Beyond good. Beyond evil. Beyond your wildest imagination.
In 2005, the evil Decepticons have conquered their home world of Cybertron, leaving Earth protected by the heroic Autobots, who are planning to take back control of Cybertron using two of its moons as staging grounds. Before they can, the Decepticons attack Autobot City on Earth which leads to a final battle between Megatron and Optimus Prime resulting in Prime’s death and Megatron being almost dead. Prime passes the Matrix of Leadership to Ultra Magnus to hold until the Autobots’ next leader arises. Meanwhile, a gigantic, ancient robot, named Unicron, is devouring planets on his way to Cybertron, destroying everything in his path. The only thing that stands in the way of Unicron’s complete control of the universe is the Matrix, so he gives the near dead Megatron and other dying Decepticons new bodies and the task of finding and destroying the Matrix.
A term gaining popularity when talking about something big and important in regards to movies or pretty much anything is the word “epic.” Well, when I think of “The Transformers: The Movie” (1986), the first word that comes to mind is definitely epic in every sense of the word. The story is big, the bots are big, the soundtrack is big, and even the voice actors are big.
The movie definitely shook the foundation and changed the Transformers universe from that point on throughout the animated series’ last two seasons. It’s obvious that Hasbro used the movie to jumpstart their Transformers franchise of toys by creating a storyline that justified the new characters in such a way as to not feel forced — at least not to an 11-year-old. I really still feel that way as an adult too.
Being a child of the 80s, The Transformers franchise is one of the highlights of the decade for me. From 1984-1987, Optimus Prime was my ultimate cartoon hero. I ate, slept, and drank Transformers — cartoons, comics, toys. The movie only encouraged and motivated my interest even more by giving me new characters, canon material, and, most importantly, new toys.
“The Transformers: The Movie” story takes place in 2005, 20 years after the end of “The Transformers” animated series’ second season. Up until that point, the series had been focusing mainly on Earth and its complementary vehicle modes with a few occasional excursions to the Transformers’ home world of Cybertron and a few encounters with alien races. The movie and proceeding seasons open up the Transformers universe to a whole new level of action with new worlds, dozens of new alien races, and tons of new characters with ultra-futuristic vehicle and robot modes.
The movie gives us the first appearance of Galvatron, Cyclonus, Scourge and the Sweeps, Quintessons, Sharkticons, the Junkions, Ultra Magnus, Kup, Hot Rod, Rodimus Prime, Springer, Arcee, Blurr, Wheelie (everyone’s favorite), Unicron, and others. Some just popped up as Autobot reinforcements from Cybertron after the Decepticons somehow managed to take control of their planet (we never learn how) and others are created during the course of the movie. We do see a majority of the series’ first season characters but some are killed, some receive new forms later, and others just fade away.
One issue with the movie is that its production probably began during season one of the series when many of the season two characters were not yet created. In the movie, we only see one combiner, Decepticon original, Devastator, but no others, like Bruticus, Menasor or Autobots like the Aerialbots. It would’ve been cool if some of these characters made their appearance in the movie but they do appear in later seasons.
The plot is about as complicated as any multi-part storyline of the Transformers series. It covers a bit of ground and fits everything together well enough to satisfy me. Plot holes exist but I am able to overlook them here and simply be entertained.
Some critics complain about the artwork being less than stellar but I just don’t see it. I think the graphics are just as good as many animated series/movies today and better than many. My opinion might be somewhat biased but I think the art’s excellent.
“The Transformers: The Movie” covers a lot of ground for an animated movie with a runtime of 84 minutes. It gives us deaths of several character, an introduction to a slew of new characters, some of whom are destroyed by the end, and a few new grand concepts, such as the Matrix of Leadership that plays a pivotal role in the movie, the last two seasons of the series, and future Transformers incarnations. The Quintessons are also briefly shown in the movie, going on to play a major part of the series.
Many of the voice actors from the first two seasons voice their characters in the movie as well. It just wouldn’t be the same without Peter Cullen (Optimus Prime), Frank Welker (Megatron, Soundwave, and others), Casey Kasem (Cliffjumper), Buster Jones (Blaster), and Scatman Crothers (Jazz). The movie brings in a few big names for their star power, such as Judd Nelson (Hot Rod & Rodimus Prime), Leonard Nimoy (Galvatron), Robert Stack (Ultra Magnus), and Orson Welles (Unicron). And who can forget the super fast-talking Micro Machines guy, John Moschitta Jr. (Blurr)? I am pleased with everyone’s role. The big names were, of course, replaced with regular voice actors in the seasons after the movie.
The movie included ten songs on the soundtrack, not including background music throughout the film. Most of the songs are top-notch and really set the mood for each scene. The main Transformers theme is magnificently redone by “Lion” and sets the futuristic atmosphere for the entire movie. Two songs by Stan Bush, “The Touch” and “Dare,” are probably the most memorable. The two songs, “Nothin’s Gonna Stand in Our Way” and “Hunger,” are really good as well but were credited as performed By Spectre General when they were actually performed by Kick Axe; producers thought the name “Kick Axe” was too threatening, so they used the name “Spectre General” instead. My least favorite song is “Dare to Be Stupid” by “Weird Al” Yankovic — don’t get me wrong, I love “Weird Al” but this song is so stupid that it gets on my nerves almost as much as Wheelie’s screechy voice.
Move over “Transformers” (2007) and “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” (2009), “The Transformers: The Movie” (1986) is still the original and best Transformers movie to date in this viewer’s opinion. It updated and added quite a bit but still stayed true to the original concept and appearance of the series and still moves many viewers with some emotional scenes.
With a PG rating, this movie is safe for most children, provided you condone animated violence. There is only one small expletive that is cut out of some copies today but not too bad. I recommend it to all action, sci-fi, and old and new Transformers fans.
Of the original 18 Autobots featured in the first episode of the 1984 series, 15 have roles in the movie except for Mirage, Trailbreaker, and Sideswipe.
Officially this was Scatman Crothers and Orson Welles’s final film.
A Unicron toy was not released until 2003 but one was designed around the time of the movie. The prototype was deemed too flimsy with a faulty voice chip and the idea was scrapped.
Due to Orson Welles’ failing health, he had much difficulty recording his dialogue and he had heavy breathing and wheezing. So all of his recordings were put through a voice synthesizer to give a clearer and ominous tone.
Producers had Spike’s character ask “Oh s***! What are we going to do now?” in the theatrical release to guarantee a PG rating because G rated movies were not played as often during the day as PG, PG-13, or R rated movies at the time. However, it was taken out of every VHS release until the Rhino re-release in 2000.
Megatron [surprised]: Prime!
Optimus Prime: One shall stand, one shall fall.
Megatron: Why throw away your life so recklessly?
Optimus Prime: That’s a question you should ask YOURSELF, Megatron.
Optimus Prime: One day, an Autobot shall rise from our ranks, and use the power of the matrix to light our darkest hour.