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It is the year 2005. The villainous Decepticons, lead by the maniacal Megatron, have conquered the Transformers’ home-world of Cyberton and banished the valiant Autobots to the planet Earth. However, the Autobots and their noble leader, Optimus Prime, are secretly planning to retake the planet from hidden staging grounds on two of Cybertron’s moons. Unfortunately the Decepticons learn of this plan and, using a stolen Autobot shuttle, strike at the very heart of their enemy—Autobot City, Earth.

Transformers: The Movie – Ultimate Edition
Sony BMG 20th Anniversary Edition


Transformers: The Movie – Ultimate Edition
Metrodome Ultimate Edition


Caught unaware, the Autobots mount a courageous counter-offensive, but after many hours under siege their chances of survival look slim at best. When all hope seems lost, Optimus Prime arrives with reinforcements and helps to turn the tide of the battle, but at great personal cost. Mortally wounded during a titanic struggle with Megatron, Prime’s last act is to pass the Autobot Matrix of Leadership to his old friend, Ultra Magnus. Elsewhere, Megatron’s traitorous lieutenant, Starscream, seizes his opportunity for advancement and jettisons the battered remains of his former commander and a number of injured Decepticons into the vast reaches of space, thus paving the way for his ascension to the Decepticon throne.

It is while drifting through space that the injured Decepticons encounter a monstrous, planet-sized entity known as Unicron. For reasons unknown, Unicron seeks the destruction of the Autobot Matrix, and to this end he makes Megatron an offer he is unable to refuse: serve him, or die. Unicron heals Megatron’s ravaged body, recreating him as the all-powerful Galvatron—a being even less prone to compassion and decency than Megatron—before ordering him to exterminate the Autobots and crush the Matrix. The fate of all Transformers—and indeed the universe itself—rests upon the shoulders of a single Autobot; one who must rise from the ranks to adopt the mantle of leadership and put an end to Unicron’s destructive reign once and for all.

Transformers: The Movie – Ultimate Edition
Sony BMG 20th Anniversary Edition


Transformers: The Movie – Ultimate Edition
Metrodome Ultimate Edition


Video


As with previous releases, this ‘Ultimate Edition’ includes a 4:3 (open-matte) aspect ratio transfer of the film. However, unlike most of the previous releases Metrodome has also included a remastered widescreen (1.78:1) version of the film! Now before you get too excited, you’re not getting to see more picture than before. In fact, quite the opposite is true, because the widescreen image has been created by simply cropping the existing 4:3 version of the film. I’m sure there are some people out there who will cry foul when they hear this, but rest assured, this is exactly how the original theatrical release was exhibited (indeed, it’s how many, many widescreen films are created to this very day).

Firstly, let me just say that I am 99% certain that this transfer was created from the same print as the Sony BMG effort. There are just too many similarities between the two for it to be coincidental. For example, things like minor fluctuations in colour stability and the appearance of film artefacts occurring at identical times on both releases. Although touted as a progressive film-to-PAL transfer on their message boards, Metrodome’s image is in fact flagged as interlaced. However, that’s not as bad as it sounds because PAL’s 2/2 sequence doesn’t introduce the same sort of interlacing artefacts as NTSC’s 2/3 sequence. This is the first major advantage that Metrodome’s release has over the recent Sony BMG disc, but it is not the last.

Transformers: The Movie – Ultimate Edition
Sony BMG 20th Anniversary Edition


Transformers: The Movie – Ultimate Edition
Metrodome Ultimate Edition


For the most part the colour rendition on Metrodome’s release is markedly superior to the Sony BMG disc, although there a number of scenes where the quality drops noticeably (check out the first set of screen caps for an example). The image presented here is also sharper than any previous release I’ve seen (which is a real blessing), and contrast and brightness have been evened out somewhat. The widescreen framing is also slightly different to the Sony BMG transfer, containing more information at the bottom of the screen with a sliver less at the top (again noticeable on the screen caps) and slightly less to the sides. Film artefacts are improved over the older releases, but as already stated there’s nothing between this and Sony BMG’s disc in that respect. All-in-all this is definitely the best the film has ever looked, but the transfer is not without its faults.

Audio


Metrodome listened to all of the negative comments directed at the Dolby Digital 5.1 track on their ‘Reconstructed’ release and enlisted the help of Transformers expert Chris McFeely when creating the new mix for the ‘Ultimate Edition’. The end result is definitely an improvement. While I generally accept that 5.1 remixes of older films aren’t going to be entirely faithful to the source material, I do believe that you at least have to remain loyal to the spirit of the original. In many circumstances these remixes can add a great deal to aging films, such as the fantastic track that accompanies the DVD release of Superman: The Movie. Unfortunately ‘Reconstructed’ went too far by adding to and altering the iconic sound effects from the film—the most infamous of which was Optimus Prime’s rifle—pulling the viewer out of the movie experience.

