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The year is 2005. For millennia, the heroic Autobots, led by Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen), have been at war with the evil Megatron (Frank Welker) and the Decepticons over control of their home planet of Cybertron. However, an even greater threat – Unicron (Orson Welles, Citizen Kane), a colossal converting planet that devours everything in its path – is heading right for Cybertron. The only hope is the Autobot Matrix of Leadership. Will the Autobots be able to save themselves and their home world in time? (From Shout Factory’s official synopsis)

 Transformers The Movie: 30th Anniversary Edition
 Transformers The Movie: Metrodome Release
I don’t really have any nostalgic love for Nelson Shin’s The Transformers: The Movie, because, well, I wasn’t allowed to see it as a kid and didn’t bother to until I was well into my 20s. I certainly respect its weirdness (if only the live-action movies would have the balls to tell an off-Earth story with only two human characters), its unwavering sentimental, its ridiculous cruel streak (the part where Starscream chucks the injured Decepticons into space is brutal), and its ambitious, if limited animation (the fact that such a shabby little movie had a major theatrical release is fascinating), but my affection doesn’t extend beyond amusement. However, I understand a whole lot of people were very excited for this 30th anniversary Blu-ray re-release, so, since this review is super late anyway, let’s get right into it.

Video


Following a wildly successful VHS release from Family Home Entertainment, Rhino Entertainment cashed-in on fan nostalgia with a 1.33:1 DVD in 2000. This was followed by a R1 20th Anniversary Edition from Sony in 2006, a Reconstructed Edition from Metrodome Distribution in 2007 on Blu-ray and DVD, and an extras-packed Aussie disc from Madman Entertainment in 2010. Now, Shout Factory, who appears to have access to just about every classic Transformers property these days, has wrangled together a new 4K remaster of both the theater-approved 1.85:1 and original animation 1.33:1 aspect ratios for the film’s 30th anniversary. Since they are the same transfer with different framing, I’m focusing on the 1.85:1 version. Chris reviewed Metrodome’s BD for the site and has supplied me with comparison caps.

The 4K scan pays off in terms of clarity and detail, but the difference in colour timing between the two transfers is the more immediate issue. Without getting into which transfer is ‘correct,’ because I have no idea, I’ll just say that I like the Shout transfer’s richer colours, especially the vivid oranges and slightly lavender reds, but I also recognize that the Metrodome disc’s palette is closer to other DVD versions of the movie. The next issue is the overall levels of each release. Watching it on a big TV screen, the new transfer’s contrast looks nice. The subtle highlights reveal more shading in the hand-painted backgrounds and ensure that accompanying lighting effects – laser blasts, surreal starscapes, and computer console readouts – really stand-out against the hand-drawn panels. The Metrodome transfer’s highlights seem to crack up some of the ink outlines, too. Shout Factory’s darker overall tint is fine, but there’s a lot of detail missing in the moody shots, due to soupy shadows and greyish blacks. Chris’ theory is that the image was mastered using PC levels (0=black, 255=white), instead of television levels (16=black, 235=white), which makes sense. I found that I could pretty easily mitigate the problem by sticking the caps in Photoshop and sliding the middle RGB input a tad to the left. Shout Factory had the visual information they needed; something just went wrong during production. The print damage and general wear is a bit more prevalent than expected, considering the extensive remastering, though compression artefacts are minimal, in part because Shout Factory separated the 1.85:1 and 1.33:1 transfers onto separate discs. I actually find the grain and scratches charming, myself – they add character to this plucky movie.

