Say what you want about Michael Bay, but the man certainly knows how to “do big”, and Transformers is big in every sense of the word; big action, big laughs, and, most surprisingly, a big heart to go along with it.
Anyone who has ever watched a Transformers cartoon knows what the deal is here, but, in case you missed it, here’s the rundown. The Decepticons and Autobots are two warring factions left over from a dying planet called Cybertron. The two forces have spent millennia searching the galaxy for an ancient power source that, in evil hands, offers limitless power and universal domination. The quest for the power source leads the Decepticons to Earth, where they plan to use it to turn the planet’s technology against its inhabitants, while the Autobots are all about keeping said power source out of Megatron’s paws. While on Earth, the robots assume the appearance of various vehicles and machinery, hence the tagline “more than meets the eye”. It’s all completely ridiculous, but that’s what cartoons were like in the 80’s, so get over it. Anyway, the series was essentially a 30 minute advertisement for really nifty toys that changed from robots to cars and back again, so it didn’t need to make sense as much as it needed to provide a convenient launching point for new entries into the toy line.
Fast forward twenty-some-odd years later; retro geek chic is all the rage as millions of men in their late-twenties to early-thirties drop small fortunes purchasing back the very same toys their mothers sold at yard sales or handed down to the grandkids, all the while purchasing their modern counterparts for children of their own. It seems a no-brainer that, given the built-in audience, as well as the technology available to today’s filmmakers, that a Transformers film would do well, but, when the announcement came that Michael Bay would be at the helm, visions of Pearl Harbor danced in the heads of grown-up kids everywhere, initially tempering the excitement. Personally, I just knew Bay would come into this with the “play big or go home” mentality needed to bring this film successfully to the screen. I just didn’t expect it to be so goshdarned good!
Shia LaBeouf stars as Sam Witwicky, a moderately nerdy high school kid who also happens to be a direct descendent of one of the first men to travel to the arctic circle, something he proudly shares with his classmates during a report in which he not only presents actual artifacts from said expedition, but also offers the students an opportunity to purchase these items on Ebay, as Sam needs to come up with money so that he can prove to his father that he’s responsible enough to get him to pitch in the other half. Sam gets his car – a beat up black and yellow Camaro – but also gets a little something extra when it appears that his new ride is not just a sentient giant robot, but one of many sentient giant robots, all led by Optimus Prime (voiced by the cartoon series’ Peter Cullen), and all here to protect us from a whole other batch of evil robots (the aforementioned Decepticons). And finding Sam was no accident. It seems that Sam’s grandfather discovered something on his expedition that the Decepticons want, and that the Autobots must prevent them from getting. This is the main story arc of the film, with subplots involving elite computer hackers, a group of soldiers who survived a Decepticon attack in Afghanistan, and the usual shadow government types, all of which conveniently converge by the film’s third act (and, ultimate showdown). It’s totally clichéd, totally predictable, and totally Michael Bay, with huge action setpieces, plenty of slow-motion battle scenes, and lots of stuff blowin’ up real good.
LeBeouf continues to show off why he's recently become box-office gold (heck, he's Indy's kid!) and his Sam, with all of his nervous verbal diarrhea and everyman sensibilities, is a joy to watch. The likeable Josh Duhamel (Las Vegas, Touristas) and Tyrese Gibson bring on the sexy for the older women in the audience as the Afghanistan survivors, Sergeants Lennox and Epps, while the men get to drool over Sam’s love interest, Mikaela (Megan Fox, who is always naked in my mind). Strangely, the film’s veteran actors turn in the worst performances as John Turturro’s over-the-top turn as “Sector 7” goon Agent Simmons is painful to watch, while Jon Voight is…well…Jon Voight. It's like the "old guys" just don't get it, and decided to ham it up for the "crazy kids and their nutty robot movie".
But why are we even wasting time talking about the flesh things; Transformers is all about the ‘bots, baby, and they've never looked bigger, badder, or better than they do on Blu!
What can I say? This is exactly the type of movie Blu-ray was made for. Transformers and HD go together like like peanut butter and jelly, lox and bagels, Milli and Vanilli. Just a few short weeks after I declared Beowulf the best looking Blu-ray release I'd seen thus far, Transformers comes along and kicks its epic poetry-lovin' ass! This transfer is virtually three-dimensional stuff, flawless in its execution, and the very definition of reference quality. To truly appreciate the quality, simply pause the film anywhere, and bask in the glory of the unrivaled depth and detail of the still image. If only real life looked this good (and Megan Fox was my girlfriend).
Of course you just know the audio is going to compliment this thing perfectly, and the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack delivers big time. I watched this one a second time with my nephew, and cranked the volume up to sort of monitor his expressions throughout. The kid looked like he was on a thrill ride, "ooohin" and "aaaahin" and even blocking his ears at times (but in a totally "oh my god, that's wicked awesome" sort of way). Amidst the grinding crunch of metal and pulverizing explosions, dialogue was crystal clear and well-mixed, while subtle background noises (which, contrary to popular belief, can exist in a Michael Bay film) like wind, footsteps, water, and otherwise innocuous sounds are delivered with the same care and quality as the big action bangs, booms, and thuds.
This will be the film displayed in every electronics store between now and Christmas, and, believe you me, Transformers on Blu-ray will help to sell a lot of players, home theater systems, and HD televisions sets.
Transformers comes locked and loaded with an arsenal of HD extras; so many, in fact, that they needed another Blu-ray to fit them all. This 2-disc set sports a rousing commentary by the always "awesome" Michael Bay, whose enthusiasm is infectious despite his tendency to jump from topic to topic without ever clearly making his point. Still, despite the A.D.D., Bay manages to give us a fun, funny, and even occasionally informative look at the process of making the film.
In addition to the commentary, we are given two other ways to watch Transformers, including a nifty PiP feature (Transformers H.U.D.) that offers video and audio snippets and pop-up factoids, as well as the Intelligence Center mode in which the film is displayed within a sort of funky player that allows you to "monitor" different aspects of the film. Both are wonderfully implemented features, and give the film even more "rewatchability" than it already has (which, given that it's a Michael Bay film, is pretty much endless).
Featurettes are plentiful, spread out over two "chapters; Our World and Their War, and run nearly feature length in total. These mini-docs manage to be informative without being too tech-heavy, and there's lots of great stuff here that covers everything from the film's inception to completion.
Other extras include a short look at the Scorpion Bot desert showdown FX sequence, stills gallery, and HD trailers for this and other films.
Anyone who criticizes Transformers for its basic plot, dialogue, or plausibility obviously have no business watching the film in the first place. This is a movie about a cartoon about a toy! This is not American Beauty…hell, it’s not even American Pie; it’s Transformers, people, and all this film really needed to do to succeed on the most basic of levels was make robots turn into cars (and, of course, make them look good doing it). Bay, however, elevates this into an art form, with unbelievably well-done transformation sequences carried out during scenes of intense battle, and, in some cases, in slow motion, where, if there were any technical shortcomings, we'd see them (especially on Blu-ray!). Much as with the DVD, I've gone over particular scene a few times since getting the Blu-ray, and I couldn't pick out a single fault, seam, or speck of anything betraying the fluid and almost frighteningly organic CGI. The Autobots and Decepticons rumble to life in a cacophony of crunching metal and whirring gears, looking as genuine as the human actors standing beside them (and, in some cases, more so - I mean Megan Fox; can a human being actually be that hot?).
Blu-ray owners cursed the day Paramount chose HD-DVD as the exclusive platform for this highly coveted event film, but now that it's finally come to BD in all of its glory, Transformers is an absolute must-buy!