The childhood-shattering animated classic gets a clean-up
Loves: Generation 1 Transformers
Dislikes: Michael Bay Transformers
Hates: Not having all my original toys anymore
The Story So Far...
Though The Transformers: The Movie technically follows the series' second season, knowledge of the show isn't hugely necessary (though emotional investment in the characters is certainly suggested). Exposition is the only goal at the outset as the characters and their situations are quickly established. The film takes place in the far-flung future of 2005, where the Decepticons have taken over the Transformers' home planet of Cybertron, pushing the good-guy Autobots to bases on the planet's two moons and on Earth, with the war between the two sides still continuing. If you didn't know this wasn't going to sunshine and lollipops, the fact that the bad guys were winning should clue you in.
Things just get worse when an attempt by Optimus Prime and company to gather supplies is cut off by Megatron and his henchmen, leading to the slaughter of several of the heroes and the death of Optimus Prime, in one of the most shocking moments in action cartoon history (and likely a big reason the film remains beloved.) This whole sequence, which comes early on in the film, was and remains stunning when you consider the film was building off an after-school cartoon. The film is loaded with material that's inappropriate for the kids who would want to see it, from confusing morality to the use of legitimate swear words that wouldn't be allowed in network primetime. But it's the violence--unrelenting and graphic--that is the most striking element in the film. The look on one dying robot's face is simply haunting.
Speaking of music, there may not be a more defining ingredient to this film (other than all the death and darkness.) If you know any song from the film, it's certainly Stan Bush's anthemic "The Touch" (memorably recreated by Mark Wahlberg in Boogie Nights) but there's a load of great hair metal throughout, from Lion's fantastic take on the franchise's iconic theme song to "Dare", another great Bush tune. The score picks up where the soundtrack ends, giving every battle the right energy and each moment of emotion a boost of power, as well as a healthy ‘80s glaze.
Does the story wrap up in a satisfying way? Perhaps. It's certainly exciting (and proof you can do insane, up-close battle sequences between giant robots without completely confusing the audience--you just need to use a little color.) But it's also a bit abrupt, to the point where the final freeze-frame almost feels like a mistake. Can you really ask for more of the movie than you would of the series it's based on though? If you liked the way the show capped each episode, you won't feel slighted by the movie's finale. However carrying over the fade-outs between scenes from TV, as if commercial breaks were about to be shown, could certainly have been eliminated.
In listening to the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, it's hard to miss how present the bass is, even if you're not getting a constant sense of thudding in the mix. Instead, there's an oft-present heaviness to the sound, which underscores the hair-metal music and the clash of the giant robots, making the sound mesh well with the visuals. The rear and side speakers serve mainly to amplify the music, with some light spillover of the dialogue (with occasionally discreet placement in the sides.) Though the sound won't stand up to comparison with more modern blockbusters, it does the trick of putting you in the middle of the battle without sacrificing clarity in the voices.
A trio of featurettes were also carried over from the 20th-Anniversary disc, including "The Death of Optimus Prime" (5:02), "The Cast and Characters" (10:02) and "Transformers Q&A" (13:03). As these are built on interviews with Dille, Blu and Shin, there's a lot of repetition from the commentary, but these are a few added tidbits of info (mainly in the somewhat silly Q&A section) and the presence of two producers adds some additional perspective (including talk of the expletive and the film's impact on the G.I. Joe movie.)
The archival material wraps with a trio of "animated storyboards" (12:05 in all), which is a bit of an exaggeration for what's essentially a slideshow of storyboard sketches accompanied by dialogue, music and sound effects. One sequence (the battle between Prime and Megatron) includes additional battle beats that were deleted, which wa a wise decision. There also a pair of theatrical trailers (3:05) which do a weak job of selling the film, and seven TV spots (5:52)--a hype-heavy reel of slightly varied ads, as well as a sweepstakes promo and a tie-in toy ad.
There are a few new pieces of bonus content, including the 46:32 "Til All Are One", an impressive look back at the film, featuring several members of the cast and crew (none of the big names are on board though.) They discuss the production effort, share stories from the recording booth and reflect on the film's legacy, in a piece that animation fans will without a doubt enjoy, though between the commentary and featurettes, you've heard some of it before. That doesn't take away from the quality of the piece itself, which is well-made and fan-friendly.
"Rolling Out the New Cover" (4:49) features comic artist Livio Ramondelli, who currently draws the IDW comic book series. He provided the new artwork for this release, and here he walks you through how he drew the art, from the concept to the illustration and the coloring, giving a peak at some rough drawings. It's a good pairing with "Transformers: The Restoration" (7:16) another process piece, which walks you through how the folks at FotoKem cleaned up a 30-year-old animated movie, from the scan to the clean-up. Examples of the changes are provided to show how different this new transfer looks.
Also in the package is a code for a download of the film.
The Bottom Line