Transformers on Blu-ray Disc

There isn't much more than meets the eye in this, arguably the best of the Hollywood movies based on old toy collections and/or cartoon series.

Transformers, of course, are alien robots who can mimic ordinary earth-style technology. The movie is the latest action adventure flick from director Michael Bay and executive producer Steven Spielberg, who between them have unleashed a lot of good and some less than good flicks in the genre.

Transformers is a worthy addition to the collection, especially in this terrific Blu-ray incarnation.

Okay, it's silly and superficial, but it's great popcorn stuff, and it looks and sounds great in the home theater.

Shia LaBeouf stars as nerdy Sam Witwicky, whose first car turns out to be - surprise! - an alien robot. Fortunately, he's one of the Autobots, the good Transformers. They're the foils of the evil Decepticons, with whom they've been at war for centuries. Both sides are on earth to find the AllSpark, a device that would grant its owner the power to rebuild Cybertron, the Transformers' home world, or "Cybertronform" any planet in its image (and guess which planet that would be in this case).

The movie features nearly non-stop action, with astoundingly good special effects - and even some hearty laughs. For example, a Decepticon masquerading as a police car has "To punish and enslave" stenciled onto it instead of "To serve and protect", and Autobot Bumblebee (LaBeouf's Camaro), communicates via his car radio, using just the right phrases culled from broadcasts. There are homages (one of the Decepticons has a face that reminds one of the alien from Predator, for example) and blatant product placements (the whole movie's a long commercial for General Motors and features prominently its new Camaro ), but it doesn't matter because the movie is all fun.

Yes, fans, it's robot versus robot mayhem, with the giant droids taking out a good chunk of human stuff in the process as our buildings and technology get in the way of their epic battle.

The actors do a good job, though you know they know they're only there to support the special effects. Besides LaBeouf (who is very good in the starring role), we have Megan Fox as his love interest, Josh Duhamel as an Army sergeant, Jon Voight, as a surprisingly sympathetic (considering this is a Hollywood product) Secretary of Defense who's in over his head, and oily special agent John Turturro, who manages to rub nearly everyone the wrong way.

And we'd be remiss if we didn't mention the great U.S. military technology that's along for the ride, from C-130 gun ships and C-17 transports to the Osprey, A-10 and F22 Raptor. Hardware aficionados will love it!

The first section of the movie sees the U.S. military discover the strange and deadly new threat, while "a boy and his car" (LaBeouf and Bumblebee) bond in a way that goes beyond most boy/car relationships.

The Autobots need Sam because they're looking for an antique set of eyeglasses in his possession (the Decepticons want it, too, but - fortunately - the good guys get to Sam first or we'd have a very short movie). Once the Autobots introduce themselves to Sam, it's pretty well non-stop action between the droids and the humans, and it's spectacular stuff.

Director Michael Bay handles the destruction and general mayhem well. And the action scenes benefit from the always-great work of George Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic special effects wizards, who turn in totally believable work. The robots' transformations are spectacular, and the battle scenes will have you ducking your head for cover. It all looks so real!

Bottom line: Transformers is a tremendous roller coaster ride in the home theater, with just enough "reality" to help you suspend your disbelief at the otherwise ludicrous goings on.

The two disc Blu-ray presentation does the movie justice. The picture is presented in 1080p widescreen, 2.40:1, and it's reference quality; we're betting you'll see this one playing in electronics and video stores to demonstrate TV's until the next big Blu-ray spectacular comes along.

Colors are deep and rich, the picture is razor sharp, with good depth, and the overall look is gorgeous.

The audio is offered in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround and it really rocks. There's delicious use of the surround channels, lots of low frequency effects and excellent separation and placement of sounds. Definitely reference quality.

Disc One includes a very good commentary by director Bay, Transformers HUD (Heads Up Display - in this case trivia, animatics and the like) and the online Blu-ray Live feature, which rescales the movie to a smaller image size sticks a new skin around it that offers you a series of choices for how you want to experience the film and which Transformer you want to track or learn more about as the movie unfolds.

