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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Review of TRANSFORMERS on DVD: 2-Disc Special Edition and that Wal-Mart exclusive

It's a funny thing: I've been so wound-up about the release of Transformers: The Score last week, after months of crusading for the thing, that when the actual movie came out on DVD a few days ago it was something that I had almost overlooked! I'm still ransacking the music shelves at all the local stores for the score CD, by the way: it's still not turning up anywhere. I may have to break down and get it off of Amazon, which I'd rather not do only because I like picking stuff off of shelves and ringing it up at the register. But Amazon really is a terrific place to find stuff especially if you can't locate it on your own, so that might have to be the route to go. In the meantime, the copy that Steve Jablonsky sent is still not being played, out of solidarity with everyone else who can't buy it in stores.

(But if you want a copy of Transformers: The Score signed by composer Steve Jablonsky to call your very own, remember the eBay auction we've got going on right now, with all proceeds going to benefit music education in Rockingham County schools.)

So Transformers came out in multiple packaging on DVD (and on HD-DVD) on Tuesday. I went to the Wal-Mart Supercenter here in Reidsville at quarter-'til 1 that morning, hoping to get the 2-Disc Special Edition. Wal-Mart didn't have that: only the regular one-disc version, and the one-disc packed with the Wal-Mart-exclusive Transformers: Beginnings, which is a 20-minute "prequel" to the movie. I really wanted the 2-disc edition with the bonus features, but since Transformers: Beginnings is something that I was wanting to check out anyway I bought the Wal-Mart exclusive version. And then later on Tuesday after doing some business in Burlington I went to Best Buy there and got the Special Edition. So I have two DVDs of Transformers here. And despite how cool my friend Eric Wilson tells me it is, I won't be getting the Target-exclusive set that has a box that transforms into Optimus Prime: Lisa has expressly forbidden any more Transformers DVDs to come into the house :-P

The Transformers 2-Disc Special Edition DVD is, in my opinion, the way to go so far as the home version of this movie goes. Disc 1 is the film itself, and this is one of the best-looking DVDs that I've ever watched. We have a 37-inch LCD high-definition television with a Philips DVP 5960 DVD player that "upconverts" standard DVDs for high-def sets. It's not true high-definition, but the picture quality has never been anything short of outstanding. Well, Transformers even from a regular DVD looks fabulous. The colors are bright, the image is crisp and the detail is remarkable. A lot of people complained about how in Transformers when it hit theaters, that a lot of the action sequences were way too blurry. For some reason the faster scenes (like the final battle in Mission City) really do seem much easier on the eyes on the DVD than they were on the big screen. The audio quality was likewise terrific. But as I'm still content to use the speakers built-into the television (no, we've yet to put in a Surround Sound setup in our place :-) I've no way of telling how "really" good this might be. But based on what I've heard from others, the audio from the Transformers DVD on more elaborate setups is pretty amazing. All told, Transformers stands tall as one of the finest titles that I've experienced in the DVD format.

Disc 1 of the Special Edition set also includes the option to watch the movie with commentary by director Michael Bay, which is interesting enough just to listen to his initial account about how he got involved with Transformers. The one-disc version doesn't have the Bay commentary, but otherwise it's identical in image and sound quality to the 2-disc set, right down to the same basic menus.

Disc 2 in the Transformers Special Edition is the bonus features, which is broken up into a number of sections. "Our World" delves into the more human-performance aspects of the making of Transformers, including the cast, stunts, physical effects and the logistics that came with shooting around the United States and making it look like a globe-spanning conflict. "Their War" is a lot of fun to watch for two big reasons: the computer-rendered artwork that brought the Transformers to life, and the extent of cooperation that Bay and his crew received from the United States military. "More Than Meets The Eye" contains a feature on the making of the Scorponok attack scene (his name is spelled "Skorponok" on the DVD features), conceptual art and a collection of trailers for the movie, from the original teaser up to the one that came out a few months before the movie's release in July.

There's 2-some hours of extra features on the bonus disc, which I thought really enhanced the overall enjoyment and appreciation of the movie itself. My only beef with the 2-Disc Special Edition is that it doesn't contain deleted scenes in the traditional sense of most 2-disc DVD sets. If you saw the IMAX release then you know that there are about six scenes (none of which really feature the Transformers themselves by the way) that weren't in the regular theatrical run. I didn't expect them to be include in the movie itself, but for the most part they were fun enough to merit featuring as bonus material on the second disc. Sadly, they aren't here, although we do see a couple of them during the "making of" segments. There is also some additional footage of the Transformers in action, like one shot of Devastator rolling down a highway in tank mode, but no real "deleted scenes" feature. I would love to see another DVD release of Transformers in the near future that did have these things, maybe even with some of this stuff integrated into the movie itself as a true "extended cut", because I definitely believe the market is there for it.

And so far as the two-DVD pack that's the Wal-Mart exclusive goes, which also gives you Transformers: Beginnings... if you're a Transformers "completist", I would recommend getting it. But otherwise, go for the 2-disc Special Edition. Transformers: Beginnings is a 20-minute "faux"-animated adaptation of the Transformers: Prime Directives prequel comic that Dreamwave published leading up to the film's release. That story revealed how the Allspark was first jettisoned into space, then how Megatron went after it (following his grievously wounding Bumblebee's voicebox) and eventually came to Earth, where the history of the Transformers became intertwined with that of humanity. If you want the full tale of how Captain Witwicky discovered the frozen Megatron and the origins of Sector Seven, and then how Bumblebee arrived on Earth with the Decepticons in close pursuit, you'll like this exclusive DVD (in spite of some inconsistencies with the movie's canon). It's also worth noting that the voice acting is terrific in this animated short, especially with Frank Welker back as the voice of Megatron (Welker was Megatron in the original 1980s cartoon). But if you only need one DVD sitting on your shelf and don't really care for intricate backstory, the 2-Disc Special Edition is the better deal. I'm the kind of guy who is going to like having Transformers: Beginnings there anyway though, but that'll hopefully give you enough to decide if you want to spend some extra coin for it.

Transformers on DVD is a sweet lil' package, and it's pretty cool that they were able to put it together so relatively fast (the film is still playing in some theaters even). Definitely worth getting 'cuz this is one movie that you'll no doubt enjoy many time in years to come.


Anonymous said...

Thankfully, my copy of The Score FINALLY arrived in the mail this week. And I watched the film today and boy, it sounds GREAT on surround sound. My poor older Shepherd went and hid during parts of the movie, it scared her so much. And I think I can watch the Scorponok segment over and over, it makes me wish I was 20 years younger and able to sign up for Special Forces.... cool movie, fabulous soundtrack.

Anonymous said...

you can get an AWESOME version of the 2 disc special edition at TARGET (not the evil empire) that the case actually turns into optimus prime!

Anonymous said...

I have the Wal-Mart edition with Transformers:Beginnings. I am still going to buy the 2-disc edition, or get the other special edition at Costco (with a book). I am disappointed that Transformers: Beginnings is NOT narrated by Peter Cullen, as the package states. Instead, it's mostly narrated by whoever voices Bumblebee (someone with a British accent). Did anyone else have this same reaction?

Anonymous said...

The prequel comic was not published by Dreamwave since they went bankrupt a few years ago. Since then IDW has had the Transformers license and put out the prequel comic. As for the DVDs, the Target version is really the best since it has both the discs from the 2-disc special edition, plus the transforming case and a new prequel comic made just for the set that follows the Decepticons.

Unknown said...

Great review, Chris. I was just heading out to WalMart to pick up a copy of the WalMart edition (I'm a sucker for backstory) but think I'm going to go for the 2-disc special edition instead.