Transformers: The Movie (Ultimate Edition DVD)

I should admit that back in the 1980s, I was never all that fond of The Transformers. I think I may have seen one or two of the cartoons, and while I've always been a huge fan of animation, I was never greatly enamoured of cartoons based on toys. I was also pretty unimpressed by the shoddy animation. But I guess I was in a minority, because The Transformers was a hugely popular cultural phenomenon, a ratings juggernaut that dominated Saturday morning kids' TV. Now, the cynic in me says that this "ultimate edition" DVD (released in the US as a 20th anniversary edition last November, accompanied by an "updated" range of the Hasbro toys) is being issued to cash in on the live action Transformers movie that hits cinemas in July. But the realist in me knows that there are thousands of fans out there who have been waiting for years to see a decent version of this film come to DVD. And I'd have to say they've got their wish. The film has been remastered to a glorously clean-looking 16x9 widescreen print, with the sound in 5.1 stereo (although for the purists, there is also a copy of the original 4:3 version on the second disc).

It's strange, in this modern digital world, to once again watch hand-drawn animation, which today has been all but abandoned for CGI. It's also interesting to note that this was probably the first time many viewers outside Japan were exposed to anime (Transformers came out two years before Akira really switched the world on to this artform). The film has a much darker tone than the TV series, and was mader to bridge seasons two and three of the show. It's set in year 2005, and the treacherous Decepticons have conquered the Autobots' home planet of Cybertron. But on secret bases on two of Cybertron's moons, the Autobots prepare to retake their homeland. And as if an almighty was isn't enough to keep all these robots busy, adding to their woes comes Unicron — a planet-sized Transformer that devours entire worlds. Um ... that's about all there is to the plot, really. Oh, much of the film takes place on Earth, for reasons that elude me. An interesting point, too, is that many of the show's characters are killed early in the film and replace with a whole new range of toys, sorry, heroes and villains. Do you think that could have simply been a cynical marketing exercise? The film even features (shock horror) a character using the word "shit" — surely a first for a kids' cartoon. The soundtrack, though, leaves a lot to be desired. I hated 80s soft-rock back then, and my opinon hasn't changed.

EXTRAS *** This two-disc edition is simply chock full of extras, which will definitely excite the long-time fans. As already mentiond, you get the two different versions of the film, a fan commentary (although the US release got a director's commentary), alternate US/UK footage, an interview with story consultant Flint Dille, a Q&A with the voice of Optimus Prime, Peter Cullen (who, in a nice piece of continuity, also voices Prime in the new live action film), deleted scenes, animated storyboards and moreOverall, this 2-disc set is something long-time Transformers fanboys will probably want to get hold of to revive some old memories, or maybe to introduce their kids to. But I'm sure the hardcore purists will have already grabbed the US anniversary release, which has a quite a bit more to offer in the extras department.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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