There is a saying that ‘everything old will be new again’. This is especially true in Hollywood. It was one thing to make a popular stage play or novel into a film but now all forms of media are fair game. Comic books have yielded some of the most popular flicks in recent years. Television series are constantly being re-imagined as films that can attract the most notable actors. Now it is time for toys to take center stage. Back in 1984 the toy company Hasbro came out with a new product line that literally changed the way kids watched television. They released the ‘Transformers’; plastic toys that could change between robots and cars or planes by twisting a few parts. There was an instant tie in to an animated television series and eventually comic books. Of course, having a toy with moving parts that little fingers can twist and break requiring new purchases was a fantastic item for the company. Now the Transformers have reached the ultimate big time, a live action, summer block buster. In it’s summer of 2007 release it broke one box office record after another so it is pretty certain that as you read this a sequel is in the works. This is not a perfect film, it is flawed. You can forgive many of them since it is a summer action flick. While the bar has been set very high for comic book flicks by the likes of films such as ‘Spider-Man 2’ this one holds on well to the expectations of the genre. Transformers have everything necessary for a summer flick; incredible CGI special effects, pretty girl, handsome guy and the ability to tie into action figures. This is not the deepest flick around but it sure is fun to watch.
Thousands of years ago a war broke out on the planet Cybertron between its two factions; the Autobots lead by Optimus Prime (voiced Peter Cullen) and the evil Decepticons lead by the sinister Megatron (voiced by Hugo Weaving). Their world is one of living machines with the ability to alter their forms. The device that gave them life and sustains it is the Allspark, a cube of almost unlimited power that can turn mechanical objects into living objects. In the late nineteenth century Optimus Prime attempts to put an end to the conflict by taking the Allspark away. It winds up on Earth where it becomes central to a secret U.S. government organization, Sector 7. Hoover Damn is even built around the device to conceal its energy. The location was imprinted on a pair of glasses owned by Captain Archibald Witwicky (W. Morgan Sheppard) a sea captain who happened upon the original crash site of Megatron. Now years later the Decepticons have tracked their leader to Earth. Most of them take the form of earth vehicles attacking a military base to discover the exact locations of Megatron and the Allspark.
Back in the States a teenage boy, Sam (Shia LaBeouf) is facing a typical American male rite of passage. He wants to buy his first used car; partly just to have mobility but also to impress a girl. The girl in question is Mikaela Banes (Megan Fox). Even though they have been in the same classes since grade school she is barely aware of his existence. She is also from what we used to call the wrong side of the tracks. Her father has a criminal record and she got in trouble for not turning him in. She is also an expert mechanic often working at her father’s garage. Sam decides to raise the money for the car by selling a pair of glasses from his great grandfather, Captain Archibald; the very same glasses that have the map to the coveted Allspark. His father, Ron (Kevin Dunn), wants to keep the glasses in the family and buys the car himself. It just so happens that the old clunker car that Sam gets is none other than Bumblebee (voiced by Mark Ryan) who is an Autobot scout in the form of a 1976 Chevrolet Camaro. Eventually Sam witnesses his car transform and realizes that it is from outer space. Soon Sam is approached by a Decepticon, Barricade (voiced by Jess Harnell) whose form is that of a police car. Barricade demands the return of the glasses. Mikaela happens to be with Sam at the time and they return to his hoe to secure the glasses. Once there agents from Sector 7 take the teens and the glasses into custody. The chase is on with Autobots and Decepticons changing form, deploying incredible weapons and generally destroying everything in sight.
This is the kind of flick that brings out the inner child of those, especially men, in the audience. Director Michael Bay has been quoted as saying ‘I make movies for teenage boys’ and this one is a prime example. This is really one of his more financially successful flicks going far beyond his other works like ‘The Rock’, ‘The Island’ , Pearl Harbor’ and even ‘Armageddon’. The one thing that is a trademark for a Bay flick is action and there is tons of it here. While some comic book films are moving more towards character drive stories this one remains true to the old school ‘keep them moving’ flick. There is just enough of a story to hold things together but not so much as to get in the way of the action. You see a film like this for the special effects and battles. Even though I was too old for the initial Transformer crazy in the early eighties I immediately got into this movie. No, its not the greatest film around but to delivers what it promises, action and ground breaking computer aided special effects.
