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The Transformers: The Movie – 30th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray Review)

Transformers-The-MovieExperience the enormously popular animated feature THE TRANSFORMERS – THE MOVIE like never before! In celebration of the film’s 30th anniversary, THE TRANSFORMERS – THE MOVIE has been meticulously restored and remastered from a spectacular brand-new 4K transfer of the original 35mm film elements. Fans can now immerse themselves in this thrilling animated adventure in this thrilling animated adventure with stunning picturing quality for Optimal home entertainment experience. THE TRANSFORMERS – THE MOVIE has captured a special place in the hearts of millions and has been a staple in the pop culture zeitgeist since 1986. Featuring memorable characters – the heroic AUTOBOTS, villainous DECEPTICONS and UNICRON, thrilling action and a heartfelt storyline, THE TRANSFORMERS – THE MOVIE is a cultural touchstone that spans generations. Beloved by legions of fans, this full-length animated adventure boasts the voice talent of Orson Welles in his final voice acting role and an all-star voice cast that includes Peter Cullen, Eric Idle, Casey Kasem, Judd Nelson, Leonard Nimoy, Robert Stack and Frank Welker.  On September 13, 2016, Shout! Factory, in collaboration with Hasbro Studios, celebrates the 30th anniversary of this iconic movie with this outstanding home video release.

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Film 

The Autobots, led by the heroic Optimus Prime, prepare to make a daring attempt to retake their planet from the evil forces of Megatron and the Decepticons.  Unknown to both sides, a menacing force is heading their way – Unicron. The only hope of stopping Unicron lies within the Matrix of Leadership and the Autobot who can rise up and use its power to light their darkest hour. Will the Autobots be able to save their native planet from destruction or will the Decepticons reign supreme?

Regardless of your thoughts on the quality of the finished product, The Transformers: The Movie was a deeply impacting film for the youth of the 1980s who were fans of the show; present company definitely not excluded.  There are few films that I have actually shed tears while watching, this is one of them.  If you’ve been living under a rock for 30 years in the geek-o-sphere, the film kills off Optimus Prime at the end of the first act.  Optimus Prime, one of the most popular characters on children’s television and toys of the previous year.  It was a shock, totally unexpected and something us children weren’t ready to be dealing with at the time of arrival.  The bold decision is also probably why we are still here talking about this film today and why its getting such a grand release from Shout! Factory.

Optimus Prime was my main man…er machine back when this film came out and I’m not alone.  He and all the other popular Transformers were killed off right away in this film.  The other ones were done away with so coldly and watching now its just shocking to think how brutal a decision this was.  Creators pretty much thought “Eh, they’re just robots” but to kids they were more than that and when you look at the film, what they intended to do overall maybe wasn’t so brutal and ruthless but the animators made it so. When it came to Optimus Prime, however, it wound up being a very gripping, emotion and all-to-real death.  For a robot in disguise, his death was very much human and in the open.  Its treated with such a real world sense of watching a loved one die in a hospital that it could hit home with people or live out some deep fear in people. Even to this day for me its a hard watch.  I’m not someone who hold Transformers nostalgia tight to the chest, but damn, this scene is still ever so effective.  You really feel gross and at a loss following it.

This deeply moving moment in childhood/cartoon/geek history has such simply motivation behind it; SELL NEW TOYS!  The entire purpose behind the film was to wipe out last year’s line of toys and introduce the current year’s new make and model.  That’s it, pure and simple.  Things were done so much differently back then.  Transformers (and others) sole drive was a toy commercial first, cartoon later.  Luckily, there were people involved in scripting and animation that did care more than that and that’s why certain properties have lasted much longer and had people clinging on to them for so many years.  Plus, the decision to get rid of them wasn’t one to jump a shark or made just to shock audiences; the people involved really didn’t know what they had back then.  They figured kids would jump onto the idea of fresh, new toys.  The new Transformers leader would be a bit more of a youthful spirit and fun with a cooler vehicle, a little more wildly color and voiced by a hot young actor of the time.  While Optimus Prime had great toy sales, they felt it had its run and everyone had him already.  Little did they know Peter Cullen had crafted something so special that kids weren’t willing to part and were emotionally attached to the character,  But, in the defense of the creators, if they don’t make that bold move to the story; I’m not writing this piece about the movie today.  Its what seriously defines the entire thing and makes it a piece of history rather than just a little note or completely forgotten altogether.

