Transformers The Movie: Ultimate Edition Review
Seeing as Kevin Gilvear has already written a perfectly fine review of Transformers The Movie that echoes my sentiments on this 80’s classic, I’ve decided to use his review for this section of my Ultimate Edition DVD review for new (and old) readers to enjoy:
Transformers: The Movie takes place twenty years after the events of the second television series season. The year is now 2005 and the galaxy is threatened by a gigantic planet, known as Unicron. This seemingly unstoppable force roams space and eats planets; its next target - Cybertron. This isn't what the Autobots and Decepticons need right now, as both parties have been endlessly fighting in a bid to reclaim their home planet. Can Judd Nelson, Robert Stack, Lionel Stander and co. defeat the evil Leonard Nimoy, who is being owned by the ridiculously huge Orson Welles? Find out in this Good vs. Evil epic.
The Transformers television series had been a fairly light affair up until the point that the movie was released theatrically. While this worked very well from a marketing standpoint it didn't stop the writers from trying their hardest to create new and interesting storylines. Despite their efforts, none really surpassed season one’s storytelling until the final season came about, and that was off the tail end of the movie. Transformers: The Movie went against everybody’s expectations. Sure it was about good vs. evil and it was inevitable that the good guys would win in the end, but it was far from cheery. The movie was dark; it featured a heavy metal soundtrack, provided some wonderful humour, but above all took its characters to places that no one dared to even think about. The opening sequence of the movie tells us that what is about to unfold can only be depressing; following up from the devouring of planet Lithone we’re taken to the Autobots headquarters where they are preparing for an important mission. Moments later Megatron and his cronies bump off four of the series’ popular heroes, with fan favourite Ironhide being mercilessly killed off screen by Megatron. The Decepticons always wanted to kill the Autobots but we never actually saw any destruction on screen during its TV incarnation, however this would all change in the move to the big screen. For some children it was still fun, for others they were facing the realization that their heroes were all too vulnerable - but the biggest shock was yet to come. Optimus Prime: The greatest Autobot leader who ever lived was struck down and left to die on a medical table after a magnificent showdown with his arch-nemesis, Megatron. The moment a fading Prime hands over the Matrix to his good friend Ultra Magnus signifies an event that will forever be remembered in the collective minds of fans. Prime was gone, evil prevailed and a new day dawned. Now Magnus must oversee the Autobots and lead the young generation, headed up by newcomer Hot Rod and his pals, Blur, Daniel, Arcee and Springer as they all faced their darkest hour.
There are several more pivotal moments that elevate the movie far beyond anything from the series that came before it. Up until this point the series had already created personal rivalries between several of its characters (namely the Decepticons) but now was the time for their inner feuds to come to a head, with the story being told as much as it possibly can through the eyes of both the Autobots and their enemy, the Decepticons. Megatron always had to deal with Starscream in one way or another; his constant whining and plotting to overthrow the Decepticon leader always kept the evil boss on his toes. Unfortunately for Megatron, his extensive injuries resulting from his fierce confrontation with Prime gives Starscream the perfect opportunity to realise his ambitions by throwing the dilapidated Decepticon to the wolves and finally adopting the mantle of leader that he so desperately covets. Of course, this wasn't the end of the mighty Megatron, for he would return bigger and badder than ever as the almighty Galvatron. And so the incredibly dim Starscream meets his fate and is reduced to nothing but ashes, never to be heard from again until a later series. With all these fan favourites leaving it was a wonder as to how well the movie would cope.
