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HD DVD Review: Transformers

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Uneven in terms of style, pacing, and tone, Transformers is an attempt to resurrect a classic ‘80s franchise in over-budgeted "Hollywood summer movie" style. Without an attachment to the Transformers themselves, the film is a mess of convoluted, hard-to-follow action and countless unnecessary characters that get in the way of keeping the pace.

To see more than a basic synopsis, read the SD DVD review which contains the full movie critique.

While the SD DVD was reference quality for the format, it’s not hard to see why the HD format can make a difference. Detail is phenomenal, unmatched by almost any live action disc you pop into your player. The over saturated colors are perfect without bleeding or creating compression problems. The added resolution makes it easy to pick out details on the special effects and gain a better appreciation for the time spent crafting them.

Light grain is evident throughout, yet it feels proper when dealing with harsher, more dramatic story elements. Sparks, explosions, and smoke are replicated flawlessly. It may not have the added sheen of a pure CG-animated film such as Happy Feet, but it’s hard to match this disc for live action.

While it lacks an uncompressed track, this Dolby Digital Plus effort is a noticeable improvement when directly compared to the standard edition. Separation of the rear speakers is incredible. The opening fight in the military base is a demo-worthy sequence for any audiophile. Bass is constantly evident, from the footsteps of the giant robots to the explosions they cause.

Paramount is touting the interactive online features of this disc, and to say these are a massive disappointment would be an understatement. Only two are currently available for download direct to the internal memory of your player. One would think everything would be ready to go on the day of release.

What is ready for viewing is a wasteful “Sector 7 Security Video.” After waiting for a rather long download to complete, you’re treated to a tiny multi-screen video of an unidentified Transformer changing in a parking garage. It’s less than 10 seconds.

The next option plays the movie bordered by a garish, overly large information screen that obscures the movie. GPS information at the top of the screen lets you know where the scene is taking place, on the left is information pertaining to the Transformer(s) currently on screen, while the bottom triples in size to provide relevant trivia. This is a nice idea that collapses in execution.

Over on disc 1, there’s the Transformers Heads Up Display. Billed as a picture-in-picture commentary, there’s far more than that going on here. Pop-up trivia, interviews, pre-vis, and loads of other content are included. This is arguably better than Bay’s solo commentary track.

A final HD exclusive is the Transformers Tech Inspector. Here you can view the individual Transformers from a variety of angles, in stills or in a spinning motion replay. You’ll play with this for a while until realizing you won’t be returning.

The rest of this two-disc set includes all extras from the standard DVD. The menus on this release seem barren, but there’s a wealth of content. A commentary by Michael Bay needed a few other people alongside him. There’s a lot more to discuss, though HD DVD users have the additional extras to make up for it.

Over on disc two, two fantastic documentaries cover all aspects of the Transformers. Our World discusses the origins of the series and the film. Interviews range from the special effects team, writers, Hasbro execs, and the actors. At 49 minutes, it almost doesn’t seem like enough.

Of course, that isn’t enough, as the 65-minute Their War goes even further. The fan base is interviewed about their passion, design choices for all robots featured (and some not) in the film are discussed at length, and even some of the backlash from the die-hard followers gets some screen time. These two features would have made a fine purchase on their own.

Script to Sand is the final feature, a brief nine-minute look at the Skorponok desert attack. It’s mostly comprised of storyboard and animatics. After the exhaustive work in the other features, this doesn’t even seem necessary.

After the massive box office draw which doubled the estimated budget and the surge of merchandise sales, a sequel is basically guaranteed. New robots are planned which were cut for various reasons from this film, including Soundwave.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.