The Transformers: The Movie is a film I have loosely revisited over the years.  And every time I’ve seen it, its evoked a completely different reaction from me, with this most recent viewing being the most positive and eye opening of them all.  I had the childhood emotional viewing and the kinda revisit to revisit.  I’ve also had the nostalgic viewing and then the “ha ha” super 80s cheesey kinda viewing as well.  However, this viewing proved to be the intriguing one of all and will have me reaching for this one more frequently than ever before.  I’m currently fascinated with this movie as I sort of see it as a piece of art now.  In this viewing, there was something more interesting, more intoxicating and more hypnotic about the animation in the film. There is stuff here that would be considered amazing sci-fi if it was done in the 1970s.  Beyond being associated with Transformers, a lot of the spacecraft, Unicron, the outer space sequences, weapons and such look like some wondrous piece of mind blowing science fiction fare that challenges, pushes things to limits and is completely abstract.  The way it also harmoniously blends with the film’s score and music is another perfect symphony.  There is a synth score to the film that also drives home that interesting science fiction feel to it.  And the 1980s arena rock soundtrack is something so specific of a place and time that it feels so strongly fused to this film that while its sorta cheese at times, its also evokes the most unique and perfect feeling for the film.

I really hope I’m not selling a rewatch (or first for some) of this film too hard, but then again maybe its an angle people need to see for themselves.  Currently, I’m finding myself fascinated with just looking at this film.  What would have been a great bonus feature on here would have been an isolated score/soundtrack.  Because I think this film would work without any dialogue as well.  It has both that same feel I had with watching animations/drawings of Jodorowsky’s Dune and Aeon Flux.  Plus, these animators really up their game and know how to epicly shoot this action and the characters (Highlighted by this amazing shot of Optimus Prime flying through the sky to attack Megatron).  Also, unlike its TV counterpart, damage is also represented on the robots as well.  No joke, I went back and forth on maybe giving this film a 4.  And its not nostalgia. My Transformers well never crossed to Beast Wars, I’ve never owned the original series on DVD and I’m not a fan of the Michael Bay films. While I have fond memories of the show and my toys as a child, I’ve left it all back there.  However, my thoughts now on how I view this film I think aren’t coming from that place of nostalgia, but as something who’s grown up and is seeing something that kid never saw, but maybe is getting to layers of figuring out why this has had a lasting impact. Its a little weird, but this time through, the film may have been more of a revelation than it was when I saw it back in 1986 when it should have been its most enlightening and impressionable.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (Disc 1) & 1.33:1 (Disc 2)

Clarity/Detail:  They really aren’t kidding on the featurette that covers the transfer of the film.  Its quite astonishing.  You can even see how much better they made it with a side by side comparison of just the plain scan vs their work.  You can see brush lines and other sort of signs that reflect the hand drawn nature of the film.  Its also a crisp, sharp picture, defined by its smooth lines.

Depth:  While this one is a real hand drawn 2-D affair, there are moments and action sequences that really open up the picture and deepen it just from natural causes.  Its got a good 3-D look to it in some Unicron sequences as well as parts where they have the beautiful shot of Optimus Prime first attacking Megatron.

Black Levels:  Blacks are solid and, since we’re talking hand drawn animation here, black.  Shading is done very well to different degrees.