The reason Transformers: The Movie does work is because it is daring, the action is hard hitting and extremely brutal; seeing Autobots being ripped limb from limb with bolts and oil spewing is just as graphic as if these were humans oozing litres of blood. These machines who exhibited human qualities suddenly became sickening wrecks, with hollowed faces - if they’re unlucky. Those who live to fight another day still don’t get off too lightly. Ultra Magnus faces a nasty demise, though he’s lucky enough to have good friends who can fix him. All this carnage earned Transformers: the Movie a certain amount of controversy from the critics, who tore it to pieces. Its unprecedented violence did not impress the critics, who deemed the film unacceptable for young audiences - perhaps this is the very reason audiences seemed to largely stay away from it. There were decisive factors at the time of the movie’s release pertaining to its violence and even the one line of swearing that crept in. But many misunderstood the movie’s intentions. Obviously marketing is a big factor when it comes to film adaptations of Toy/TV franchises like this one, but more than simply lining Hasbro’s pockets, the film gave the writers a bigger stage and budget with which to take the story to new heights. And they did make some daring decisions, for instance killing off some of your major characters is never the best way to maximise the sales potential of your toys. Granted, a new toy line was soon introduced but it is worth pointing out that soon after production had finished, Hasbro had immense difficulty in designing the Unicron figure. It was quickly scrapped and never attempted again until many years later; which I feel is solid enough evidence that the characters in the movie were designed to further its own plot first and foremost. Artist, Floro Dery who designed practically every aspect of the movie has spoken since of his character designs, clearly telling us that the film had the upper hand. This was obviously a well thought out feature that would change the course of the series to the point that it could be potentially damaging. As it turned out it was a stunning revival that paved the way for new ideas, thus turning the latter series into conceptually brilliant ones.
With a new budget, and a larger one at that the movie was given far greater scope; filled to the brim with exciting action, punctuated by the music of Stan Bush, Spectre General (a.k.a. Kick Axe), Vince DiCola and even Weird Al Yankovich. It also managed to define the 80’s era, which became obsessed with heavy metal and rock in general. A lot of the clunky synth sounds that were packed into each episode week in and week out were discarded and brought in were songs that - although cheesy - provided messages within the film and added the kind of adrenaline that made its scenes so much more memorable. Vince DiCola, known for scoring many feature films provides the movie’s synthesized score this time, but he takes it beyond what we had previously heard and adds new refinement. His score captures each moment perfectly and provides a strong contrast against the theme songs that became synonymous with the movie. Try listening to any of them without thinking about where they originated; it’s impossible. Of course this is all complimentary to the actual animation put on display. The movie is deeper and richer than ever before, the animation is as remarkable today as it was twenty years ago, which can’t be said for many other films from its time. Even the original series shows its age, as does several other notable 80’s offerings. It’s rare that such a movie can still feel fresh after so long and still have tremendous replay value.
Another reason why the movie remains engaging today is that it has a great script. It all seems simple enough but what it boils down to is a script as strong as any number of standard Hollywood blockbusters. It has all of the right ingredients; classy one-liners, social commentary, themes of heroics and well fleshed out characters disguised by a series of well flowing, action packed set pieces. The characters involved are also given more life than we’d ordinarily expect. It’s not like this was a Disney production that would gain the interest of famous actors at the drop of a hat; yet somehow it acquired a roster of great talent to provide the newly introduced characters with their unique personalities. Peter Cullen, Frank Welker and the late Chris Latta naturally stuck around to reprise their roles of Prime, Megatron and Starscream respectively; as well as Scatman Crothers (Jazz) et al, but joining them was “Brat Pack” star, Judd Nelson (as Hot Rod), “Star Trek” ace Leonard Nemoy (as Galvatron), Python’s Eric Idle (Wreck’gar) and the great veterans Lionel Stander (Kup), Robert Stack (Ultra Magnus) and Orson Welles (Unicron). These performances give Transformers: The Movie additional weight; it feels epic and the roles are played passionately and respectfully, which is as much as the series deserves. Now the film owes itself to its central performers who help generate the levels of sympathy that might have slipped by so easily. But the script is a poignant affair and when called to pull off the difficult task of making us shed a tear over deceased robots these actors step up to the task and admirably deliver one-hundred percent.
