Michael Bay has been a massive wrecking ball(s) through the Transformers franchise. Throwing together paper thin plots, a turgid mess of CGI, wasting genuinely good talent, creeping on attractive young actresses, and perhaps the most egregious sin of all, naming a central character Cade Yeager. WTF Mike? It matters not what he tries as the best Transformers movie is already out there, and to celebrate its 30th anniversary, Shout Factory has lovingly restored the film for a release, backed up by enough extras to please a Quintesson.
Sure there’s an element of nostalgia fueling my appreciation for the film, but it remains a entertaining watch. It’s distinctly a toy commercial, but there’s enough of a plot to drive things along, including some rather weird trippy sequences on a junk yard planet. A host of distinct characters are brought to life by some fantastic voice work by notables such as Leonard Nimoy and Eric Idle. This is the defining difference between this film and the Bay-verse versions: character. Rather than a a mess of anonymous cogs, gears, and chunks of out of focus metal, these are disctinct characters. There’s also real beauty to the animation here. The new restoration makes it all the more impressive. It also keeps the focus where it should be, on these battling titans, not serving as some “Muricuh” championing exercise, but still delivering destruction on a scale that even Michael Bay can not achieve. Orson Welles destroys planets you guys!
For the uninitiated, Transformers the Movie is something of an oddity. It’s set during the run of the animated series that stormed the screens in the ’80s; therefore, to really appreciate things, a basic grounding in that material helps, notably to amplify the resonance of a key character’s fate in the opening act. This is perhaps the film’s biggest weakness – it jumps right in and then proceeds to front load the film with the established characters before phasing in a “new generation.” This instantly puts them at a disadvantage, but it’s to the films credit that it’s still able to sweep you along. What’s most interesting about the release is how many of the extras do touch on how toy manufacturer HASBRO did get involved with the story. Accusations of the film “wiping the slate clean” in order to bring in a new set of toys is familiar today, but back in the ’80s was something of a new concept. At least the film does it to a power ballad soundtrack. But while the consumerism that permeates the film is more evident now viewing it as an adult, there is still a tangible sense of excitement and danger. Oh and some nifty power rock.
The release is the result of a new 4K scan and restoration and is presented on two discs in both widescreen and full screen format. Colors are bright, detail is good. With the style of animation, the line art particularly benefits from the extra sharpness. The occasional scratch of dust speck is still apparent, but nothing overly distracting. There are also a few scenes where the image seems to flex slightly. But overall, it’s the best looking version of the film I’ve seen.
Special features are plentiful. The most prominent is ‘Til All Are One: Looking Back At The Transformers Movie, which reunites cast and crew for a series of interviews interspersed with other information about the film. It’s a really nicely produced addition and one that does touch on how toy manufacturer HASBRO did influence the production. Transformers: The Restoration is a featurette that briefly touches on how the print was scanned, restored, and color corrected for the release. These technical insights are always fascinating to hear. Rolling Out The New Cover is an interview with Livio Ramondeli, the artist commissioned to do the new cover for the release. There’s also a audio commentary With director Nelson Shin, story consultant Flint Dille and star Susan Blu.
There are three archival featurettes – The Death Of Optimus Prime, The Cast & Characters, and Transformers Q&A – that are seemingly lifted from prior releases. There are some intersting pieces of information, but their quality does not match the new extras. There are also three storyboards showing how specific scenes were planned out. Overall, there’s plenty to appreciate.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Sure Transformers the Movie is a nostalgic throwback, but it has a lot more heart and a lot less robot ball-sacks than any of those wretched Bay movies. Shout Factory has lovingly restored the film for this release, and it’s never looked better. A host of new (and old) extras make it an essential purchase for any fan.
‘Till all are one!
Transformers the Movie 30th Anniversary Edition is available on September 13th from Shout Factory