Color Reproduction:  Colors prove to be very bold, strong, solid and of a certain way that sticks out but isn’t super vivid or crazy poppy.  Some thing that deal with powerful forces, be it Unicron or The Matrix of leadership get those qualities and are bright standouts.  Coloring is pretty primary and features a good degree of shading and different tinting among mostly solid use.

Flesh Tones:  N/A

Noise/Artifacts:  Some dirt/specs and a couple (really hard to see or blink and you’ll miss them) streaks in minimal places.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics:  Both 5.1 and 2.0 tracks are loud and involved mixes.  This is a symphony of blasting onto the film’s score while pushing force with an excellent boost on the sound effects.  The gun blasts, explosions, transforming sounds and more all sound well defined, distinct and layered.  Songs in the film give the feeling of being at some sort of arena rock event.  Vocals play good into the mix two, but it is those two factors that really give the film its identity and flavor.

Low Frequency Extension:  Bass and drum in the songs, explosions, stomping, power blasts and planet devouring all rumble the sub.

Surround Sound Presentation:  A more front-heavy track, rear speakers still get some ambiance and get to add a little to the score and songs in the film.  The 3 channel experience up front allows for accurate placement, movement and all around good innovation to make this a fun mix.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is crisp and clean.  Transformer voices have discernible and layered distortions.

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Extras 

The Transformers: The Movie – 30th Anniversary Edition is a 2-Blu-ray Disc set that comes with a digital copy.  The only difference between the discs is the aspect ratio at which the film is displayed.  All bonus material is identical on both.

Audio Commentary

  • With Director Nelson Shin, Story Consultant Flint Dille and Star Susan Blu – This is the same commentary for the 20th anniversary DVD release ported over.

‘Til All Are One (HD, 46:32) – A retrospective documentary bringing back many principle players in the film’s production as the go over every aspect of the film from its inception to the production, casting, ideas for the new Transformers, the recording, animation, the score, the legacy and the fans.  Every bit of information really gets its due and fans should be very excited about the diligent effort and focus this gets.

Transformers: The Restoration (HD, 7:16) – No, this is the first rodeo with a feature like this on a Blu-ray.  However, this one is pretty eye popping, and spoken in friendly enough language for anyone to follow.  Its actually stunning to see the enhancements of this image for the release.  They even say that it stands better than the film prints used to source it, which were in surprisingly great condition to those who were working on it.

Rolling Out The New Cover (HD, 4:49) – A little bit on the artist who came up with the Blu-ray cover for this release.  Its a big deal to him (One of the longtime Transformers comic artists) to give the fans something that would feel fresh but capture the spirit of the film.  Some early sketches as well as alternate layouts & designs are shown in this.

Featurettes – These have been ported over from the previous 20th anniversary edition DVD.  Its nice to have these carried over, but essentially the information in them is repeated (Some almost word for word) in the ‘Til Are Are One retrospective.

  • The Death Of Optimus Prime (SD, 5:02) 
  • The Cast & Characters (SD, 10:02) 
  • Transformers Q&A (SD, 13:03) 

Animated Storyboards

  • Fishing Scene (HD, 2:09)
  • Battle (HD, 4:31)
  • “One Shall Stand, One Shall Fall” With Deleted Sequences (HD, 5:27)

Original Theatrical Trailers (HD, 3:05) 

TV Spots (HD, 5:52) – The very last one is a toy commercial tie in. Nerdy nostalgia!

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Summary 

Shout! Factory’s Blu-ray debut of The Transformers: The Movie has got the touch!  It has the power!  In 30 years, this film has never looked nor sounded this good.  There are even people on the supplemental material exclaiming this to be a better viewing experience than it was theatrically.  Speaking of, the supplemental material here is outstanding with the retrospective documentary being well put together and a reason for owning this release on its own.  This release should have longtime fans of the film and of the Transformers very happy and should give reasons for others to venture back and give it another look and keep in mind some newer thoughts/ideas on it.  Dare to be stupid, pick this one up!

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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