But the movie isn’t entirely without flaws. It made the mistake of introducing Wheelie into the fold; a little jibber jabber of a robot who talks in rhyme non stop. As comic relief goes we get all that through our main protagonists, so it’s an ill-judged move to place in a character annoyance like this. Wreck’gar proved to be a better addition to the cast because of his bizarre TV induced personality, but Wheelie does nothing but annoy the often distracting Grimlock; whose main trouble is that he’s dumber than Lenny and talks in a tedious, monosyllabic tone. Still, at least Grimlock is familiar to us - the big lug, and is meant to reinforce the idea that the Dinobots are like this because they come from an age long ago. And then there is the robot dance number on planet Junkion, which is cheesy but has dancing robots! Otherwise the movie is free from major criticism, with these characters being sparingly used so as not to drag down any of its greater moments.
- Kevin Gilvear. DVDTimes Fanboy Extraordinaire.
Metrodome originally released Transformers The Movie on DVD back in 2005 and it was reviewed for DVDTimes by Kevin Gilvear here. Entititled Transformers The Movie: Reconstructed, the release boasted an all new Anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer that actually displayed the film’s open matte 4:3 aspect ratio between thick black “curtains” down each side (Fine on a 16:9 TV, but it screwed over anyone with a 4:3 TV set), and an all-new DD5.1 remaster of the original Dolby Stereo soundtrack, complete with “added sound effects”. Both these features proved controversial to say the least, and UK DVD fans have been waiting for Metrodome to rectify these mistakes with a re-release ever since. Well, that wait is now over, this Ultimate Edition houses a sparkly new remaster of the film’s 1.78:1 U.S Theatrical Edition on Disc 01, and the UK Open Matte Home Edition on Disc 02. Yes you’ve read that right, it’s the UK edit of the film (complete with Star Wars style opening narration, a clean-mouthed Spike and “don’t worry, Prime’s not dead” closing narration) on Disc 02, NOT the uncut US edit. As for Audio, fans can rejoice, as Metrodome have gone back to the drawing board, and with the help of Transformers expert Chris Mcfeely, produced an all new 5.1 remaster in addition to including the original DD2.0 Stereo track.
So the big question is: Have Metrodome finally delivered the “ultimate” presentation of Transformers The Movie that the fans have waited desperately for? Well, I hope to answer that below by comparing the Ultimate Edition directly with the old Reconstructed release and the current DVD champ: Sony’s R1 20th Anniversary Edition. We’ll see if Metrodome have done enough to persuade fans to double – or even triple, and in rare cases quadruple – dip.
Seeing as both the Metrodome Ultimate Edition and Sony 20th Anniversary Edition house both the Widescreen and Open Matte editions of the film on their own separate DVDs, I’ve decided to ease the comparison aspect of this review by talking about the widescreen and ppen matte presentations of Transformers The Movie separately. So please bear with me as I make my way through this logistic minefield:
Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1) Edition
First impression when viewing Metrodome’s Ultimate Edition Widescreen presentation is how sharp the image appears, and how bright and bold the colour scheme generally is without appearing unnaturally boosted or balanced. Colour bleed is evident along the edges of some of the brighter, vivid colours – like Arcee’s pink coating – but overall the colours are well defined. Brightness and contrast levels are equally pleasing, but a little less consistent throughout, although thankfully all this amounts to are one or two sequences where the contrast seems a little high and brightness a little low - leading to a reduction in shadow detail on those occasions (the introduction of Unicron is one such sequence). Print damage is kept to the barest minimum, with just a combination of scratches, pops, and nicks flashing on screen occasionally throughout the film. It’s certainly nothing that will distract, while the fine grain is barely noticeable throughout - although one or two shots exhibit slightly broader grain patterns; usually scenes that are bathed in dark blue lighting. There’s also a tiny amount of Edge Enhancement present in a few scenes.
|Ultimate Edition||20th Anniversary|
Up until now, every UK release of Transformers The Movie has been struck from tape masters and plagued by the usual NTSC-PAL interlacing, so there’s been a lot of talk over whether Metrodome would go back to the original film prints for the first time. I’m happy to confirm that’s exactly what they’ve done, the feature film clocks in at a 4% speeded up running time of 81minutes 21seconds, and searching frame by frame through a number of high action sequences revealed zero interlacing. In the first draft of this review I erroneously commented that “other reviewers” had stated that the transfer was interlaced, when in truth they had correctly pointed out that the transfer had been flagged as interlaced - which can cause problems with DVD players that have a Progressive Scan mode. You can read more about this issue by reading (DVDactive reviewer) mentasm’s posts in our comments section below.
