Watching the Transformers two-disc special edition on DVD feels like an unfairly muted experience. A spectacle of this proportion is better served on the big screen. I reviewed the film during it’s theatrical release and found most of the problems I experienced in that initial viewing remained intact. The plot is spread too thin over too many characters. There are logic and pacing problems and there is still too much signature “Michael Bay-ness” in the film to endear itself to me.

One thing I became more forgiving of was the designs of the robots. Engulfing your entire field of vision on the big screen, the bodies of twisting, twitching metal were tough to identify. Confined to your TV, Optimus Prime and the rest of the Autobots become more manageable and recognizable.

As the movie progresses to it’s big downtown battle sequence, I found myself even more impressed with the complexity of their design and the fluidity of their movements. Once you get past the knee-jerk “But Ironhide doesn’t look like that!” reaction from your childhood, these modern updates makes more and more sense.

That aside, the two-disc edition includes an excellent set of extras on the second disc. Two hour-long documentaries broken into different chapters detail brilliantly the filming of the movie from concept to completion.

ILM comes off looking the best explaining the Transformers look and feel – how they developed the complex programming that gave every last nut and bolt a place to fold and lock into shape between vehicle and robot transformation. The detailing given to each character down to every last nick and scratch is the hallmark of this film.

The writers of the film – Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman – do a good job of explaining why some robots made it into the film and others didn’t. They also made a good case for fan favorite transforming into an “alien jet” and not a more terrestrial vehicle – more glaringly, why he doesn’t transform into his signature form, a Walther P-38 handgun.

“We decided there would be no mass-displacement in the movie. Megatron can turn into a gun in the cartoon and you don’t think twice. But we found in the movie that Megatron turning into a gun was the equivalent of Darth Vader turning into his lightsaber and having someone else swing him around.”

Although they make no explanation about the mass-displacement of the condensed Allspark, they make a good point about Megatron.

Between the writers and the animators, there is clear affinity for the characters and an understanding of their histories. But not everyone comes off so well. In their interviews, Michael Bay, Shia LaBeouf executive producer Steven Spielberg and representatives from Hasbro all look like money hungry opportunists trying to revive a 20 year-old franchise. It’s really not worth going into detail, but more often than not, you get the sense that these parties are looking down their nose at the geek culture that spawned this level of success for their film.

Despite the general unpleasantness Bay exhibits on a regular basis (yelling his direction through a megaphone is one of his more “charming” traits) you have to give credit to him as someone who knows how to deliver a visceral thrill and for insisting on doing it with practical effects. Watching the behind-the-scenes on how many of these complicated shots were achieved makes the film a much richer experience and makes the two-disc edition well worth the money.

↓ Transcript
Theater Hopper reviews Transformers on DVD.