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Transformers Print E-mail
Saturday, 01 December 2007

Image "More Than Meets The Eye". Those immortal words have great meaning to millions of Transformer fans around the world. So when it was announced that Dreamworks and Michael Bay would be turning the famous 1980s cartoon into a live action film, there was natural skepticism. Even Michael Bay initially thought there was no way he was going to take on the Transformers project. Actor Shia LaBeouf, who plays Sam Witwicky, also thought that they were going to completely destroy the Transformer legacy. I will let you be the judge on whether they succeeded or not.

Transformers follow the simplistic good versus evil structure. The Autobots defend the Earth and universe against the Decepticons. The war between them destroyed their home planet, and with the loss of the Allspark, the Transformers followed it to Earth. The Allspark, also known as the Cube, has the ability to instill life in technological equipment. Without this Cube, the Transformers' home world could no longer sustain life.

The Autobots have the ability to transform into vehicles like a Porsche, Camaro, and the front-end of a big rig. Unfortunately, Transformers does not adhere to "the good guy has the coolest weapon" notion that is commonplace in action films. The Decepticons have the ability to transform into Army and Air Force battle equipment. The ability to transform into aircrafts is far cooler than being a standard car. This has been an ongoing debate in the Transformers' world, but neither side seems to have a solid explanation as to way the Decepticons are cooler Transformers than the Autobots.

The film's story centers on a boy and his car, with the war between the Autobots and Decepticons running parallel. Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) is a typical 16 year-old boy who is out to buy a car and impress a girl. Somehow, Bumblebee, the Camaro Autobot, happens to show up at the used car dealership just as Sam is ready to buy his first car. Sam proceeds to drive the car to a lake party where an opportunity presents itself to give his high-school crush, Mikaela (Megan Fox) a ride home. But first, his friend feels the need to randomly climb a tree and hang upside down. I still haven't figured that one out. Shortly thereafter, the Decepticons locate Sam and we find out why he is so important to the Transformers. Sam and Mikaela get swept up in the war between the Autobots and Decepticons, and of course a threat to national security is discovered and government agents come a running. Another top secret, totally classified government organization, Sector 7, is revealed. They apparently had knowledge of the Transformers all along, and used a frozen Megatron to create the nation's technology throughout history.

The story is filled with holes and forced scenes and dialogue. Many times, it is the dialogue that creates holes in the story and back-story. I constantly felt like there was scenes missing that must have explained why something was said. Characters were also able to spit out a wealth of detailed information at the most random times or at just the most opportune moment.

Much like "Spider-Man 3", "Transformers" contains a plethora of unbelievable scenes and storylines.

Replacing Soundwave, as the Decepticon's stealthy spy, Frenzy is a lightweight Transformer that transforms in a CD boombox, much like Soundwave transformed into a cassette player. For some reason, Air Force One contains a mainframe that Frenzy uses to access classified documents and our nation's secrets. Of course the analysis team at the Pentagon immediately detects Frenzy hacking Air Force One and planting a virus. The analysis team consists of a young woman, Maggie Madsen (Rachael Taylor), who just so happens to look like an Australian supermodel. She proceeds to be able to copy top-secret data to a memory card and walk out of the Pentagon to a hacker friend's house, in middle of a national security crisis. Yeah right. To top it all off, her hacker friend is able to use his home PC to crack the hidden symbols embedded in a code that used more bandwidth than the entire world had combined to implement, in less than five seconds.

In the desert scorpion-fighting scene, the surviving army members are able to locate a cell phone but with no cell towers anywhere in sight, that no doubt works flawlessly in the middle of the Qatar desert. I can't even get a cell phone to work in the middle of Los Angeles. That is followed-up with a cheesy sequence where Captain Lennox (Josh Duhamel) must talk with a representative in order to make a phone call, and cannot get through to the Pentagon without a credit card in the middle of battle sequence.

There are also several smaller unbelievable scenes that add up fast. A pair of reading glasses fall from high atop Optimus Prime onto the concrete pavement, and yet do not shatter. I've seen glass crack dropping them out of the car, let alone from, at a minimum, a 20-foot tall Autobot. Also, Sam outruns Barricade, a Decepticon, and is even smacked by Barricade into a car's front windshield. Nonetheless, he is able to get up and run away again. One must expect going into an action or fantasy movie there will be unbelievable sequences, but this was flat out absurd. And finally, they government decides to take the Allspark out of the hidden Hoover Dam base and into the middle of the city for extraction. Yeah, take the Allspark into a vastly populated area for a giant battle to take place. It becomes unbearable at how many instances where there are contrived actions and dialogue for the sole purpose of moving the story wherever they need it to go.