|Ultimate Edition||20th Anniversary|
Overall there’s no doubt that this is the best Transformers The Movie has looked on DVD, but if there’s one gripe I have with the image it’s that the brand new remaster has been let down slightly by the encoding. Simply put, there’s a fair bit of noticeable Chroma Noise in the reds and blues and greens – pretty much every bold colour - throughout the film, and there’s also a fair bit of Mosquito Noise around outlines and areas of fine detail. Also, and typically for an animated feature, heavy macroblocking creeps into the odd frame of animation during the big action sequences (particularly the Unicron planet-devouring sequences). At the risk of repeating myself, this is a pretty normal thing to spot during animated films and it’s something that will probably only be spotted by people with larger, progressive displays. Looking at the distribution of data on the DVD reveals that the film itself takes up around 4GB of data – a single-layer figure – so I can’t help but think some of these niggles could have been cleared up by upping the bit-rate, particularly seeing as there’s a good 2GB of free space left on the disc in question.
|Ultimate Edition||20th Anniversary|
So how does it stand up next to Sony’s 20th Anniversary Edition? Very well indeed. Below you can find a series of comparison grabs between the Metrodome Ultimate Edition and the 20th Anniversary Edition which demonstrate a range of differences between the 2 transfers, but the one thing that’s obvious from any grab you pick is that the Ultimate Edition transfer has greater clarity. The decrease in sharpness and the application of some digital noise reduction means most of the fine grain present in the Metrodome is absent in the Sony, leading to a generally “smoother” image - although some of the larger grain in the darker blues of one or two scenes remains in tact. The biggest difference between the two transfers though lies in the colour and brightness/contrast remastering that big US studios like Sony apply. Usually the goal of the big studio remastering process is to not only bring out the maximum colour and brightness/ shadow detail from the source, but also to ensure that the general look of the image remains totally consistent throughout the film. In other words, to ensure there are no big shifts in colour of an object (or say: skintones of a person) from frame-to-frame and scene-to-scene, because obviously film can wear and tear and fade over time, etc and so then discrepancies can set in. The difficult part is to produce a consistent image without straying too far from the film’s original colour scheme, and while Sony’s transfer is certainly a lot more consistent in its colour balance and the scheme is more vibrant than the Metrodome release, they don’t look nearly as natural. The comparison grabs that show Unicron through the window of a Lithone monitoring room demonstrate some of these subtle colour changes. If you look at the blue highlighting you can see that a lot of it has been removed in the Sony, but it remains quite strong in the Metrodome. The shot of Hot Rod fishing with Daniel also highlights the bubblegum colours of the Sony compared the bold, but more earthen colours of the Metrodome. As for compression, the Sony transfer exhibits almost the same levels of Chroma Noise and Mosquito Noise, although not quite as much, granted.
|Ultimate Edition||20th Anniversary|
Brightness/Contrast and shadow detail are probably the areas that change the most dramatically throughout the film between each transfer. As I said earlier, some scenes in the Ultimate Edition do seem a little dark and have reasonably low shadow detail. This isn’t a problem the Sony release has - it remains consistently bright, with strong detail throughout. But this has come at a price, to improve shadow detail Sony have been doing some highlight clipping, which has had the nasty side effect of completely blowing out the luminous visual effects that appear frequently throughout the film. Good examples of this can be seen in the grabs of Megatron’s head being remade by Unicron and Galvatron firing his cannon. A lot of detail has been lost in the Sony grabs. The final nail in the coffin for the Sony release is that it is interlaced, exhibiting 3:2 pulldown. Finally the framing of the 2 transfers rarely match either, sometimes the Sony covers more horizontal space, other times it’s the Metrodome. The same can be said for the vertical space.