Disc Two is full of goodies. It kicks off with "Our World," which includes interviews with cast and crew, footage of the stunt people working out their gags, and some on-set location stuff.

Then you can move onto "Their War," which deals with the creation of the Autobots and Decepticons through featurettes titled "Rise of the Robots", "Autobots Roll Out", "Decepticons Strike" and "Inside the AllSpark." And finally there's "More than Meets the Eye," a section on the making of the Skorponok desert battle.

And get this: all the extras are in HD!

Transformers, from Dreamworks Home Entertainment
143 min. 1080p widescreen (2.40:1), Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround
Starring Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Jon Voight, John Turturro
directed by Michael Bay

Transformers 3

Transformers, Dark of the Moon, on Blu-ray disc

Cotton candy for the eyes.

That about sums up the third Transformers movie. Heck, it probably sums up the first two as well, though we managed to miss the second outing of Optimus Prime and his big little friends.

Based on the toys and the animated TV feature my kids watched when they were in the target age group, the Transformers movies are about giant robots who can change into earth-style vehicles and things, from semi trailers to sports cars. Two races of giant robots – the good autobots and the evil decepticons – are fighting what appears an endless (or at least interminable at times!) war. Optimus and his good autobots have thrown their lot it with humanity, which makes it easy for us to pick a side.

After the mayhem unleashed in the first – and undoubtedly even more so in the second – the producers needed a new hook to grab moviegoers' interest. So they threw in a fairly nifty bit of historical revisionism that had the original space programs of the 1960's actually motivated by the discovery of something strange on the moon – the far side of the moon, if we remember the movie correctly.

So when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin – the latter of whom graces the movie and raises its "class quotient" noticeably – announce the existence of Tranquility Base, they aren't just there to grab a few rocks and ogle the barren landscape. They're looking for something very hush-hush.

Remember Aliens I and II? If so, you've seen this part.

Needless to say, we end up with a special effects extravaganza that sees the Transformers at each others' intake manifolds, with the humans backing them up ineffectively for the most part (except for the actions that eventually save the day, of course). And the threat is more than just being killed by the Decepticons.

There's true love in the air as well. Isn't that wonderful?

Never mind any scientific or historical inaccuracies – and we weren't paying close enough attention to remember the ones we noticed – Transformers 3 is just a toy for the eyes and ears, an excuse to be bedazzled in the home theater for about half an hour longer than it should've taken.

The special effects, being the reason we're there, had better be good in a movie like this and we're happy to report that they're spectacular. Not only do the big robots look photo realistic, but so do all the bits of mayhem director Michael Bay and his merry band of creators have wrought. It's a great looking movie.

You get plenty of action, too. Heck, it seems as if the last third of the movie is one big action scene, with enough special audio and visual effects to help keep your brain shut down for the duration.

This all translates to the Blu-ray, fortunately. Paramount has given the movie a very sharp and clean and colorful 1080/24p transfer that looks terrific. It comes in a two disc set bundled with a DVD (and digital copy download info).

The 2.39:1 picture's quality is outstanding, with incredible detail and resolution. Even though it's 2D, there's that great, pop off the screen depth.

Can't fault the audio, either. It's a 7.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack and it's nigh on perfect, with accurate staging and channel separation and a fine, full spectrum of sound. Dialogue is always clear and the effects are believable. Naturally your subwoofer will love the workout. 

Get this: there are no extras on this edition of the Transformers: Dark of the Moon Blu-ray. Watch for another edition coming down the road if extras are important to you.

Okay, it's a silly movie – heck, it's a silly concept – but an engaging and enjoyable two and a half hours in the home theater. We'd prefer all that form with some substance, but realize it's not likely to happen every time.

This is one of them.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon, from Paramount Home Entertainment
154 minutes, 1080p/24, Dolby TrueHD 7.1
Starring Shia LaBoeuf, Josh Duhamel, John Turturro, Tyrese Gibson, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Patrick Dempsey
written by Ehren Kruger, directed by Michael Bay

Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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