 Transformers The Movie: 30th Anniversary Edition
 Transformers The Movie: Metrodome Release

Audio


The Transformers: The Movie is presented in its original stereo 2.0 and a remixed 5.1, both in uncompressed DTS-HD Master Audio. There’s not a whole lot of difference between the mixes, but I suppose I prefer the remix for its crisper high-end, deeper LFE presence, and better separation. It’s also the slightly louder aural experience. This includes a superior dynamic range during noisy action sequences, as well as relatively quiet talking scenes. The 2.0 track can get muddy when the music, special effects, and shouty dialogue start overlapping. On the other hand, some of the ‘new’ (it’s probably the same remix that first appeared on the Rhino DVD, so it’s at least 16 years old) directional elements are sloppily situated and bleed during some scenes. The nearly constant stream of Vince DiCola’s hyperactive synth and electric guitar music is uneven throughout both tracks, because, well, it never stops and the sound designers had to mute it for dialogue purposes. It and the many memorable pop/rock pieces have a wider stereo spread on the 2.0 track, but are cleaner on the 5.1 track.

Also, rest assured, this is the uncut dialogue, stray “holy shit” and all.

Extras


  • Commentary with Director Nelson Shin, story consultant Flint Dille, and actress Susan Blu (voice of Arcee) – This seems to be the same commentary that first appeared on the Sony special edition DVD. It’s sweet-natured and informative, though there is a lot of overlap with the other extras.
  • 'Til All Are One (46:32, HD) – The first and biggest of the new extras is a comprehensive and refreshingly honest retrospective documentary with members of the cast and crew. Given that most of the interviewees are writers or actors, the focus tends to hinge on story and performance. We learn about the difficult Hasbro mandate, which requested that the writers kill off the old characters in order to introduce the new ones, the voice acting/directing/recording processes, casting ‘name’ actors for bit roles, the basic animation methods/concepts, and the production of the ‘arena rock’ and synth-pop soundtrack. Sadly, there no mention of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights (1997) and its use of the seminal Transformers song, “The Touch.”
  • Transformers: The Restoration (7:16, HD) – The next new featurette covers the 4K scan (apparently, it is actually a 6K scan, but the 4K information is what is saved) and digital restoration of the original 35mm elements. Here, the transfer’s producers claim they brought in reference material for colour QC, so perhaps the ‘new’ timing is actually the original timing after all.
  • Rolling Out The New Cover (4:49, HD) – The final new featurette is a rather lengthy look at the new Blu-ray’s cover art.Archival featurettes:
    • The Death Of Optimus Prime (5:02, SD) – The filmmakers give their thoughts on the death of the franchise’s lead character.
    • The Cast & Characters (10:02, SD) – Another look at the cast and what they brought to the film.
    • Transformers Q&A (13:03, SD) – Dille, Shin, Blu, and producers Tom Griffin & Joe Bacal answer questions.
  • Animated storyboards with sound from the final film:
    • Fishing scene (2:09, SD)
    • Battle scene (4:31, SD)
    • ”One Shall Stand, One Shall Fall,” including deleted sequences (5:27, SD)
  • Trailers
  • TV spots


 Transformers The Movie: 30th Anniversary Edition
 Transformers The Movie: Metrodome Release

Overall


As with many big deal cult re-releases, I’m sure this one comes with its share of controversy. I’m sure, because there was a mix-up with my review copy and I was actually able to read about the controversy in while I was waiting for it to show up. As a non-fan, I think this is a mostly great restoration with superior colour vibrancy and detail, but do recognize some issues with RGB levels and contrast. The soundtrack options are both solid and the extensive extras include a full-bodied collection of new and old supplements. In the end, this is the likely the best version of the film on the market, even though there’s still some room for improvement.

 Transformers The Movie: 30th Anniversary Edition
 Transformers The Movie: Metrodome Release

 Transformers The Movie: 30th Anniversary Edition
 Transformers The Movie: Metrodome Release

 Transformers The Movie: 30th Anniversary Edition
 Transformers The Movie: Metrodome Release

 Transformers The Movie: 30th Anniversary Edition
 Transformers The Movie: Metrodome Release

 Transformers The Movie: 30th Anniversary Edition
 Transformers The Movie: Metrodome Release

 Transformers The Movie: 30th Anniversary Edition
 Transformers The Movie: Metrodome Release

 Transformers The Movie: 30th Anniversary Edition
 Transformers The Movie: Metrodome Release

* Note: The above images are taken from the Shout Factory and Medtrodome Blu-rays and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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