Open Matte (4:3) Edition
As stated earlier in the review, the open matte presentation on Disc 02 of this Ultimate Edition set is actually for the UK Home Video version of the film; which has a few tweaks applied – mainly an opening and closing voiceover. So right from the start this will probably sit funny with DVD fans eagerly awaiting a remastered release of the open matte edition. Well, that’s not the only fact that won’t sit right with hardcore fans, because this transfer is pretty terrible! Contrast levels are reasonably fine but the transfer is way too dark and murky, resulting in very poor shadow detail. Colours are heavily desaturated in comparison to the Widescreen transfer on Disc 01 (and indeed to the Sony Widescreen transfer) and Chroma Noise is an issue throughout. There’s also some intrusive dot crawl in the lines of some scenes, not to mention the fact that it’s interlaced, appearing to be a NTSC>PAL conversion.
|Ultimate Edition||20th Anniversary||Reconstructed|
The open matte presentation on Sony’s 20th Anniversary Edtion is a whole different kettle of fish, this one compares favourably to the Widescreen editions reviewed above. In fact, I’d go so far as saying I prefer this transfer to Sony’s widescreen transfer – mostly because the image is noticeably sharper (pretty close to the UE in this regard), having not been so heavily filtered – which of course means the transfer is grainier - but also a big part of the reason is that the colours on the open matte presentation are far more natural, and again very close to the Ultimate Edition, whilst not being quite so bold in places and with some weaker colour balance in a few scenes (that appear to be quite red).
|Ultimate Edition||20th Anniversary||Reconstructed|
Another big plus is that there’s not so much highlight clipping going on (although it’s still present at times – check out the grab where Unicron is blowing plasma out his mouth and compare it to the UE’s Widescreen grab), leading to a darker, but much more detailed image. Even better still, the encoding is better than any other transfer in this review – sure there’s still noticeable Chroma Noise throughout, but it’s much less pronounced than in the other 2 Widescreen transfers. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact the film is spread across a healthy 6GB. The one big negative against this transfer is that it’s not progressive, but you do get a lot more picture information than in the Ultimate Edition’s Widescreen transfer, which makes these 2 transfers very hard to separate.
|Ultimate Edition||20th Anniversary||Reconstructed|
Looking at the open matte presentation on Metrodome’s old Reconstructed Edition; it’s clearly better than the open matte presentation on the UE, but it still looks pretty poor next to Sony’s open matte presentation. Colours are reasonably natural but noticeably desaturated in comparison to the Widescreen releases and the Sony open matte, the image is soft (a little softer than Sony’s Widescreen presentation), and highlight clipping has led to overblown laser effects (shown in a few of the comparison grabs below). On the plus side the Brightness/Contrast levels are pretty good, and there’s not so much Chroma Noise present (although Mosquito Noise is still a problem). Also the print is about as clean as the newer remastered efforts, but with the added benefit of slightly more picture information in all four directions compared to every other open matte presentation.
|Ultimate Edition||20th Anniversary||Reconstructed|
There’s one last thing worth mentioning at the end here because it affects every open matte presentation of the film in this review: Basically, at times during the film there are brief moments when some of the foreground animation is incomplete at the bottom of the screen. It’s not too distracting, but perhaps it’s a good argument for fans of the Widescreen presentation that the open matte was never the “true” intended OAR of the film. You can see 2 examples below (grabs taken from the Sony DVD release)
Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1) Edition
As mentioned at the start of the DVD review, Metrodome have provided both a DD5.1 remix and the original DD2.0 flagged for surround from a pro-logic capable amp. There’s not much to complain about with the DD2.0 track, it’s a very good presentation of the film’s original audio. Dialogue is crisp and clearly audible throughout, while the bass is reasonably powerful given the film’s age, leading to deep, full voices and plenty of kick to the “hard rock” soundtrack. The dynamics of the audio are generally very good, you don’t have to listen carefully to pick up the multilayered sound effects, but there are one or two times when a gun blasts or robots crash/collide, yet make very little sound. The important thing is that the sound effects all sound pretty much as they should in the mix, and there are no new added sound effects in the DD2.0 track this time round – it’s all natural. One thing that did surprise me a bit when comparing the DD2.0 surround track to the DD5.1 was that it’s the DD2.0 that probably features the most overt use of the rear channel, with a few big sound effects mixed to the rears. A good example of this is the Daniel skyboarding race.
