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DVD Review: Transformers

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Back in 1984 I was among the millions of boys introduced to the Transformers cartoon show. The concept was simple — there were good robots (Autobots) and bad robots (Decepticons) who could transform into various vehicles. They were battling for control of their planet, Cybertron, and were engaged in a war. One battle led them to Earth, where their ships crashed and lay dormant for millions of years. The cartoon chronicled their battle for supremacy and was a hit for years.

When it was announced that there was going to be a live-action movie of the cartoon that was so beloved by many, I cringed, since it was difficult to imagine a cartoon as live-action; 1987’s Masters of The Universe proved that. However I was willing to give it a chance and I am glad I did.

The plot of Transformers involves a device called the All-Spark, a mystical talisman that grants unlimited power to whoever possesses it. The Autobots manage to smuggle the All-Spark off the planet, but Megatron (the leader of the Decepticons) blasts off in search of it. The movie focuses on both races of Transformers looking for the All-Spark in order to control Cybertron.

Everyone has their favorite transformer; the producers had a large number of characters to choose from.  Those that made the cut include Optimus Prime, Bumblebee and Jazz for the Autobots, while Megatron and Starscream round out the Decepticons. We get to see these characters, especially Bumblebee and Megatron, updated for today. In the “Their War” featurette, we learn that one of the reasons Bumblebee was changed from a VW Bug to a Camaro was because no one would believe a Bug could do 200 MPH — that’s a plausible reason.  We also learn that the producers changed Megatron from turning into a gun because it would be like Darth Vader transforming into his own lightsabre and having someone else wield it; this also makes sense.  And kudos to the Transformers team for casting Peter Cullen, who was the original voice of Optimus Prime in the cartoon, to reprise his role for the film.

The drawback to this film is there are too many characters. I’m not sure what real purpose Anthony Anderson and Rachael Taylor served since they really didn’t add to the plot.

The extras are spread out onto two discs. The first disc has commentary from Michael Bay, and while interesting, it would have been nice to have other participants, such as the actors.

There are numerous extras on disc two, broken down into three sections. The first section, "Our World," is comprised of four featurettes:

  • The Story Sparks
  • Human Allies
  • I Fight Giant Robots
  • Battleground

These featurettes go over the origins of both series and films, show screen tests, and snippets of deleted scenes. They also give a lot of background on how all the players became involved with making the film. This was a great set of features.

As great as the first section was, the second section improves upon that. "Their War" is also comprised of four featurettes:

  • Rise of The Robots
  • Autobots Roll Out
  • Decepticons Strike
  • Inside The AllSpark

This section focuses on the creation and development that went into Transformers; we find out which ones made the cut, we learn that some Transformers (like one of the only female Autobots, Arcee) were developed but couldn’t fit into the script so weren’t included. While others like the Decepticons Soundwave just didn’t work in this film, hopefully we’ll see both in the sequel coming in 2009.

The final section, "More Than Meets The Eye," is comprised of three featurettes:

  • From Script to Sand – The Skorponok Desert Attack
  • Concepts
  • Trailers

This section was okay. We are shown how the Skorponok sequence was filmed and what went into it in the form of storyboards and animatics.

"Concepts" showed sketches of the various transformers.

There are three trailers included on the DVD, the much-hyped teaser trailer, and two standard trailers, but I like trailers so I’m glad they were included.

My complaint about the extras is that there are no deleted scenes other than the snippets shown in the featurettes, and that because we’re going to see a sequel in 2009 it might be a reason for the studio to release another version with deleted scenes and I’m not a fan of double-dipping (studios re-releasing a DVD with a few new extras which usually aren’t very good, just to cash in on the next film).

However, Transformers was a fun film and is a movie that will entertain action/adventure enthusiasists.

Grade B+

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About Blake

  • oh, and make sure you check out the crazy transforming dvd case at target! i picked it up last night, and thought it was kinda cool. a little lame, but kinda cool.