Two competing factions from Cybertron—the Autobots and Decepticons—arrive on Earth seeking the Allspark, a device with enough power to save their planet. A human teenager (Shia LaBeouf) holds the key to where the Allspark is hidden, and unbeknownst to him, his recently purchased Camaro is an Autobot serving as his protector from the evil Decepticons until help can arrive.

The first time I watched this movie, I got so caught up in the constant action, I didn't realize how bad it really is. Don't get me wrong, I like an action flick as much as the next guy, but when my two preteen kids commented about the shallow plot—or lack thereof—I knew there are issues. The first act sets up the story well enough, but the second and third acts are fatiguing with endless action, and the 143-minute runtime is way too long without a solid plot.

Transformers is one of the best-looking HD DVDs, and Michael Bay's public statements about how much better it would look on Blu-ray had me anticipating a truly reference-quality video encode. After careful comparison between the two releases, I have decided that Bay is full of hot air. They both look fantastic, and scene-to-scene comparisons reveal no differences at all, even though the new Blu-ray AVC encode has a higher bitrate than the previously released HD DVD.

Skin tones aren't very natural, looking a little on the glossy side. Detail is superb with crystal-clear shots—short, medium, and long. The grain remains intact, as it should. All in all, this is a nearly reference-quality video encode, regardless of the color of the packaging. (Note: 24p playback from my BD30 would not load the disc, so my evaluation was done using 1080p/60)

Paramount was lambasted on Internet forums for not including a lossless audio soundtrack on the HD DVD, and the studio has made amends with the inclusion of a Dolby TrueHD track on Blu-ray. Comparing this mix to the Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 on the HD DVD revealed some minor differences. First, the TrueHD track is much louder—by about 4-6dB, depending on the scene. With volume matched correctly, both mixes sound outstanding.

The soundstage is extremely engaging with exceptional balance between the channels, wide dynamics, and foundation-shaking bass. The last 40 minutes is a showpiece of reference-quality sound design with its never-ending action.

As a two-disc set, Transformers is loaded with bonus materials. On Disc 1 is the feature itself along with some BD-Live (Profile 2.0) online content, a commentary by Michael Bay, and a PIP feature (Profile 1.1). Disc 2 has hours of additional supplements in HD that delve into the production, including interviews with Spielberg, Bay, and various cast members. All of the material is identical to the previously released HD DVD. (The BD-Live features weren't active when I watched the movie, but they should be the same as the HD DVD.)

Transformers is an adrenaline-filled demo showpiece, but it will never be confused with good cinema. The dialog is stale, the acting is a bit stiff, and its overly long runtime serves up only mindless entertainment. Why is it that the best-looking and -sounding movies have nothing to offer in the way of a story?

Release Date: September 2, 2008

Film: 5 out of 10
Picture: 9 out of 10
Sound: 10 out of 10

Review System

Panasonic DMP-BD30

JVC DLA-RS1 projector
Stewart FireHawk screen (76.5" wide, 16:9)

Pioneer Elite SC-09TX THX Ultra 2 AVR
Belkin PF60 power conditioner

M&K S-150s (L, C, R)
M&K SS-150s (LS, RS, SBL, SBR)
SVS PC-Ultra subwoofer

Monoprice HDMI cables (source to pre/pro)
Best Deal analog-audio cables
PureLink HDC Fiber Optic HDMI Cable System (15 meters) from pre/pro to projector