The DD5.1 remix is surprisingly faithful to the original stereo in general. The big difference being that the soundtrack is a lot more aggressive, bass is deeper and tighter and the audio is much louder, which gives the Rock music soundtrack a big boost. Deeper, tighter bass also helps the music and dialogue out – speaking of which, the audio dynamics are very good and dialogue is clean throughout. Now onto the issue of the soundmix, are there added sound effects in this track? Well, if there are I sure couldn’t find them, every sound is where it should be; except for one glitch where about 3 shots from Optimus Prime’s laser cannon are completely missing (it occurs directly before Prime confronts Megatron). This is not a problem that’s present on the DD2.0 track. Finally the soundstage is pretty enveloping, but the rears are only used for localised sound effects when they absolutely need to be, so this channel is used mostly for ambient sounds and the score/music soundtrack.
The Sony 20th Anniversary Edition also features a DD5.1 remix alongside the original DD2.0 audio, and in almost every department it stands up very well against Metrodome’s Ultimate Edition, but there are 2 big differences. The first is that the Rock music soundtrack doesn’t quite have the same punch as in the Metrodome effort. The other big difference is the 5.1 mix - which is extremely lively on the Sony release - giving every speaker in your set up a good workout. Sony have overdone the mixing though, as there were a few times during the film when a sound would be mixed across the rear channel when it shouldn’t have been. The DD2.0 track is likewise a very close match to the Metrodome effort and a very good presentation, so there’s not much need for me to repeat myself here.
Open Matte (4:3) Edition
The open matte presentation on Disc 02 of the Ultimate Edition only comes with a DD2.0 track, which thankfully is a lot better than the shoddy video presentation. It actually sounds pretty good, although obviously not a patch on the soundtracks for the Widescreen releases. Still dialogue is clean and audible with only a few instances of vocal distortion or tearing during scenes of high action - and therefore a lot of shouting. Dynamics are pretty good, you can hear every major element of the audio pretty clearly, although one or two minor effects do get lost. Bass levels are pretty high, but not quite as tightly defined as it should be, and there’s definitely some rumble/distortion in the lower frequency sounds – which could lead to sound effects appearing louder than they are. One good thing about this raw, untampered audio track is that it can be used as a point of reference for how loud in the mix the film’s numerous sound effects should be – namely the gunfire effects in the Autobot City battle. Having a good listen to this track reveals that most gunfire sound effects have been reduced a little on the other releases mentioned above – but it is very little indeed, certainly a lot smaller than I was expecting.
The DD5.1 and DD2.0 soundtracks on Sony’s open matte edition are straight ports of those on their widescreen edition, and they sound identical, so no need to be repeating myself here either.
The DD5.1 and DD2.0 audio tracks on Metrodome’s old Reconstructed DVD both feature extremely intrusive “newly created” sound effects, and very shoddy mixing of the original audio in just about every department, so it does not merit much of a mention here. You can read more about it in Kevin Gilvear’s DVD review.
There’s almost 4 hours of extra footage spread across both discs in this Ultimate Edition set, which means lots of Transformers goodness for everyone. However, owners of Metrodome’s previous Reconstructed release will find some of the features a little familiar, as every extra feature on Disc 01 (except for the commentary) of the Ultimate Edition has been ported over from the Reconstructed DVD. Here’s the full rundown:
Audio Commentary With Transformers Expert Chris Mcfeely (81min 21secs): I figured we’d get this one out of the way first as it’s the most extensive extra feature in the set. Mcfeely provides an excellent audio commentary that covers pretty much everything you ever wanted to know about the history of the Transformers toy line, from the creation of the GI.Joe action figures in 1964 to the subsequent effect this toy range had in Japan, then the eventual emergence of Transformers. Once that’s out the way Mcfeely then discusses everything you need to know about the film; filling us in with amusing anecdotes on the cast and crew, pointing out the numerous (and often very crazy) continuity errors in the film, and filling us in on all the important plot points and exposition from the original script that never made it into the final film. Mcfeely never lets up throughout the film and his light hearted approach to the material means that even newcomers or merely casual Transformers film fans should be very comfortable listening to the affable Irishman discussing the most anal of Transformers trivia.
