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Transformers: The Movie 35th Anniversary Limited Edition Steelbook [4K UHD], The
Set in the distant future of the year 2005, Transformers: The Movie, directed by Nelson Shin and released theatrically 1986, takes us to Cybertron, the home planet of both the heroic Autobots and sinister Decepticons, the latter of whom have recently taken over the planet, sending the Autobots to regroup on one of the planet's moons. Meanwhile, back on Earth, the Autobots' leader, Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen), has been killed in a battle with Megatron (sorry if that's a spoiler but it's pretty impossible to talk about the movie without bringing it up), leaving what's left of the Autobots in a bit of a spiral and leaving Megatron in pretty rough shape himself. Before Optimus Prime dies, however, he passes the baton to Ultra Magnus (voiced by Robert Stack).
Megatron (voiced by Frank Welker), the leader of the Decepticons, and a few of his crew members meet up with Unicron (voiced by none other than Orson Welles, in his final film appearance), a sinister being that can literally consume planets. He has the ability to morph these Decepticons into far more advanced and far more dangerous robots than they already are. This turns Megatron, betrayed by a power hungry Starscream (voiced by Christopher Collins), into Galvatron (voiced by Leonard Nimoy). Unicron has got his own plan going on, however, and he coerces Galvatron, Scourge (voiced by Stan Jones) and Cyclonus (Roger C. Carmel) to destroy the Autobot's Matrix, threatening to obliterate Cybertron should they fail.
With Hot Rod (voiced by Judd Nelson) carrying the burden of Prime's demise on his heavy metal shoulders, he takes it upon himself to use the powers of the Matrix to rise up and change the course of the war on Cybertron and, hopefully, put a stop to Unicron once and for all. With the future of not only Cyberton but the collective fates of both the Autobots and the Decpticons hanging in the balance, it won't be easy. Will Hot Rod and his allies, including the very human Daniel Witwicky (David Mendenhall), rise to the challenge?
For a movie that was intended to promote a toy line that tied into an animated series also intended to promote a toy line, Transformers: The Movie is a pretty entertaining and engaging film. It's paced well, the animation style holds up and looks solid and the voice work is pretty strong as well. The producers clearly took a huge risk killing off Optimus Prime but it's interesting to see here how they do it and while it's impossible to say that nostalgia isn't making me see this movie through rose-tinted glasses, it works (even if it was meant to be a bit of a reset to bring out new characters for the aforementioned toy line). Quite predictably, critics were not kind to the film when it was first released but it has rightly developed a cult following over the years.
The film also features a really odd soundtrack comprised of selections from Stan Bush (whose song The Touch was originally meant to be used in the Sylvester Stallone movie Cobra!), hair metal band Kick Axe, rock band Lion (who cover the iconic Transformer TV show theme) and none other than Weird Al Yankovic? Yep! Weird Al Yankovic. The eighties were a strange time and if you didn't live through them it might be hard to understand, but it made sense at the time.
On top of that, the movie really features a pretty impressive cast of voice actors. Judd Nelson might be an odd choice to play Hot Rod, but he does it pretty well. Series regulars like Christopher Collins, Frank Welker and Peter Cullen are as reliable here as you'd expect, but then the movie throws Orson Welles into the mix, and oddly enough, he proves the perfect choice to voice Unicron. This was recorded later in Welles life and his voice isn't quite as strong here as it was in his younger days but he's still got that booming, undeniable presence and sense of importance to pretty much every line of dialogue he delivers in the film. Throw in supporting work from the aforementioned Leonard Nimoy and Robert Stack, Casey Kasem as Cliffjumper, Don 'Scooby-Doo' Messick as Scavenger, Monty Python's Eric Idle as Wreck-Gar and Scatman Crothers as Jazz and it's easy to see how this could, and does, provide a lot of entertainment value.The UHD Disc:
Transformers: The Movie arrives on UHD from Shout! Factory in a HEVC (H.265) encoded 4k 2160p transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen in a presentation that looks very strong. Taken from a new 4k restoration, detail is very strong here, really bringing out a lot of the minutia in the backgrounds of each cell. Color reproduction looks fantastic, the HDR really makes them pop, and we get nice, deep black levels here as well. There are no problems with any noticeable compression issues nor are there any problems with noise reduction or edge enhancement. There isn't really any print damage here to gripe about, the image has been cleaned up very nicely, and all in all, this is a very nice presentation from Shout! Factory and the movie looks beautiful in 4k.Sound:
DTS-HD 5.1 and 2.0 Stereo Master Audio tracks are provided in English with optional subtitles provided in English SDH and Spanish. The 5.1 track on this disc is impressive, with plenty of directional effects noticeable throughout playback. Bass response is tight and strong and the levels are nicely balanced from start to finish. Dialogue is nothing but clear and there's frequently some really impressive depth and range noticeable here with the score and the effects placement.Extras:
The UHD disc ports over the commentary from the special edition DVD release that includes input from director Nelson Shin, story consultant Flint Dille and actress Susan Blu. If you haven't heard this track before, it's quite informative covering a lot of ground from the pre-production work that went into the movie to the animation to the voice acting and more.
Additionally, the include Blu-ray disc (which offers up the feature in a 1080p presentation framed at 1.33.1 featuring identical audio options) also ports over that same commentary but includes some additional extra features as well, starting with ‘Til All Are One, a forty-six minute look back at how the movie came together. This extensive featurette covers the genesis of the film, the animation, the voice acting, scoring the picture, how the film was received in the eighties and the fan base that exists around it today and lots more. It's a very well made documentary that should make fans of the movie quite happy.
We also get the ten minute 2016 Stan Bush Acoustic Performance in which Bush performs some solo versions of the songs from the movie on his guitar and talks about them a bit. The five minute The Death Of Optimus Prime featurette gets Flint Dille, Tom Griffin, Joe Bacal and Susan Blu together to discuss what went into killing off the franchise's most recognizable character. The thirteen minute Transformers Q&A is a brief question and answer session with the same participants.
The disc also includes a feather length version of the movie in storyboard format that runs eighty minutes, as well as twelve minutes' worth of deleted scenes, the original theatrical trailer, six minutes of TV spots, menus and chapter selection options.
As to the packaging, Shout! Factory has released this in a very slick looking limited edition steelbook that comes with four exclusive art cards.Final Thoughts:
Transformers: The Movie is most certainly going to appeal to fans of the original animated series (and toy line) than it will to today's kids but if you're in that demographic or just appreciate a fun, family friendly animated sci-fi movie it's hard not to have a good time with the movie. Shout! Factory has done an impressive job bringing the fan favorite film to UHD. The presentation is gorgeous, the audio very strong and there's a nice selection of extra features here as well. Highly recommended for fans of the film or the franchise or anyone who needs a good dose of eighties nostalgia.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.