Monday, June 4th 2007 9:19pm CDT
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Posted by: Hotrod
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Our own Chris McFeely has stopped by. He has posted a review of Metrodome's THE TRANSFORMERS: THE MOVIE – ULTIMATE EDITION DVD. Here is his review:
THE TRANSFORMERS: THE MOVIE – ULTIMATE EDITION
Dir: Nelson Shin
Starring: Judd Nelson, Leonard Nimoy, Robert Stack, Lionel Stander, Eric Idle, Orson Welles, Peter Cullen, Frank Welker
Yeah. It’s the movie. You know it, I know it. That’s not what we’re here for. Let’s move on.
THIS is what we’re here for.
This is Metrodome’s second shot at properly releasing the movie – leaving aside cheapie budget versions that have nothing about them worth speaking of, their previous effort was “Transformers: The Movie – Reconstructed,” which aimed to show every millimetre of footage that was animated by peeling aside the edges of the screen to reveal it. This resulted in a rather misjudged “curtained” image which was fine for widescreen-television owners, but shafted those with regular-size sets. Additionally, the image was taken from the original negative, but was inadvertently converted to NTSC before being converted to PAL, resulting in a badly interlaced image. The colour balance of the thing was all over the place, and the picture was very soft – I recall speaking fairly well of it when it came out, but time has opened my eyes to its flaws.
This “Ultimate Edition” of the film takes it cue from Sony’s 20th Anniversary release last year, which featured a newly-remastered widescreen version of the film, to replicate its original theatrical presentation. This time, Metrodome have succeeded in making a PAL transfer directly from the negative, resulting in smooth video (which, due to PAL speedup, runs a few minutes faster than viewers will be used to, and while the faster speed is not noticeable to my eyes or ears, the quality it brings with it is) that is sharper in Sony’s, with colours that I would describe as... “cooler,” but for the most part, more “correct” to my eyes. Most notably, of course, Hot Rod is no longer the bubblegum-pink of Sony’s version.
All I can do is echo the sentiments of all the other professional reviews that have compared the two, and say that this is the best that the movie has ever looked on DVD.
The audio for the Reconstructed DVD was also a bodge-job, thanks to Magno Sound, who were responsible for adding all those extra noises to the series DVD boxsets (from both Rhino and Metrodome), and did it again for the movie – on both the 5.1 and 2.0 audio tracks. For the Ultimate Edition, the Reconstructed audio was dissected with a fine-toothed comb, and while not every sound could be removed (otherwise it, uh, wouldn’t be 5.1), the most offensive, inappropriate offenders have been ganked the hell out of there. This includes, but is not limited to, those insufferable, overbearing “sizzling whipcracks” that were all over the place in the series, and the pop-gun banging of Prime’s gun. It’s still not QUITE perfect, mind you, because the levels seem not to have been modified following the removal of these sounds – consequently, the actual sound of Prime’s gun is very low.
There is, however, a completely unmolested 2.0 track to enjoy, with nary an extra zip or zap in sight. That’s how I’ll be watching it!
PACKAGING AND PACK-INS
The movie is available in both a single-disc and a two-disc version.
The single disc is packaged in a standard DVD case, with a rather artsy cover image that’s a paintbrushed version of the image of Optimus Prime that Andrew Wildman drew for the Season 1 box set. This version – I don’t have it, so I’m not 100% on this – does not have any extra features beyond the remastered picture and the two audio tracks. It is simply labelled as a “special edition.”
The two-disc set is the “Ultimate Edition.” It consists of a metal case, decorated with the above-mentioned illustration, which opens to reveal a standard DVD case with a different sleeve, bearing the original UK movie poster artwork. This is awesome. It’s nothing against Don Figueroa, but when I look at the Sony set, or the Australian release that he also provided a cover for, it just looks *wrong* to me to have this stylized, modern artwork appearing on the cover of a release of a twenty-year-old film. I’ve always preferred the use of the original poster artwork, be it US or UK, for releases of the movie, and this tin-and-case combo balances new and classic art in just the right way to keep me merry.
Depending on where you buy the two-disc set, there could be one of several different bonuses in store for you when you open the case. Buying it from Play.Com will net you a set of three postcards commemorating the different movie artwork – one displays the US poster, the second the UK poster, and the third the Ultimate Edition cover art. Snag it from HMV, and you’ll find that the sleeve is reversible, with the US artwork on the other side. Pick it up from Virgin, and there’s a set of art cards waiting for you, displaying various images from the film. Woolworths and Toys R US include posters with their versions, but I’ve not seen these, so I don’t know what they’re of.
