So I sat down to watch THE TRANSFORMERS: THE MOVIE knowing only the most basic facts about the series: Autobots were the good guys led by Optimus Prime and the Decepticons were the bad guys led by Skeletor. I think. The gimmick here is that ALL of the Transformo-bots could morph into something pretty darn slick. One guy could turn into a tank or a submarine; another guy changed into a bazooka or a Samurai sword. I think.
So while I'm well aware that the Transformers were created as "toy first, art second," I can plainly see why the characters have retained such a loyal following: They're colorful, they're powerful, they have cool names like Ironhide and Shockwave and Perceptor (yes, a robot who transforms into a telescope!), and they kick the holy hell out of each other on endless occasions.
As far as the big-screen version of the beloved cartoon goes, I'll turn to the old-school fans who really seem to dig it. The movie's full of lengthy action scenes, goofy-yet-rockin' old-school rock songs, tough-guy dialogue and mucho machismo. The animation certainly isn't ultra-slick, but there's some solid artistry to be found here. Plenty of gaffes & glitches, too, but I suppose they only add to the charm. The voice cast is a decidedly eclectic mix: Robert Stack, Judd Nelson, Eric Idle, Leonard Nimoy, Robert Stack and Orson Welles (!) join the series regulars, so at least if you get bored with the robotic antics, you can have some fun playing "name that voice."
Anyway, it's good mindless fun, and a flick that no doubt holds a lot of Nostalgia Value for several members of my generation's sci-fi geeks. Plus this new DVD is pretty damn amazing...
Disc 1 offers the Autobot Matrix of Knowledge option, which delivers a lot of geeky-type movie trivia that pops across your screen as you watch the movie. Fun. There's also a pair of audio commentaries, one with director Nelson Shin, story consultant line Dille & actress Sue Blu, and a second "fan commentary" from a quartet of admirably geeky and seriously well-informed Robo-geeks. (And I mean that as a compliment.) Both tracks are packed with movie info, plus none of the participants seem to take their beloved flick all THAT seriously, which I think is the best way to approach it.
There's also a "video gallery" that offers the original theatrical trailer, eight TV spots, a credit test, a photo gallery, AND a Japan-only TRANSFORMERS episode called SCRAMBLE CITY, which is presented with some more fan commentary.
Closing out the platter is a section called "sneak peeks," and inside there you'll find a teaser and featurette for next summer's live-action TRANSFORMERS movie, a next-gen game trailer, a special edition DVD trailer, the G1 TV series DVD trailer, and a side-by-side comparison that shows how much nicer the movie looks since its remaster/facelift.
So that's a pretty solid package, right? Sure, but we still have disc 2 to comb through. We start off with three featurettes: The Death of Optimus Prime (4:59) covers what happened after the Transformers' leader was offed in the flick.
The Cast and Characters (10:00) focuses on the voice cast from both the series and the movie.
Transformers Q&A (13:00) is where a bunch of the creators field some easy questions from the fans. Here, as in the other two featurettes, the participants are director Nelson Shin, story editor Flint Dille, actress Susan Blu, and producers Joe Bacal & Tom Griffin.
In the second video gallery we get a promotional trailer with commentary, a test & deleted/alternate footage clip (with commentary), several Japanese Scramble City commercials, two minutes of U.S. TV commercials, and four minutes of Japanese TV commercials.
Wrapping up disc 2 are four animated storyboards and the DVD-ROM Autobot City stuff. And the discs come with a fold-out comic book and a slick lenticular cover.