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July 15, 2009
Transfomers - The Movie (1986)
Blu-Ray Movie Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
26/12/198624/6/2009MadmanNelson Shin
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
MPEG-2DD5.1 640kbpsPGOrson Welles

Megatron, about to hurt Optimus Prime.

As you may be aware there is a little resurgence to a franchise known as Transformers. Starting as a comic book and animated TV series in September 1984 the franchise has a loyal following from the five seasons, and then the spin-off franchise Beast Wars. It wasn't until Michael Bay's 2007 movie Transformers, with its $US708 million worldwide gross, that the franchise became a household name. But that wasn't the first movie in the Transformers universe. In 1986 Transformers - The Movie was released to cinemas and while it didn't set the box office ablaze, it has become a cult favourite for fans.

In the year 2005 the Autobots, led by the heroic Optimus Prime, prepare to make a daring attempt to retake their planet from the evil forces of Megatron and the Decepticons. Unknown to both sides a menacing force is heading their way - Unicron, a planet that devours everything in its path. The only hope of stopping Unicron (voiced by Orson Welles) lies within the Matrix of Leadership and the Autobot who can rise up and use its power to light their darkest hour. Will the Autobots be able to save their homeworld from destruction or will the Decepticons reign supreme?

Well with the movie being released 23 years ago now it's clear that the Japanese styled animation wouldn't live up to today’s 'standards'. Indeed some of the animation is so rough that it reminds me more of a pre-viz sequence which many filmmakers use today. Still this fits in with the animated TV series. The storyline is quite interesting with the two foes joining forces to battle a common enemy, and it's a storyline which could be picked up in a future Michael Bay directed outing. If there is one negative about this film its the death of certain characters which shocked people at the time, and will shock people today too. I won't spoil it, but it was certainly an interesting directorial decision.

Large-scale battles in Transformers The Movie.
Transformers: The Movie is certainly a release that die-hard Transformers fans will love this movie will probably hold something for those that like the new movies, but can live with the old-school animation as well.

Transformers - The Movie has a very interesting history when it comes to video. Despite the fact that the movie was presented in Widescreen it was actually developed at the more TV friendly aspect ratio 4:3 with the image cropped at the top and bottom for widescreen presentations. As a result some of the image is actually lost when shown in theatrical form. When the film was released on VHS and DVD it was presented in the full screen edition, before reverting back to the cropped widescreen version for later DVD releases, and this Blu-Ray release.

So what about this actual transfer you ask? So we have a cropped image here, fair enough. The film was sort of intended to be viewed that way and the filmmakers did frame most action and sequences to fit within that frame. In a somewhat surprising move this film has been authored using the MPEG-2 codec which is rather disappointing given that almost every studio has now moved onto AVC MPEG-4 or VC-1 codec.

Peter Cullen voices Optimus Prime.
On a technical level though this film is a bit of a mess. The problems start almost immediately with some quite severe telecine wobble noticed throughout the opening credits. This continues through parts of the movie before becoming a major distraction again at the closing credits. Sadly, that's not the worst of it with inconsistent colouring (which was a fault of the movie, not this transfer), plenty of dirt and marks visible, and inconsistent levels of grain.

No matter what negative comments we've made here it's fair to say that the movie has never looked anywhere near as good as this on any home format, but it must also be said that no other Blu-Ray transfer to date for any animated move looks as rough and dirty as this either.

Unfortunately this movie has never sounded good. Not on VHS, not on DVD and not even in the cinemas (apparently - I can't say I've seen it on the big screen). When the movie was produced it was presented with "Dolby Stereo" audio so expecting this to be a standout release for the High Definition era was never going to happen. In fact, we don't even get High Definition audio with a Dolby Digital 5.1 track encoded at 640kbps the best available option on this disc. It's certainly fair to say that this isn't the most lively or the most interesting sound mixes ever produced. In fact it's pretty average at best. The original audio wasn't great to start with so it's hard to mark this disc down for an average track, still we know a lot of other old releases have been remastered to better effect. Still the audio effects, dialogue and music is probably as clear as we have ever heard it on a home format.

While the extras on this disc are recycled from the DVD release there is still a bit here to get through, although the video quality is disappointing with no HD content. Anyway onto the extras...

Visuals are still impressive in Transformers.
Audio Commentary by Transformers Authority Chris McFeeley: If you like your Transformers, and I assume you do if you're reading this, then this commentary offers plenty of insight into this movie and the Transformers universe.

Alternate Scenes US/International Version (23:08/HD): Six clips are presented here in High Definition (and strangely uses the AVC codec rather then MPEG-2 from the feature movie), but only with Dolby Digital 2 channel audio at 192kbps. Interestingly the US clips are shown in 4:3 format as per the original film production.

Trailers and TVC's (24:04): Trailers and TV Commercials including USA Theatrical Trailer, Movie TV Spots, USA Toy Commercials, Japanese Trailers, Japanese Toy Commercials, "Scramble City" Toy Commercials. There are a tonne of commercials here (Especially in the Movie TV Spots Section).

Animated Storyboards and Photo Gallery (14:57): The animated storyboards really are fantastic and shows almost 11 minutes of the film in storyboard form. The Photo gallery lasts for four minutes, with a new image every 6 seconds (making 40 in total), however most of these are just parts of images, such as Transformer designs, or script notes.

Stan Bush "The Touch" Video Clip (3:58): A classic, or not so classic depending on your opinion, 1980's video clip.

Biographies: Here we have Character Bios (Autobots, Decepticons, Unicron), Voice Actor Bios and Musician Bios which have a page of notes on each character.

Interviews and Q&A (45:11): Here we have an interview with Flint Dille (24:26) and a Q&A session with Peter Cullen (20:45). Both of these video features are brilliant and offer insight into the making of the movie, the fans and many other aspects of production.

Bonus Episodes (45:31): Now this is impressive. Here we get an episode of Transformers (the Scramble City Episode) with an optional commentary as well as an episode of Beast Wars called "Optimal Situation". Despite both being presented in Standard definition the Beast Wars episode is vastly superior from a visual standpoint (and not because it's CG).

Leonard Nimoy as the evil Decepticon Galvatron.
Test Footage and Deleted Scenes (5:09): With an optional audio commentary this featurette looks at some of the unseen footage. Quite interesting.

Japanese Trailers with Unseen Footage (4:24): Again with an impressive optional audio commentary this looks at the Japanese trailer and details some of the scenes that did, or did not, make it into the final film.

Japanese Trailers with Unseen Footage (4:24): Again with an impressive optional audio commentary this looks at the Japanese trailer and details some of the scenes that did, or did not, make it into the final film.

BD-ROM Content: We don't have a Blu-Ray player in our PC as yet (mainly because our PC isn't good enough to run Blu-Ray content anyway), but if you put this disc into a BD-ROM you will have access to the original Script for this movie.

Madman Trailers (9:46): Anti-Piracy Trailer followed by Transformers Complete DVD Set, Beast Wars Season 3 DVD Set, RoboTech Shadow Chronicles DVD, Best of Voltron: Defender of the Universe DVD, Starblazers Complete DVD Collection, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Complete Collection,

If you liked the original animated Transformers then we would suggest you would like this movie too. Sure it generated some criticism due to the number of deaths in the movie, but it does tell an interesting story. The video and audio quality isn't great, but is limited by the source material, while the extras do impress.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyright Madman. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.