The set comes with a sixteen-page booklet written by me (I assume this isn’t included with the single-disc version). It serves as an overview of the movie and the DVD, beginning with a personal introduction, then a discussion of the remastering of the video and audio, and a four page “essay” on the making of the movie, discussing the production, writing, animation, actors, soundtrack and distribution. After this, there’s a section on where the movie falls in the chronology of the series, summarising each of the seasons, ending with an explanation of what Scramble City is (it’s included as an extra feature), and thanks from me and Metrodome to various good chaps. In general, as with the commentary discussed below, my aim with the booklet was to put the information across in a clear and descriptive manner and without “familiarity,” if you know what I mean, so that newbies and nostalgics inspired to buy by the live-action movie can read it and understand it without being baffled by terminology or the tendency to take certain things as read, as hardcore fans do, while at the same time, discussing topics and trivia that not even regular online contributors may be aware of.
I also wrote a large selection of actor biographies/filmographies, but there wasn’t room in the booklet for them. I’m told they might appear on the website – www.transformersdvd.com
– at some point.
After the copyright stuff at the start of the disc, the traditional Metrodome logo has been replaced with a Transformers logo, rendered like the live-action movie logo, as if it were tarnished metal (the same effect is employed on the DVD cover), which then “transforms”, like the logo in the LAM trailer, into the word “Metrodome.” This is cute. I like it. :)
The menus themselves are fairly simply affairs with clips of the movie running in the centre, and a lot of geometric shapes for buttons that are not *entirely* intuitive. They’re not stunningly attractive, but they are functional, and while not as intricate or impressive and Sony’s shifting design, I’ll take actual footage of the movie over Sony’s use of purse-grabbing Dreamwave art for reasons very similar to those discussed above over the cover.
The meat and potatoes of it all.
This disc includes a feature-length audio commentary by me. It’s a pretty breathless experience, as I just had *so* much stuff laid out in my notes in front of me that I didn’t have time to let up anywhere. No slight against those that participated in the Sony commentary track, but I felt that it fell into the trap I discussed above – the tendency to be very “familiar”, talking not just about the movie, but Transformers as a whole, as if all the listeners are automatically informed about all of it, and will know what “Diaclone” is, and other such things that are not the province of Joe Public, with the presence of multiple commentators preventing them from dwelling on any one topic long enough to get really specific about it. I go out of my way to begin the whole affair by summarising the creation of the Transformers toyline, going through G.I. Joe, Henshin Cyborg, Microman, Diaclone and MicroChange, so that viewers will understand what I’m talking about when I refer to them, and I always make sure to clarify what characters I’m talking about by saying something like “Dirge, the blue cone-headed jet,” given how few of them are actually named in the film. It’s a very concentrated effort to make the commentary open to everyone, to not confuse those who aren’t as informed as fans on message boards, but at the same time, to include lots of obscure facts, trivia and anecdotes that will ensure that even informed fans get something out of it.
At least, uh, I hope. /: )
Next on the list is a familiar feature from the Reconstructed list of extras – a compare-and-contrast of the differences between the US and UK versions, offering clips of the opening, closing and Spike’s expletive. Twelve TV spots for the movie follow (in contrast to Sony’s eight), alongside the US theatrical trailer and the Japanese “trade trailer” with Diaclone Magnus. Both Sony and Metrodome include the “final title check” and “cinex check” reels, the former featuring the Superman-style flying text cast credits, and the latter featuring several animation effects, including a “clean open” version of Laserbeak’s approach to Cybertron, without text.
After that, there are a selection of character biographies – these appeared previously on the Reconstructed disc, and actually come from the Australian release, but whereas Reconstructed just literally cropped the screens of text and pasted them in, background and all, this version reproduces the text with a new design. Profiles included are for Arcee, Blurr, Hot Rod, Kup, Springer, Ultra Magnus, Brawn, Ironhide, Optimus Prime, Prowl, Ratchet, Wheeljack, Windcharger, Cyclonus, Galvatron, Scourge, Bombshell, Kickback, Megatron, Shrapnel, Skywarp, Starscream, Thundercracker and Unicron. The presence of so many unimportant characters, only included to give a sort of “book of the dead” side to the profiles, is sort of bothersome when characters like Wreck-Gar, Grimlock and Perceptor go unmentioned, as is the sweeping statement that Skywarp unequivocally became Cyclonus, or the *ridiculous* notion that one of Galvatron’s weaknesses is a “reliance on Unicron,” but overall, they’re as nice as they ever were.