Alternate UK and US Scenes (23min 08secs): This is the first feature that’s been ported over from Metrodome’s previous Reconstructed release. It’s basically a series of clips that compare the three changes made to US Theatrical Edit of Transformers The Movie for its UK Home Video release. The changes are: Replacing the Superman-style opening credits sequence of the original edit with a Star Wars-style narrated scrolling text intro that establishes the Transformers universe for the uninitiated. The 2nd sequence is a brief snippet during the film when Unicron’s eating Moon Base 2 and naughty earthling Spike let’s out an expletive - which was removed for not only the UK but also the US Home Video release. Lastly the final scenes of the film were given an added narration on the UK version that revealed that Optimus Prime would one day make a heroic return. Just in case our Limey kids started committing suicide in the aisles thinking Optimus was really dead or something.
Trailers and US TV Spots (13m 46s): Here we have the US Theatrical Trailer and the much longer Japanese Trailer alongside a plethora of US TV spots, it seems they basically nuked the US airwaves promoting this film back in 1986. The Japanese Trailer in itself is an excellent little extra, as it features quite a bit of un-finalised footage that either never made it into the final film (in the case of the Dinobots in robot form listening to more war stories from Kup. All 5 Dinobots are present here, even though Snarl was almost completely left out of the final film.), or was changed dramatically (like the footage showing Ultra Magnus in his original “redhead” Diaclone colour scheme).
Title, Colour & Exposure Tests (05m 17s): These two tests are pretty self explanatory really, can’t say they’re interesting to watch, but at least we’re treated to some dramatic Transformers music as they play.
Character Biographies: Categorising the Transformers into Autobots, Decepticons and Unicron and then subgroups of Survivors and Fatalities, this section presents us with biographies for almost every Transformer that appears in the film. One small error I discovered was that the biography for Thundercracker has a brief excerpt from Starscream’s pasted into it, but all of Thundercracker’s bio is also displayed in full.
New Transformers: The Movie Trailer (01m 34s): Don’t let the title of this one fool you, this is Metrodome’s new trailer for the old animated film, not the new Michael Bay Blockbuster.
Interview With Flint Dille, Story Consultant (24m 26s): Flint was one of the guys who worked on the film’s script and was also involved in the writing of all three seasons of the original TV series, so he has a lot of little facts and anecdotes to impart about everything; from the fantastic cast they managed to assemble, to how the project first came about and what the writers thought about the decision to kill off Optimus Prime. As with the Mcfeely commentary, Flint’s enthusiasm and easy going, humourous nature makes this interview a pleasure to sit through.
Peter Cullen, The Voice Of Optimus Prime, Q&A (20m 45s): Taken at a New York convention in 2005, the beloved voice actor comes across as just about the nicest guy in the world as he talks fans through how he started out in the industry working on the Sonny & Cher show to his auditions for the parts of Ratchet and Optimus Prime in the Transformers TV show. While this feature isn’t quite so enlightening about the Transformers universe as the others, it will probably be one of the more important extras for fans of voice actors.
Exclusive Episode: Scramble City – With Commentary (23m 12s): This was a completely Japanese-produced OVA special released in Japan back in 1986, as they had to wait another 3 years before receiving the Transformers movie. After a 7-minute flashback that features clips from the old US TV show, the original story kicks in and is in essence a sequence of power-up battles between the Autobots and the Decepticons where all the giant Combiner Transformers (when a bunch of transformers merge to create a huge one): Devastator, Menasor, Superion, Bruticus, etc… go into battle before the really, really big transformers: Metroplex and Trypticon put in an appearance. As you can expect from a Japanese production from the 80s there’s a lot of really funny hyperbole flying about, and giant robots crushing tiny ones whilst firing laser beams from their eyes. It’s mad, pure and simple. The optional audio commentary from Chris Mcfeely is delivered with the same level of humour and insight as his commentary for the main feature, so be sure to check it out.