On the plus side, "Transformers" is one of the best video demos out on either Blu-ray or HD DVD. It is definitely in the top 3. The opening battle sequence and the scorpion sequence in the desert are awesome displays of video quality. The HD DVD is able to move from extremely dark scenes to immediate bright sequences with no problem. For the first time there was no evidence of grain in brightly lit skies. There was some slight blowout around practicals in the house sequences. There was also one quick inside shot that was extremely dark with a ton of noise. This shot didn't last for more than a few seconds though.

The audio quality was terrific, but not outstanding. The only track available is a Dolby Digital Plus audio stream. The movie would definitely have benefited from a Dolby TrueHD audio track. The opening battle sequence felt a bit light on the surrounds. There were some serious explosions and vehicle motion that lacked motion across the soundscape. The dialogue was uneven as a whole. Many times the dialogue level dropped in normal sequences. On the plus side, the voice over of Optimus Prime was extremely well recorded and presented. Peter Cullen, who was the original voice of Optimus Prime in the 1980s cartoon, resurrected Prime in the movie. That was a great treat for beloved fans of the Transformers saga.

The very first thing I noticed with this film was the music score. It struck me as extremely familiar. It didn't take me more than a few seconds to figure out all the films on which the score for "Transformers" was based. The main score sounds almost exactly like the theme for "Pirates Of The Caribbean", which is no surprise as composer, Steve Jablonsky, worked on additional music for the first Pirates film. The other film score that was dominant in the Transformers' score is "Armageddon". This is also understandable, as Steve worked on additional music for "Armageddon" as well. There are also thematic music score elements from "National Treasure" and "Pearl Harbor" present in "Transformers". None of this is surprising, as Steve has worked with director Michael Bay on many films. Those films include, "Armageddon", "Pearl Harbor", and "The Island".

This is a 2-disc Special Edition HD DVD. All of the special features are presented in full 1080p high-definition. There are relatively few special features on the first disc. There is an audio commentary by director Michael Bay. This is a rather informative commentary from a director that has been in the industry for a couple decades now. There are some web-enabled features, which require an Internet connection and a login. One web feature is the "Intelligence Center". This feature resizes the film to a smaller size and surrounds it with a skin. There are a total of five different widgets that surround the film. There is one called "Robot Status" that keeps track of the damage incurred by each Transformer on the screen. "Data Manager" provides technical data like weapons info about each Transformer. There are others as well. The other web content includes "Movie Guide" (a dedicated subtitle track), "MyClips" (which is like MyScenes), and "menubots" (which allows you to customize the look of the disc's menus).

The final feature on the first disc is the coolest, and that is the "Transformers" H.U.D (Heads Up Display)". This feature plays the entire movie and provides fun and interesting tidbits about the scenes in a caption box at the box of the screen. This is much like VH1's pop-up music videos, but much less annoying.

Disc two contains three sections, each with a handful of featurettes in them. The first section is called Our World. "The Story Sparks" talks about bringing back Transformers and its history. "Human Allies" contains interview segments from the people behind the making of the movie. "I Fight Giant Robots" is a segment dedicated to the training of the actors in the way of army combat. "Battleground" shows the different locations used in the film. The most awesome thing is that these segments include HD transfers of the 1980s Transformers cartoon. Could this be a sign that the Transformers cartoon is heading to HD DVD?

The next section of disc two is called Their War. "Rise Of The Robots" describes the origins of Transformers and their rise from toys to TV. "Autobots Roll Out" covers the actual vehicles used in the filming. "Decepticons Strike" covers the actual aircraft used in the film. "Inside The Allspark" goes behind the scenes of the CGI effects and the creation of the Transformers. There are several interesting facts presented in this featurette. ILM did 75 percent of the CGI for the film, while Digital Domain, recently purchased by Michael Bay, completed the other 25 percent. Another interesting fact is that it takes 38 hours to render one frame of film that consists of the three transformers. "Transformers Tech Inspector" is a user controlled GUI that allows you to examine all the parts of each Transformer individually.

The final section is called More Than Meets The Eye. "From Script to Sand: The Skorponok Desert Attack" analyzes the desert sequence. "Concepts" is a montage of Artwork. And lastly there are a few trailers. The second disc also contains a handful of easter eggs, which I will leave to you to uncover.

The disappointment for me in special features was the lack of any deleted scenes or bloopers. There were several deleted and blooper scenes spliced into the featurettes, so I know that they exist.

I can only recommend this movie as a rental, just for the movie itself. It is entertaining at times and has some awesome action sequences, but seriously lacks in a story. I do however recommend its purchase to have as a video demo in your collection and for the special features.

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