The final extra on this disc is a rather nifty little trailer that Metrodome created to promote this DVD release.
As I haven’t mentioned it before, this would be a good time to point out that this disc features the original, fullscreen version of the film. It is an unremastered version, the same version included on those budget releases you can pick up for £2 in any store, hence it is entirely unremarkable – kinda dark, but watchable anyway, and certainly nicer looking that the fullscreen version on the Sony disc, where the colours are all *over* the place. What is notable is that is it the UK version of the film, with the opening text crawl, no swear and Caroli’s closing narration, thereby making both versions of the movie available in one set. Nice!
After this, the disc includes a 25-minute interview featurette with story consultant Flint Dille, then a 20-minute video of Peter Cullen’s Q&A session from… I don’t know what convention this is from, I’m afraid, but the video comes courtesy of Evantainment.Com. Both men talk about their history in the industry and their involvement in Transformers, coming across as likeable blokes, with Cullen getting emotional in a few spots.
The next feature is Scramble City, the big draw of which is that – unlike Sony’s version – it contains the original Japanese audio and subtitles, as well as a new commentary from me. The subs, it must be said, are “hard” subs, permanently on-screen, which cannot be turned off – I believe this is a rip of that bootleg that goes about. The subs are functional, conveying the action and intent decently, and thankfully, were already translated into English terminology, talkin’ about Optimus Prime, Autobots, Decepticons, etc, rather than Convoy, Cybertrons and Destrons. I don’t think they use an apostrophe correctly in all 30 minutes, though. VERY disappointingly, however, something has gone horribly wrong with the video. The individual disc I received of the episode during production of the DVD was of the same sort of quality as the version included on Sony’s – however, somewhere between that disc and the final release, the video has become washed out and greenish throughout, looking like a bad VHS dump. I mean, yeeeeah, audio and subs, but… what *happened*? I’m playing detective on this one right now…
Next on the list is the “Alternative and Deleted Footage” also seen on Sony’s disc – a lot of stunningly unremarkable footage that is either missing some luminous effects or small overlays, or not immediately distinguishable from the finished affair, and then the sole second or two of ACTUAL deleted footage that has been uncovered. This has no audio, so I provide some colour commentary, as Paul Hitchens did on the Sony disc... there is not a lot to say, so I try to spice it up by talking about how the luminous effects are created and such things.
The first theatrical trailer for the live-action movie is also included here, as opposed to the Mars Rover teaser on the Sony disc. After that, the animated storyboards feature on the Sony disc, courtesy of Paul Hitchens, put in an appearance here, with storyboard stills of Hot Rod and Daniel’s fishing sequence, the Decepticon attack on Autobot City and Optimus Prime and Megatron’s battle set to the audio of the finished sequences, as well as one “deleted scene,” when Magnus, Tracks, Sideswipe and Red Alert attack Devastator, and Red buys it. Also featured on the disc are the original movie script (the ACTUAL original script, featuring all the wacky stuff that didn’t get into the finished movie, not the transcript included on Reconstructed), and the “5.1 breakdown” I made singling out all the added noises from the Reconstructed audio. Beware of snideness!
The disc offers a superior video presentation to Sony’s, so that is a major plus to it. Beyond that, it really comes down to a battle of the extra features, and what is present and what is not. Metrodome’s version lacks some extras that Sony has, due to the dissolution of Sony BGM making their acquisition challenging, but features some of their own unique extras which Sony did not have. For starters, the Flint Dille, Nelson Shin and Susan Blu commentary is absent, as are the collection of featurettes with that trio, Jay Bacal and Tom Griffin – however, Dille was the only real reason to listen to the commentary, and he covers the same basic stuff in his interview (unique to Metrodome’s version), while the inclusion of a Peter Cullen segment is a worthy substitute for any featurette, given his complete absence from the Sony disc (also, I’m not afraid to mention that I culled a bunch of stuff out of the featurettes for use in the commentary, so a chunk of what was talked about in there is already covered on the set in some way). Sony also included some toy commercials and a gallery of production art that are not here, but Metrodome features the original script, more TV spots, audio and subs for Scramble City and two different versions of the movie. I don’t really think that any one selection of extras is particular better than the other – Sony has some good things Metrodome don’t, Metrodome has some good things Sony don’t. This one’s a judgement call for all y’all out there, but if you’re basing it on the video, then Metrodome wins.