Transformers: The Movie – Ultimate Edition
Sony BMG 20th Anniversary Edition


Transformers: The Movie – Ultimate Edition
Metrodome Ultimate Edition


While this new 5.1 track retains some of the additions from the ‘Reconstructed’ effort, many of the audio gaffes have been rectified. Well, more or less. While the sound of Prime’s rifle has been restored to its former glory, the actual level of the audio is much quieter than it should be. It’s really is quite jarring, as the rifle sounds perfectly normal in one shot, but is barely audible in the next. There are also problems with the dynamic range of the track, with a number of scenes sounding much quieter than those that bookend them. However, this eases off as the film progresses and this particular issue also affected Sony BMG’s release. Sill, at least we’re not forced to listen to the dreaded ‘whip crack’ noises found on the ‘Reconstructed’ disc.

Surround utilisation is generally limited to the rocky soundtrack and Vince DiCola’s score, but the effects occasionally find their way into the rears. These mostly consist of ships whooshing overhead, but the booming, omnipresent voice of Unicron himself also finds a home in the surround channels. However, a lot of these effects sound out of place. Dialogue is generally crisp and clear—although there are occasional moments where things are lost in the mix—but bass is lacking when compared to newer releases (and curiously the Sony BMG disc is slightly better in this respect). I’ve always had a soft spot for DiCola’s score—especially the piece ‘Autobot-Decepticon Battle’—but I was never a fan of the aforementioned hair metal soundtrack when I was a kid. However, over the years I’ve grown to appreciate its cheesy goodness. If it’s good enough for Dirk Diggler...

Transformers: The Movie – Ultimate Edition
Sony BMG 20th Anniversary Edition


Transformers: The Movie – Ultimate Edition
Metrodome Ultimate Edition


I'm not as familiar with the original audio as someone like Chris McFeely, but from what I sampled the Dolby 2.0 Stereo track didn’t appear to contain any extraneous effects. Certainly, listening to the second attack on Autobot City (right before the 'No, you'd better stay close to me!' line) there are a few blasts and metallic clunks on the 5.1 track that aren't present on the 2.0 track (or are buried deep enough in the mix to go undetected). I was unable to directly compare the 2.0 track with the original audio because my Video Gems cassette has seen better days, but on the whole I’d say that it’s a fairly faithful representation. It’s just a pity that, once again, silly quality control issues prevent this release from wresting the Transformers: The Movie audio crown away from Sony BMG.

Extras


The main attraction on disc one is an audio commentary by Transformers super-fan Chris McFeely (who sounds a little bit like Ed Byrne). I was a tad worried when I discovered that this release was to have a commentary track featuring only one participant, but thankfully Chris does a good job of filling the running time. He clearly knows his stuff when it comes to Transformers, and goes into great detail about many of the lesser-known elements of the production and the Transformers universe as a whole. Unfortunately this occasionally leads to digression, which in turn leads to on-screen events going unmentioned (such as the entire prologue featuring Unicron’s destruction of Lithone). Even so, this is a still an interesting and informative track.

Transformers: The Movie – Ultimate Edition
Sony BMG 20th Anniversary Edition


Transformers: The Movie – Ultimate Edition
Metrodome Ultimate Edition


The rest of the bonus material on disc one continues with ‘Alternate UK and US Scenes’, which compares three scenes from the movie in both their UK and US forms. The scenes in question are ‘Opening Credits’, ‘Spike’s Expletive’ and ‘End Credits’. The main difference between the two versions is the addition of a voiceover on the UK release, along with the absence of any swearing in the UK version.Fourteen trailers and TV spots come next, the most interesting of which is the Japanese trailer with its numerous deleted shots. These are swiftly followed by ‘Title, Colour & Exposure Tests’, but I can’t say I was terribly enthused by those.

Slightly more interesting are the ‘Character Profiles’, which provide information on many of the major Autobot and Decepticon players. They’re presented in a style reminiscent of the old ‘tech specs’ that came with the toys, which is a nice touch. Finally we have a new Transformers: The Movie trailer, but it adds very little to the content provided by the other trailers. Unfortunately there are a number of silly errors that should have been avoided (entire sections of one character’s biography appearing in another character’s biography, for example).

