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Transformers (2007)

Paramount Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 10/16/2007

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Video:
Audio: 1/2
Extras:

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/12/2007; Updated 11/29/2017

Imagine that you walk into the office of a Hollywood producer and tell them that you want to make a movie based on a toy. I picture them pressing the "security" button under their desk, a la Mr. Burns. Then, you tell them the toy had its hey-day over 20 years ago. The button pushing becomes more furious. Then, you tell them that the toy spawned a cartoon TV series which was seen by, and remembered by, a large portion of the male movie-going audience. The frantic pushing of the button ceases immediately. You've just stepped into the world of the live-action Transformers movie.

Transformers opens with a voice-over which tells us about a distant planet called Cybertron where sentient robots lived. The robots were divided into two groups, the benevolent Autobots and the evil Decepticons. The two factions went to war over control of the Allspark, a source of energy which grants life. When the Allspark disappeared into space, the two groups set out to find it.

In Qatar, a military base is attacked by a huge machine, which seems intent on hacking into military files. Only a small group of soldiers, led by Captain Lennox (Josh Duhamel) and Tech Sergeant Epps (Tyrese Gibson), are able to escape. Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, teenager Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) is busy doing what teenage boys do, trying to raise money to buy a car and obsessing over a girl, Mikaela (Megan Fox). Sam is getting money by selling his great-grandfather's artifacts on ebay. Sam's dad (Kevin Dunn) takes Sam car-shopping and he picks an old Camaro. He takes the car out for a spin and as luck would have it, is able to give Mikaela a ride home. That night, Sam's car drives off by itself. Assuming that it's been stolen, Sam follows the car and is shocked to see it transform into a huge robot. The next day, Sam is attacked by a police car which, again, transforms into a huge robot. But, this robot knows his name and asks about his ebay sells. Sam's Camaro suddenly appears, as well as Mikaela, and the two youngsters watch the two robots battle. Although hesitant, they both get into the Camaro, who takes them to meet a new group of robots who have just landed on Earth. Sam is introduced to Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen), the leader of the Autobots, who in turn introduces Jazz (voiced by Darius McCrary), Ironhide (voiced by Jess Harnell), Ratchet (voiced by Robert Foxworth), and Sam learns that the Camaro is named Bumblebee and that his voice has been damaged. Optimus Prime explains the Allspark situation to Sam and lets him know that the Decepticons are coming.

At this same time, Secretary of Defense John Keller (Jon Voight) has organized a group of experts to learn more about the hacking attempt. He's also ordered Captain Lennox and his men to return to the U.S. in order to be debriefed about their experience. Keller slowly learns that the Earth has been invaded by extraterrestrials, and his forces will eventually join Sam for a battle to save our planet.

Transformers is one of those films which will be evaluated differently by different audience members -- essentially those who are familiar with the Transformers concept and those who aren't. Due to my age at the time, I fell just outside of the target demographic for the Transformers toys and the Transformers television show which they appeared in 1984. But, I know enough about the characters and the plotlines to be dangerous. In my opinion, the movie does a first-rate job of introducing the characters in a way which is true to the mythos while being easy for newcomers to digest. The backstory isn't that complicated and as long as you can grasp the idea of good robots versus bad robots, you'll be okay.

While the movie based on and derived from the Transformers toys and show, the movie also owes a debt to films such as Independence Day and Armageddon. Like those movies, Transformers takes on a global (well, not entirely global) view as it follows different groups of characters in different locales who are tackling the same issue. Because of this tactic, the story takes its time introducing the various characters and ideas. However, director Michael Bay and screenwriters Robert Orci & Alex Kurtzman know what the audience came to see and the opening scene in Qatar features an attack by a Decepticon, although we only get glimpses of the robot. The film teases us with a full view of one of the main robots for nearly an hour. During this time, the film presents us with the various storylines. The Sam story, which is ostensibly the main focus of the film, is interesting, as is the section with the soldiers. But, the story drags when it focuses on the people working on the computer hacking. The actress whoís a dead-ringer for Rebecca Romijn may be pretty, but her story didnít hold my interest.

But, enough of my yacking, we came here to see some robots... and see some robots you shall. As noted above, Bay and co. follow the old rule of waiting to reveal what the audience came to see, but once they do, itís wall-to-wall robots. The budget for the film has been estimated at $150 million and for once, itís all up there on the screen. There was no cutting corners when it came to the robot effects and we are treated to some amazing sights of the robots transforming and fighting. The action sequences are very impressive, as they were shot just like any other movie with numerous camera move and interesting angles. This is not a movie where they locked down the camera knowing that later one theyíd have to go back in a put a robot in the scene. No, the action sequences here have a palpable amount of kinetic energy and they totally justify the existence of the movie.

But, one can have too much of a good thing. I actually saw Transformers in the theater and my one major complaint at the time was that the finale went on for far too long. That sensation is only heightened when watching the movie on DVD. The final battle is exciting at first, but it just seems to go on and on. And the fact that the grey Decepticons all look alike doesnít help. (Does that make me racist?) The home viewing experience also allows the audience to focus on the plotholes in the film, which become more prevalent on a second viewing.

Transformers may have its faults, but overall, itís exactly what a summer popcorn movie should be: loud, fast, and exciting. The robot special effects are awesome and the action sequences are nicely shot. Shia LaBeouf continues his streak of good performances and his amiable nature helps to draw the viewer into the film. The movie isnít very deep and the storyline cracks under even the lightest scrutiny, but the concept of giant robots who can turn into cool cars has always been an exciting one and in that realm, Transformers doesnít disappoint.