The cast of this film is currently as hot as the effects. In the teen male lead is Shia LaBeouf who star is definitely on the rise. After his work on the Disney TV series, ‘Even Stevens’ and films like ‘Disturbia’ and ‘Holes’ this film launches his action character career which is due to be continued in the forth installment of the Indiana Jones Franchise. LaBeouf has the talent to play opposite his human co-stars realistically and is quick enough on his feet to sell the action. He has an easy going manner to him that lets him come off as a realistic and empathic person. Although physically Megan Fox can qualify as the film’s eye candy she does give a very good performance here. She portrays her character in a way that makes it natural for her to be part of this testosterone drive story. Also included in the cast is the heart throb from TV’s ‘Las Vegas’ series Josh Duhamel. He is perfect as the army Captain fighting the evil robots.
Dreamworks in association with Paramount Pictures releases this film to DVD with several options. First there is the standard one disc DVD. Next there is the two disc special edition which is available in both DVD and HD-DVD formats. Do yourself a favor and go the extra couple of bucks for the two disc set; the extras are well worth it. The anamorphic 2.35:1 video is breath taking. The clarity and color palette is reference quality. The Dolby 5.1 audio will give your speakers a real workout. Invite your neighbors over to watch this with you. It is loud and you might as well have them over, they are going to hear it anyway. The extras on the two disc set cover just about every aspect of the production. There are three sections for the added material. The first area is called ‘Our World’. This contains the features about the human side of the film. There is ‘The Story Spark’ where Steven Spielberg talks enthusiastically about how a children’s toy became a popular franchise. He notes that there is a fascination for watching something common place become something incredible. The featurette follows the development of the Transformers from the early days in Hasbro to the current film. "Human Allies’ looks at how the cast was brought together. Bay’s first thoughts about the film were how to make the human characters realistic, the robots could follow after that was established. In "I Fight Giant Robots’ Bay recants how he got the assistance of the U.S. Military. It was vital for them to help in order to give the degree of realism Bay required. The last part of this section is ‘Battlegrounds’ which focuses on the sets used. The Second main section is "Their War’. First up here is ‘Rise of the Robots’ which details the interaction between Hasbro and the special effects teams to bring the robots to life. Next there is Autobots Rollout’. In this featurette the assistance of Chevy is acknowledged to help make the good guy robots. Balancing this out is ‘Decepticons Strike’ showing the development of the evil robots. Last there is ‘Inside the Allspark focusing on the object all in the film desire. The last section is ‘More than Meets the Eye’ that has one main section, ‘From Script to Sand: The SKORPONOK Desert Attack’. This goes into this major battle scene following it from inception to filming. This is a fun popcorn flick for the whole family to enjoy.
With the release of this film in the Blu-ray format Dreamworks and Paramount pulled out all the stops. You can now get this movie in a special high definition two disc version. There is some overlap in the extras but everything is now in crystal clear HD. the film has a newly mastered True-HD sound track that is absolutely awesome. I though the Dolby 5.1 one was good but this audio mix blows the other away. The channel separation is the best I have heard in a very long time. I noticed details in the audio that I never knew was there. The sub woofer will shake your living room.
Disc one has the Michael Bey commentary track. It also contains 'Transformers: Heads up Display' which gives you picture in picture content throughout the film. You will get more behind the scenes information than every before.
Disc two has all high def features for your enjoyment and enlightenment. 'Our World' features a detailed look at the making of the film. There is interviews with cast and crew, stunt training videos and exclusive location footage. 'Their War' gives you everything you need to know about the Autobots and their bitter enemies the Decepicons. Here you have interviews with the military advisors on the tactics and techniques of the robots, production designs and how CGI brought these robots to life. Last but certainly not least is 'More than Meets the Eye' which takes you into the creation of the SKORPONOK Desert Attack including the original concept boards. If you have Blu-ray this is the only way to go.
Posted 10/03/07 (DVD)
Posted 08/13/08 (2 Disc Blu-ray)