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Since making the high definition switch I've been on the lookout for Blu-ray and HD DVD versions of some of my favourite films. For whatever reasons, Transformers: The Movie has always held a special place in my heart, so I was excited to see how the title looked on Blu-ray. I've already reviewed the film numerous times for the site, so rather than try to put yet another spin on things I'm going to take the easy route and copy and paste my previous synopsis! Normal service will be resumed with the technical assessment.

 Transformers: The Movie – Ultimate Edition

Feature


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.

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

Video


Now that the movie review is out of the way I can concentrate on the interesting stuff, namely the quality of the Blu-ray presentation itself. As with the standard definition release, the Buy-ray Disc presents the film at the 1.78:1 aspect ratio, encoded at 1080/24p. Unfortunately this is one instance where the high definition transfer does just as much harm as good to the viewing experience.

The image is pretty much identical to the standard definition DVD release in terms of film artefacts, but the perceived effect is intensified by the increased resolution. Fluctuations in colour stability occur at regular intervals throughout, although colour rendition and stability are improved over the DVD in a number of scenes (the opening shot of Lithone as seen through Unicron's 'mouth', for example), suggesting that portions of the transfer may have come from a different source. There are also a number of scenes where the image goes very ‘blurry’, which is probably down to the source print, and telecine wobble is more than a little noticeable during the opening and closing credits. Blacks are often washed out and there is a fair amount of grain to be seen in the image.

On the positive side, the image is sharper than any previous release, but even then it’s not so far ahead of the up-converted DVD so as to be immediately noticeable to the casual viewer. In my experience animation seems to benefit the most when it comes to scaling, perhaps due to the relatively simplistic nature of the source. Whatever the reason, the gulf between the DVD and Blu-ray images isn’t massive as you might expect, but it is a definite improvement.

 Transformers: The Movie – Ultimate Edition

Audio


Okay, so I could pretty much have copied and pasted this section from my review of the standard definition review as well. Unlike most high-definition releases, there is no high-definition audio. What we get are the same old Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo and 5.1 tracks, along with a DTS 5.1 effort.

The tracks are identical to those found on the standard definition release, audio flaws and all. There are frequent shifts in sound quality, moments where effects are dialled down in the mix to the point that they almost disappear, limited surround utilisation (usually confined to the cheesy score), and muted dialogue. The overall experience is very much what you'd expect from a twenty-year-old cartoon and then some.

When I reviewed this standard definition release I stated that the audio was a great improvement over Metrodome's previous Reconstrcted release. This is still true, but simply taking those tracks and porting them to this Blu-ray release doesn't fly. Blu-ray Disc stands for high definition video and audio, so in next-generation terms the audio simply doesn't cut it. It's not that the film sounds bad per se, but it's definitely lacking in comparison to other high definition titles with remastered audio. Okay, so it's never going to sound perfect, but the audio on the Sony BMG DVD release is more consistent than what's on offer here so a better job could have been done.

Extras


Zip. Nothing. Nada. Lame. Why, when a two-disc DVD set exists, couldn’t some or all of the bonus material be ported over to this Blu-ray Disc? It’s a major disappointment and really lets the release down.

 Transformers: The Movie – Ultimate Edition

Overall


I’m sad to say I’m struggling to find anything positive about this Blu-ray release. Okay, so it does look marginally better than the DVD and the sound is just as good, but this isn’t a DVD we’re talking about. Blu-ray is supposed to deliver outstanding audio-visual quality, so just slapping a twenty-year-old print on a disc and porting the audio over from the DVD version isn’t enough to justify the asking price. The lack of bonus material only serves to exacerbate things.
 
I really have tried to be as fair as I possibly can when awarding the scores for this title, but the quality just doesn’t reflect the technology or the asking price. If you’re a massive Transformers fan who’s just invested in Blu-ray you might want to pick this one up for nostalgic reasons, but to be completely honest with you I’d save your money and go for the DVD version. It looks almost as good and the bonus material is well worth a look.

* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release 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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