The Transformers: The Movie (1986) | 4K Blu-ray Review


A feature length Transformers movie not made by Michael Bay, and without gratuitous explosions and special effects? Yup, that’s right! And kids who grew up in the ‘80s remember it well. While many can debate how well the movie stands up now that those kids are grown, I took off the nostalgia-tinged glasses to check out just how good this new 4K disc is from a quality perspective. Let’s check out how it holds up.


If after checking out the review, you decide to pick it up, you can find it here*: Amazon

The Transformers: The Movie, 4K Blu-ray cover art

Tech Specs:

Format(s):UltraHD/4K Blu-ray (BD-66)
Blu-ray (BD-50)
Released By:SHOUT! Factory
Release Date:September 28th, 2021
Video Format / Codec:4K: H.265 (HEVC)
BR: MPEG-4 (AVC)
Resolution:4K: 
Native 4K, 2160/24p 
(3280 x 2160 at 23.976 frames/sec, progressive)

BR: 
Full HD, 1080/24p 
(1920 x 1080 at 23.976 frames/sec, progressive)
Digital Intermediate (DI):4K (from 35mm negatives)
High-Dynamic Range (HDR):Dolby Vision, HDR10
Aspect Ratio:4K: 1.85:1
BR: 1.33:1
Audio Format(s):English (4K/BR):
DTS-HD MA 2.0 (48kHz, 24-bit)
DTS-HD MA 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
Subtitles:English SDH, Spanish
Packaging:Dual disc snap case w/ slipcover*

*Slipcover may only be available on initial  pressing
Region Coding:4K: Region-free
BR: Region A (locked)

Video Review:

Color, color, color! Hand animated movies can absolutely benefit from higher resolution, but the biggest impact here is color and so let’s get that out front. The Dolby Vision enriched color palette on this remaster is absolutely the biggest step up in quality over a standard dynamic range version of this film. The Transformers movie is filled with rich, vibrant colors, from bright reds and oranges, to rich greens and blues and this color grade absolutely does it justice. Freeze framing this disc at any point can serve as a mesmerizing experience just to see how the colors pop off the screen. Combine that with much improved dark levels, and the boost to highlights and this becomes a visually stunning experience of 2D drawings done by hand. By comparison, the Blu-ray that comes with it is also remastered and comes in a close second to the 4K, but just does not have that extra punch especially when viewed on a properly set up display. The older 2016 Blu-ray by comparison to both seems drab and lifeless.

While the color boost is definitely the star of the show, there is also a boost in detail. The lines are a bit sharper, and most noticeably the grain is much better handled, well-formed and more natural looking compared to the older 1080p disc. So the grain-adverse may get a bit distracted, it is much more pleasant and enjoyable to my eye.

I did notice there were definitely some frames that had some scratches and imperfections which is likely due to the quality of the source negatives. Additionally there were a couple of scenes which very briefly display a bit of a double image for just a few seconds. It’s a bit distracting when you see it, but they are very rare and far between so it did not ruin my experience. I did go back and replay the scene a few times to confirm it was not my player, and also observed it on the Blu-ray version of the film. A little odd that they did not catch this (or fix it if it was in the capture), but again it was very brief.

As for the aspect ratio, as noted above, the 4K version of the film is in the widescreen theatrical format, and the Blu-ray is in the narrower television (of the day) aspect ratio of 1.33:1. I like that they included both framings of the film, although there will be those who did not get their preferred version in the highest quality. 

Video Score (4K): 4.3 / 5

Video Score (BR): 4.0 / 5

Audio Review:

It sounds to my ear that we have the same 5.1 surround mix in DTS-HD MA from the 2016 release. So no object-based mixes on this disc. While I get budget needs to come in to play here, I really would have liked to hear what a more immersive, and more punchy mix would have done to the experience. Instead the mix ends up feeling a bit anemic and compressed, with limited dynamics and little in the bottom end. It is also a fairly front heavy mix even though there is some activity in the surround speakers. Upmixers did offer some limited benefit here and there, but overall they don’t have a ton to work with so, it’s likely not worth it to turn them on.

Shout! Did give us the stereo mix here as well, and it is the default selection on the disc. While some may prefer it for its faithfulness to the original experience (I myself tend to prefer some of those mixes), I found it to be the weaker of the two to my ear. Given the amount of activity in the track, with a prominent musical score, laser fire and a lot of chatter between characters, the 2.0 almost feels too cluttered where the surround mix did leave more room for all of the sounds coming through.

Audio Score (4K/BR): 3.4 / 5

Special Features and Packaging:

SHOUT! Factory always does a decent job with their bonus features and this is no exception. We have a good list of features ranging from the features ported over from the 2016 release, including audio commentaries, featurettes, trailers and tv sports. But we are also now getting feature-length storyboards, a 30th anniversary featurette, new deleted and alternate scenes being added into the list. Everything that was included was enjoyable, with some being more brief than others.

About a month prior to this slipcover release there was a steelbook edition of both the 4K and the BR release. I strongly debated picking that up as I loved the art, but decided instead to save a few dollars and grab this slipcover edition. While its not as impressive as the steels, this is a nicely put together package for a non-collector’s edition type of release. The artwork on the slipcover and case is bright, colorful and action-packed and they did take the time and effort to put more artwork on the discs. Other than that, we don’t get much else, but I also did not expect it in this particular release.

Features Score: 4.0 / 5

Buy/Upgrade-worthiness:

This release is definitely a step up over the 2016 30th anniversary release in visual quality. So if you are a fan of the film, this remaster is definitely worth picking up even if you own that edition. The bigger decision is going to come down to whether to buy the 4K, or the standard Blu-ray release which also came out at the same time as this slipcover edition. You will pay a premium for the 4K, but I do think it could be worth it so long as you have room in your budget. I also think this is one that could go on sale. But if your dollars are tied up in other purchases you are also going to be very happy with the BR version of this film (the 35th anniversary, not the 2016 version).


Buy/Upgrade Recommendation: YES! (but you would be happy with the Blu-ray if you are tight on budget)

If after checking out the review, you decide to pick it up, you can find it here*: Amazon

Summary and Overall Scores:

It has been years since I visited this film, and while I do question how well the movie itself holds up, SHOUT! Factory did a great job with the restoration and the choice to go gull on with the HDR and Dolby Vision really make this one a pleasure to watch. While there are some visual flaws and the audio track remains underwhelming, it is still well worth a spot on my shelf. 

Experience Score**: 4.1 / 5  (Very Good)

** Experience score does not take into account the quality of the film itself, just the technical presentation, packaging and included features.

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