I recently had the opportunity to sit down and be guided through the hottest DVD of the summer, that is, of course, the HD-DVD Transformers. If you missed this $650 million dollar roller coaster, hello and welcome back from your coma. The team behind this DVD are calling it the “signature DVD of the year” and let me tell you something. I agree. This thing is a masterpiece. I’ll say it again at the end, but I want to say it right now. This is the best DVD of the year. Buy this HD-DVD even if you don’t have the player yet, because it belongs in your collection.
Paramount, you may remember, recently riled up director Michael Bay but switching to an exclusive HD-DVD line-up, abandoning Sony’s Blu-Ray. The reason behind this decision really came down to connectivity and the web. HD-DVD towers of Blu-Ray in this arena, where HD connects to the web and can actually access and download new content and updates. Does Transformers make use of this? More on that later, but the spoiler answer is: Oh yes.
So what does 3 months of development on a 2-Disc DVD collection get you? Well for one thing, it is 100% High Definition, which is a rarity. The only thing that won’t appear in HD is when you have a picture in picture feature up. The PiP will not be HD. But all of the extras will. Long development also hits you with an ABC MPEG4 compression which results in a clean and crisp picture that is tongue-wagging good and enhanced for 16:9 TVs, which is finally and thank you Hollywood, the absolute best aspect ratio. Also, how does 1080p sound to you? Because thats what you get and it looks fantastic. Sound is an immersive and fully rendered Dolby Digital 5.1 and believe me – it rocks the house.
So what do we get when we pop this monster in? First up, Hello Optimus Prime! He greets you with an outstretched hands and offers up The Cube for your selection. A twirling and swirling menu shows us the goodies while we pick our options. Disc 1 will rock you out with the Feature Film which comes with a commentary by Michael Bay. The tidbit of it I listened to was great. Bay, who has somewhat of a reputation (wink) comes across as cool, casual, open, and insightful. He’ll fill you in on everything from Shia’s haircut to the complexities of filming a massive car chase. You’ll also find something being touted as the “Heads Up Display” which is a pretty sweet little feature. These extras on the first disc relate to watching the feature film and you’ll get different options such as Commentary, Picture in Picture Behind The Scenes, Trivia, and Schematics. For one, when watching Optimus carry Sam and Mikaela on the run from Sector 7, we’ll watch the film and the 3D model of the same scene which shows how it was originally envisioned and how it ended up. Nice.
Can you believe all this is just Disc 1? Let’s take a look at Disc 2 and see whats up! Right off the bat, Megatron is in your face. Far less kind than Optimus, but awesomely badass looking. We get some surprisingly in depth and well done features on this disc. A lot of times the second disc appears to be a throw-away to me, but not this time. The features are divided into a few sections: Our World, which is production background, fan stuff, and all that goodies. Next up is Their War, which talks about selecting the vehicles and equipment and the ILM team. Then we get More Than Meets The Eye which has some trailers, a breakdown of the Skorponok desert attack and some concept sketches. Very nice. Also, exclusive to the HD-DVD is the Transformers Tech Inspector. In this you get to see several of the actual ILM models used in the film. Want to see Optimus Prime’s radiator, you pervert? Well you can. All 10,108 parts, let me saying that again, all 10,108 parts of Optimus are there for you to see. By the way, Optimus Prime is the most complex digital character ever created.
What I really liked on the second disc was “The Story Sparks” which gave a lot of insight into the history of the Transformers and also had lots of fan interaction. We also got to see Bay’s reluctance to start on Transformers, Spielberg’s thoughts, the screenwriters and HASBRO development people. It was what took me off guard about the special features being just fluff and showed me these had real substance.
Now early on I mentioned internet connectivity and now I’m returning to it. In a way, I’m saving the best for last, as this seems really f-bomb cool. First up, you can download special features directly to your HD-DVD player from the internet. Second, new content will be provided every day for the first 6 days of release. That’s righteous. It’s like a 2nd disc with of material for free. Also, updates will be sent to you in the future about the status of Transformers and any cool news, like sequels! Perfect. Now, I usually don’t fall for gimmicks. I liked VH1′s Pop-Up Video but that was about it. But the Transformers Intelligence View, a downloadable feature, is the cat’s meow, baby. Download this immediately. This brings up a whole new screen and shrinks the movie down a bit, so you still see everything in the right aspect ratio and in HD, but adds a wealth of cool information. First up, across the top of the screen we get a GPS locater that follows the action on earth. Cool. At the bottom we get trivia related to the movie universe, not the production universe. So facts about Sam instead of about Shia. Nice touch. Then, awesomely enough, on the left hand side we get the Transformers Widget which is a visual representation of every character. When they appear on screen they light up and their relative health bar pops out and you can watch it shrink. The bar also accurately reflects their current status, transformed versus vehicle mode, and will pop out a biography on each character when they first appear. Total awesome.
So, final wrap up. You’re gonna want to watch this more than once, especially if you’re going to find the 5 easter eggs hidden for your enjoyment. I’ll let you know that the Iron Man trailer in stunning HD is hidden in here somewhere. And if you’re worried about an HD double dip, stop it right there. There are currently NO plans to make a second release of Transformers and considering the time it takes to develop, I’m sure you’re good until at least deep into next year if ever. If you buy one HD-DVD, buy Transformers. This movie almost, or hell, does, justify purchasing that HD-DVD player you’ve had your eye on. It’s the real deal. All said, there is 11 hours of fun to be had on this HD-DVD masterpiece. I can’t recommend it higher.
Transformers on HD-DVD has got the touch!