all the way forward to the film, we get to see how the Autobots and Decepticons evolved over the years, from toy to animation to major motion picture. We get to see in-depth how the animations and CGI for the bots was done and I gotta say, while I’m tired of watching “how-it-was-done” CGI extras, I really enjoyed watching this one. As I mentioned in the film review, the animations for the transformations themselves was half the beauty of the film—I could watch them flip in and out of modes all day. There is also a large portion on the relationship GMC had with the film, one I hope is expanded to other car companies in the next film—I want to see a Dodge Viper, dammit.
“More than Meets the Eye” is the final round of extras in this set and it starts off with “an in-depth featurette on the making of the Skorponok Desert Attack scene.” The description from the back of the DVD is accurate and we get to see a mixture of storyboards, interviews and footage from the set detail the creation of the scene. This is the shortest of the clumps of extras, but I don’t think we need too much else here—what we get in the “More than Meets the Eye” is certainly enough to satiate even the biggest fans of the film.
Trailers (for Transformers) and a few easter eggs spread round out the final extras on the set. This is a truly great pile of goodies to sort through and combined with the superb video and audio for the set and director commentary, Transformers: Two-Disc Special Edition is easily Highly Recommended.
Transformers is now available on single and two-disc DVD as well on HD-DVD.