Transformers rolls out on DVD courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The pictures looks very good, as it is sharp and clear. The image is free from grain and there are no defects from the source material. The colors look very good, most notably the reds and blues of Optimus Prime. The image must be good, because the numerous scenes in the desert don't show any overt problems. The picture is somewhat soft at times, and some images are lacking in detail, but otherwise it looks good. (I think I'm getting spoiled by the image quality on Blu-ray.) The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Now this is an audio track worthy of this movie. Essentially, the stereo, surround, and subwoofer effects are non-stop throughout the movie. The battle scenes had the walls shaking and the sounds of the bots colliding filled the rear speakers. The sound placement is relative to the on-screen action and the immersive sound really heightens the film.

Transformers has come to DVD in two separate releases. As far as I can tell, the single-disc release has no extras at all. The "Two-disc Special Edition", however, is loaded with extras. Disc 1 features an AUDIO COMMENTARY from director Michael Bay. This commentary is somewhat difficult to listen to as Bay comes across as very arrogant. Some of his information about making the movie is relevant, but does he expect his story about yelling at the crew concerning their dinner time to be charming?

The remainder of the extras are found on Disc 2. "Our World" (49 minutes) focuses on several aspects of the film's production. Producer Steven Spielberg and Bay discuss the development of the script, mentioning the show and the toys. This is followed by concept art and comments from the screenwriters. There is an overview of the casting, complete with audition footage. We see the cast going through military training and hear comments from the military consultants. After examining stuntwork, the segment ends by exploring the locations and sets. "Their War" (65 minutes) continues the "making of" mindset by first looking at the history of the Transformers and fan reaction to the announcement of the movie. There is then a discussion on how the robot characters were chosen and how Hasbro was consulted on this. The Transformers voice actors are profiled and we get a glimpse of the construction of the full-scale Bumblebee. Next is an examination of the individual vehicles for both sides and how they were chosen. This piece ends with a detailed look at the Transformers visual effects. "More Than Meets the Eye" contains "From Script to Sand: The Skorponok Desert Attack" (9 mintues), a detailed look at the scene in which the soldiers battle a robot, "Concepts", a 2-minute reel of concept art, and three TRAILERS -- Teaser Trailer 1, Theatrical Trailer 2, and Theatrical Trailer 4.

Addendum:

I can't say that I frequent on-line chat forums, but I do occasionally lurk in message boards related to DVDs and Blu-rays to see what the hot topics are. And it seems that no other title was as hotly debated or longed for than Transformers. Following Paramount's decision in August, 2007 to go HD-DVD exclusive, there was a great uproar from the Blu-ray community...and of the titles that I saw mentioned the most as the ones which Blu-ray fans would miss seeing, Transformers was always at the top. Even Director Michael Bay showed his true-colors as a Blu-ray advocate and spoke up against the decision. He promised that when the movie made it to Blu-ray, that fan's wouldn't be disappointed. (I'm paraphrasing there.) Well, September 2, 2008 should be a day of rejoicing, as Paramount Home Entertainment is finally bringing Transformers to Blu-ray. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc carries an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mpbs. The image here is very sharp and clear, noticeably more so than the DVD. Still, probably due to how Bay shot the film, there is some grain in some shots. The image shows a very nice amount of detail and the landscape shots show nice depths. (That sharp detail isn't kind in some of the close-ups though, as it shows every facial blemish!) The colors are very good, most notably reds, blues, and greens. Probably the most striking thing about this transfer is how the digital effects still look very seamless, even with the HD transfer. The Disc holds a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is a good track, which is even great at times, but it's not the perfect track that this film deserves. The stereo effects are very good and highly detailed -- the battle scenes reveal many minute clicks and whirrs which couldn't be heard on the DVD. The subwoofer effects are good, and there are many room-shaking moments. The surround sound is excellent in the action scenes, as the sound moves around us. But, compared to a track like that found on The Mummy Blu-ray, the audio here doesn't really pack that great of a punch. Those quibbles aside, fans should be happy with this release.

The Blu-ray Disc contains all of the extras which were found on the DVD release, and one new special feature. "Transformers H.U.D." is a feature that provides information to the viewer during playback. The piece combines pop-up facts with Picture-in-Picture segments which offers interviews with the cast and crew and on-set footage.

UPDATE:

On December 5, 2017, Paramount Home Entertainment brought Transformers to 4K UHD.  The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an HEVC 2160p transfer which runs at an average of 60 Mbps.  The image is very sharp and clear, showing only trace amounts of grain during the sunlit desert scenes and no defects from the source materials.  The colors look very good and the image is never overly dark or bright.  The picture displays an impressive crispness, and it's rarely soft.  As one would want, the level of detail shows off the impressive special effects, and it's easy to make out textures on objects.  The Disc carries a Dolby Atmos audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.0 Mbps.  The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects.  One has to only watch the opening scene to get an idea of how good this track is.  Every click, whirr, and gunshot is detailed in the surround channels, placing us in the center of the action.  The subwoofer effects are very even, offering a deep rumble which is never overpowering.

There are no new extra features here, as the 4K UHD has the same extras as the previous releases.

Review Copyright 2007-2008 by Mike Long