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Transformers -- The DVD

Thousands of screaming female fans can't be wrong. At least, that's one lesson you should take away from the success of Transformers; star Shia LaBeouf has a heartthrob charm that almost nobody seems to understand. In commentary, even Michael Bay hints that he didn't get it - at first.

But Transformers played cannily to LaBeouf's abilities, and threw in Megan Fox for the side that ostensibly would have come anyway. Because let's face it - the guys came for the giant robots, and in the extras on the second disc of this week's release, it's clear that so did Bay.

Actually, it took a trip to Hasbro to convince him, no matter that Steven Spielberg gushes that Bay was born to direct this movie.

If you're one that needed to be convinced, you can follow along on Bay's journey quite easily with all the featurettes. More than many such discs, this one really lays out the intense fandom that took many by surprise, an intensity that might only be rivaled by Hasbro's next film project, G.I. Joe.

According to one featurette, 75% of men have had some sort of Transformers experience, a statistic that sounds disturbing on a couple of different levels. But as had been reported elsewhere, Spielberg's enthusiasm legitimately came from playing with the toys as his sons got them for Christmas. In a lot of ways, this posits Transformers as a great equalizer. Everybody loves them.

Hasbro executives quickly remind viewers that this shouldn't be a surprise. Though it's had its ups and downs, the brand never really went away. (Transformers fanatic Mish'al Samman may be able to counter this, but I'll go with the studio hype for now.)

The featurettes do a good job of explaining the terms of fandom - you might not know what they mean by "G1," for example, though both Bay and screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman bring it up time and time again. You might not want to know.

But the extras go a long way to provide insight from outside fandom, should you choose to get it. They also provide insight that the director's commentary by Bay can't - such as the opinions of other actors.

While Bay might not have understood LaBeouf's appeal, La Beouf praises his director with this faintly strange yet appropriate comment - "He's not Elia Kazan, and he knows it."

Note for our older readers: When LaBeouf calls Bay "…the sickest action director around," that's a good thing.

Bay also makes it clear that he's a red, white and blue American, maintaining a great relationship with the military. Though he follows Spielberg's vision of "a boy and his car," his heart really goes out to the men with their heavy artillery. (So I'd beg to differ with Spielberg - Bay might have really been born to direct G.I. Joe.)

In addition to a documentary about the military's cooperation, the disc follows the initial Skorponok Desert Attack from conception to execution. A bit of fetishizing, perhaps, but with
some (including myself) having been looking for some sort of political commentary in the movie, it's good to have it clarified and remind us that some people can play army men just because it's cool.

Podcast pundit Ric Bretschneider has already emailed bragging that the HD version is what HD-DVD was made for - interesting to note after Bay's brief protest against the format. I can't speak to it, but let me include his brief enthusiasm:

WOW. This is what HD video is all about - extended experience. Pop-up data is optional on the screen, but the real neat stuff you download to your player/pc/xbox. The web enabled stuff is pretty cool, puts a HUD up on the screen over the movie with data about the transformers, the original toys they came from (Scorpius was the 2nd most popular toy next to... Had three transform modes, base, robot, scorpion... Etc. ) Very cool. GPS on the scenes, robot status alerts, coolness.

So maybe you do want to upgrade for this movie. Or maybe you want to ask Santa Claus. I stand by my initial review - if this is the movie you've been waiting for, this is the movie you've been waiting for. But after watching it a second time, my enthusiasm grows. They may be more than meets the eye, or they may be exactly what everybody's been trying to tell me they are: just damned fun.

If you missed it, also check out this interview with the voice of Bumblebee, Mark Ryan...

Transformers (Two-Disc Special Edition)

Transformers [HD DVD]

Derek McCaw

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