Transformers: The Movie – Ultimate Edition
Sony BMG 20th Anniversary Edition


Transformers: The Movie – Ultimate Edition
Metrodome Ultimate Edition


Disc two contains the bulk of the supplemental material, or at least the more lengthy featurettes. First up we have a twenty-four minute ‘Interview with Flint Dille, Story Consultant’. Flint talks in-depth about his move from the G.I. Joe TV series to the Transformers series, recounting many of the events of the time. In fact the whole interview is pretty anecdotal, with stories about everything from discarded movie scripts that never were to bailing Chris Latta (the voice of Starscream) out of jail. On the whole this is a more informative and enjoyable interview than the one found on the Sony release.

The second major featurette, entitled ‘Peter Cullen, The Voice of Optimus Prime, Q & A’, runs for around twenty minutes and includes a 2005 Comic-Con appearance by the voice artist. Cullen arrives to thunderous applause and proceeds to field questions from the audience, beginning with his showbiz break in 1970s Los Angeles on The Sonny and Cher Show. He goes on to answer numerous questions before pleasing the audience with a number of impromptu renditions of his most recognisable characters (Ironhide and Optimus Prime, the latter of which was modelled on his brother). Perhaps the most touching part of the documentary comes when Cullen recounts the story of a terminally ill boy whose biggest wish was to communicate with the voice Optimus Prime, and how he developed a relationship with the boy before his passing.

Transformers: The Movie – Ultimate Edition
Sony BMG 20th Anniversary Edition


Transformers: The Movie – Ultimate Edition
Metrodome Ultimate Edition


The Japanese episode ‘Scramble City’ comes next. It takes place before the movie in continuity and features many of the characters introduced in the second season of the series, along with a few new ones (such as Ultra Magnus). From what I can gather, most people are curious as to whether this episode includes the ‘original’ audio. Well, it’s certainly in Japanese with questionable subtitles, but seeing as around a third of the episode is comprised of clips from the American series the term ‘original’ is open to interpretation. Personally I don’t think ‘Scramble City’ is a patch on the G1 Transformers stuff I grew up with up with, as everything was needlessly complicated. Thankfully Chris McFeely is once again on hand to guide us through the episode (and boy is he needed).

Next up we have ‘Test Deleted/Alternate Footage with Commentary’, which runs for around five minutes. There’s nothing worth getting particularly worked up about here, as the footage mostly consists of incomplete animation or errors. However, the sequence does include the only known deleted scene from Transformers: The Movie, but even that is a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ affair. As always, Chris McFeely is on hand to talk us through the proceedings.

The last of the bonus material is comprised of a non-anamorphic trailer for the forthcoming live-action Transformers movie, eleven minutes of animated storyboards and some DVD-Rom content. Actually, the DVD-Rom content is probably the most interesting of these few bonus pieces, mostly because it contains not only the entire script for the film, but also a complete list of sound effects that were added and removed for the new 5.1 track.

Transformers: The Movie – Ultimate Edition
Sony BMG 20th Anniversary Edition


Transformers: The Movie – Ultimate Edition
Metrodome Ultimate Edition


So there you have it, not a bad selection of extras, but not quite as good as the Sony BMG effort and many of them have been ported from the old Reconstructed DVD. Sony’s release features superior presentation (Metrodome’s menus are functional at best), two commentary tracks (one fan-based group effort and another featuring the director, writer and one of the voice actors), more in-depth interviews and a great little feature called the ‘Autobot Matrix of Knowledge’, which displays pop-up trivia as you watch the film.
 

Overall


So, is it worth buying yet another Transformers: The Movie DVD? On the whole I’d have to say yes. However, while this is certainly the best region two release to date, there are a number of things that prevent it from attaining true ‘Ultimate Edition’ status. The most important of these is the relative lack of bonus material (compared to the Sony BMG release), which means you’re going to need to buy both titles to enjoy the complete Transformers: The Movie experience. Other niggles concern periodic variances in the audio-visual quality and some sloppy presentation (the aforementioned errors in the character bios for example).
 
Transformers: The Movie – Ultimate Edition
Sony BMG 20th Anniversary Edition


Transformers: The Movie – Ultimate Edition
Metrodome Ultimate Edition


I also have some reservations about the asking price for this two-disc set. In 2007 we should not be paying more for our DVDs than we were a decade ago, and one has to wonder if the title would be more conservatively priced if a live-action Transformers movie were not just around the corner. Anyway, these minor quibbles aside, it’s almost third time lucky for Metrodome. The visual elements are clearly superior to anything that’s come before, and Chris McFeely’s solo commentaries pack a lot of information into a short amount of time.  This alone is reason enough for all self-respecting ‘Trans-Fans’ to check it out.


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