Test Deleted/Alternative Footage – With Commentary (05m 09s): The footage Metrodome obtained has no audio, so it’s up to Chris Mcfeely to once again step into the void and talk us through the various clips – 99% of which are just alternative takes from scenes in the film. There is one deleted scene near the end which shows the Autobots rushing to Optimus Prime’s body after the Decepticons flee from Autobot City.
Transformers Live Action Trailer (02m 00s): This one actually is the trailer for the Michael Bay film that will be hitting U.S cinemas in just over a month from now.
Animated Storyboards (10m 57s): If (like me) you’re the sort of person who usually skips storyboard extras, I’d definitely recommend you change this policy for this particular feature. For 10 minutes we’re treated to storyboards covering the Decepticon attack on Autobot City, which isn’t particularly noteworthy aside from the fact you can see the marks where they would be matting the image for 1.85:1 theatrical presentation (thus proving the filmmakers always had the presentation of the film in this ratio in mind from the start). In the final minute however, we’re then presented with storyboards for a cool battle scene between Ultra Magnus and Devastator, while Megatron looks on. In the final film this scene would have occurred directly before Optimus Prime first confronts the Decepticon leader.
DVDROM Content: Orginal Movie Script and 5.1 Audio Breakdown: The first of these .PDF files is pretty self explanatory and a pretty neat extra for the Transformers The Movie completist who wants to read through all the scenes and exposition that was left in the cutting room floor. The 5.1 Audio Breakdown is a timed list created by Chris Mcfeely that highlights all the erroneous and added sound effects that plagued the old Transformers The Movie: Reconstructed soundtrack. It might be worth noting that I had a problem getting the DVD-ROM content to open automatically from the DVD menu on my PC’s DVD-RW drive, this might just be an issue with the check discs I received or my PC set up. Either way I could view the documents easily by exploring the DVD drive and opening the PDF files directly.
While the Metrodome boasts an impressive amount of extra material, it doesn’t quite match up to the long list of extras on the Sony 20th Anniversary release, which boasts 2 audio commentaries: One featuring Flint Dille, director Nelson Shen, and Arcee voice actress Susan Blu; the other commentary featuring a trio of transformers experts. In addition to all the TV spots, Scramble City OVA, and other little bits and pieces that are also in the Ultimate Edition, Sony’s release also features a handful of featurettes where Flint Dille and a bunch of other people involved in the film’s production discuss various topics. Despite the greater quantity of extras though, there’s really not much to distinguish the two releases in terms of extra material, the Chris Mcfeely commentary of the Ultimate Edition is pretty excellent and more than a match for the commentaries on the Anniversary Edition, plus the long interview with Chris Dille covers a lot of the ground that can be found in the featurettes – and the inclusion of Peter Cullen in the extra material is a big plus for Metrodome, as he’s strangely missing from Sony’s DVD.
After the disaster that was their old DVD release of Transformers The Movie, Metrodome went back to the drawing board and clearly put a lot of effort into this new Ultimate Edition release – it’s a decision that’s paid off very well for both them and fans. Certainly as far as the Widescreen version of the film goes they’ve provided the best overall package in terms of audio/visual presentation, plus the first progressive transfer of the film on DVD is a quite a scoop; but the lack of a nicely remastered open matte release of the US theatrical edit definitely shoves a very sharp thorn in the side of the overall package. The big consolation is that the decision to use the UK Home Video print for the open matte presentation should please the nostalgic fans who want to relive the version they saw on VHS back in the 80’s, and the rest of the extra features are pretty informative and entertaining to watch. So while they’ve done an excellent job on the widescreen version of Transformers The Movie, until we see a DVD release that combines the same level of presentation for both the widescreen and open matte presentations, the true Ultimate Edition will always elude us. Until then, this isn’t bad consolation at all.