Transformers: 2-Disc Special Edition Directed by Michael Bay Studio: Dreamworks Year: 2007 Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Running Time: 144 mins Rating: PG-13 Audio: Dolby Dolby Digital English 5.1, French, Spanish Subtitles: English, Spanish, French MSRP: $36.99 Release Date: October 16, 2007 Review Date: October 5, 2007 The goal was simple: Make robots cool enough to sell a myriad of small, plastic toys. The year was 1984, the company was Hasbro, and the trend that took the world by storm was called “Transformers.” The stories were impressively complex for a thirty minute toy ad, drawing out emotions that culminated with a feature-length motion picture in 1986. Fast forward 21 years and the generation that grew up on “Transformers,” who spent countless dollars on the toys and related merchandise, are now being presented with a new iteration of their revered franchise, bringing the fight between Autobots and Decepticons into the new millennium. Director Michael Bay leads a large cast, including future star Shia LaBeouf as the human protagonist Sam Witwicky who stumbles into the conflict between the warring refugees from Cybertron. He is accompanied by the gorgeous-yet-tough Mikaela (Megan Fox), a girl with a complex past who grows quite fond of Sam. Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson lead a band of military refugees who survived an unexpected attack, while Jon Voight, Rachael Taylor, and Anthony Anderson round out a crew of Pentagon-sponsored hackers who are trying to stem an electronic attack on the nation’s infrastructure. The acting is by-and-large fantastic, though it occasionally strays into extremes—particularly John Turturro who plays a secret government agent. But who cares about the humans: this is a movie about giant killer robots, right? Well, they look fantastic. Believable and beautiful, you will buy into the possibility that a robot battle is taken out into the city streets. My primary problem with the film was how indistinct the different robots seemed. With the exceptions of Optimus Prime (voiced brilliantly by Peter Cullen) and Bumblebee, it was hard to tell the difference between the battling robots. Coupled with some horrible, Paul Greengrass-level shakycam, the battles are difficult to distinguish. What I could make out, however, looked amazing. This movie is big, brassy, loud, and fun. About the only problems I can find is in how much the film tries to tackle, pushing several storylines, including Sam, the military, Sector 7, the Autobots, and the hackers. While this does allow for a wide variety of locations, it dilutes the audience’s connection to any particular character. Similarly, there are more than a few moments when the tone shifts to stupid humor, like the Autobots hiding in a courtyard, the cringe-inducing Sector 7, and the downright goofy Frenzy. These events take away from the awesome tone Bay constructed. The other major distraction stems from the most overt, blatant product placement since “The Blues Brothers.” It’s obvious who paid to have their product in the movie, because an Xbox, Nokia, Chevy, and Mountain Dew soda machine all turn into killer robots. Bay, who has a history of shooting car commercials, makes several parts of this movie look like car ads. I understand that the source material itself is an advertisement, but I feel like these could have been better integrated. Ultimately, however, the film is perfect summer fair. As long as you’re looking for big explosions and robot-on-robot violence, you won’t be disappointed by “Transformers.” Video: Perfect. Stunning. Pick your adjective. Colors are gorgeous and vibrant, details are fine, blacks are deep. Even fog, dust, and smoke looks good, a normal limitation of DVD. Shot and presented in 2.35:1, I cannot imagine this set looking any better. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to pick up the HD-DVD; but the DVD is satisfying. Audio: Much like the video, expectations were high. The soundscape is amazing, the score is beautiful, and half of the battle is drawn aurally. Thankfully the 5.1 Dolby Digital audio track completely lives up to expectations. Dialogue comes through crystal clear, the bass rumbles and growls. Extras: Unsurprisingly the extra features are plentiful on the 2-disc DVD set, commencing with a feature-length commentary from director Michael Bay. Bay is chatty and filled with information, though he does justify a lot of his choices, explaining how fans reacted and why he disregarded their opinions. Themed as a series of featurettes dealing with various aspects of the story, the second disc goes through everything you would like to know about the construction of the movie. From the initial story to envisioning the look of the true stars to the directing style of Michael Bay, no stone is left unturned. The documentaries do duplicate a lot of the information Bay discusses in the commentary. Broken down by themes, Our World takes on the making of the movie. Their War goes through the history of the Transformers brand, its fans, and how they translated a cheesy cartoon show into a series of badass robots. Each individual character is broken down from concept to completion. Integrated are deleted and extended scenes, though I would have liked to have them separated. From “Script to Sand” goes through the mapping of the first scene in the film, from scrip to storyboard and animatics to the final product. After seeing some of the concept art, I want the book that features it all. Gorgeous paintings abound in this series, which plays like a slideshow, scored to the film’s theme. Overall: Although Bay says this movie tested well with children, this is most certainly not a kids movie. Violent and beautiful, “Transformers” earned its PG-13 rating. If you can get past the lackluster story, there are some solid performances here both human and… otherwise, and a lot of robot-fighting fun. “Transformers” is certainly a flawed film, but overcomes its limitations to present an entertaining romp. The 2-disc DVD is flush with extras, documentaries running over two and a half hours, and featuring a fantastic audio/video presentation, I can easily recommend this set for any home.