The Transformers: The Movie (1986): Loss and Crazy Fun


    We continue Leonard Nimoy Week with “The Transformers: The Movie.” In this we see some of his awesome voice work! I should start this by saying I have never seen any of the animated “Transformers” television show, my only experience with the “Transformers” Franchise has been through Michael Bay so my expectations were pretty lowered going into this…and it blew the live action films out of the water. Everything those missed this film got right on so many levels, The fact that there is an all-star voice cast beyond Leonard Nimoy certainly helps the production, since it does have some obvious problems, which were probably even more apparent in the show.

       The film was directed by Nelson Shin, written by Ron Friedman and produced by Joe Bacal and Tom Griffith.

       The film begins with a haunting opening as a giant ship devours a planet and civilization whole. We then  are with Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) plotting an attack to retake Cybertron, but he needs more Energon Cubes on Earth in order to do it. He sends a party to do but they are attacked by Megatron (Frank Welker) who uses their ship to infiltrate Autobot City on Earth. After the devastating attack the Autobots are scattered and must deal with the new threats that have arisen in the galaxy beyond the Decepticon faction.

The Pros: The Action – The action in this is good, which is important as there is a lot of action that happens. If the fights were taken out of this movie, it would actually be pretty short as fights are the major way most forms of conflict are resolved in this film. It’s very much a follower of the Super-Hero model, which makes sense since it was and is a comic book series as well as tv franchise.

The Animation – The animation in this is beautiful! It flows and all the Autobots and Decepticons have really sleek designs that makes their transformations all the more stunning as most battles between the groups involves the robots living up to their names as Transformers.

Dinobots – These guys are adorable! They are very simple Transformers that just want respect and can turn into Dinosaurs. They are pretty good in all of their fights too and at one point take on and defeat Devastator. They also save Hot Rod and Kup and are present to do damage in the final battle.

Junkions – These guys could have been really annoying…but they weren’t. I attribute this partially to Eric Idle who made this anti-hero character catchy and made his gang help in the final battle as well as helping bring Ultra Magnus back to life after he is destroyed by Galvatron. Wreck-Gar is a lot of fun and these guys are the only hostile faction that becomes an ally over the course of the film.

Devastator – Made from Constructicons, this guy is pretty aweome! like the Dinobots he isn’t the smartest but still manages to break into Autobot City and take on multiple people at once as well as taking direct hits from missiles. So much better and more threatening than the version in the live action “Transformers 2.”

Starscream – This guy is super annoying and kind of plays the Loki role as the one you should never trust. I know in the tv show he was trying to kill Megatron and in this one he does as Megatron dies and it’s Galvatron who incinerates him. He is killed during his coronation. I am putting him as a pro though because his scheming paid off, even if it was only for a little bit and he was a good threat during the battle at Autobot City.

Optimus Prime – He dies! Megatron actually manages to kill him, though Optimus mortally wounds him in the process before passing on the Matrix of Leadership to Magnus. It’s a great scene he has with the Autobots and the death means something. He doesn’t come back in the film so his death isn’t cheapened and it forces Hot Rod and the others to grow as characters since Optimus isn’t there to save the day. Also the voice work by Peter Cullen is fantastic.

Megatron – Megatron doesn’t survive for very long as he thrown off the ship when Starscream takes advantage of his injury and Decepticon selfishness. Unicron than appears to him and offers him a deal, new life and strength…but he is a slave. Fearing death Megatron take the deal and becomes Galvatron, who I am considering a separate character due to Nimoy being the voice actor and Galvatron speaking of Megatron in the past sense in his battle scenes. Frank Welker is great and Megatron would have defeated Autobot City if Optimus and reinforcements hadn’t arrived. He also killed Optimus, so major credit for that.

Unicron – Orson Welles gives so much fear to this role and it is awesome! Unicron is the ship at the beginning that devours planets and civilizations. It is Unicron who changes Megatron to Galvatron and who creates his own personal army from the discarded Decepticons that Starscream removes. Unicron’s final form is awesome too as he is a giant Transformer that is the size of many planets and has enough power to destroy anything. It is only at the end when the Matrix of Leadership destroys him and after an intense battle. He was a good leader too as he always got on Galvatron’s case to remove the threats to him. Unicron is a genre savvy villain who knows if the heroes live he can be defeated.

Galvatron – Leonard Nimoy plays Galvatron and it is awesome! From his introduction where he kills Starscream, to his killing of Ultra Magnus and also his fighting Hot Rod in the final battle. He is great at matching any threat thrown against him until Hot Rod upgrades using the matrix and becomes Rodimus Prime. He still manages to possibly live though as he was thrown out of Unicron before Unicron is defeated, so he has his freedom now too as much of his arc was trying to resist his slavery to Unicron and be his own person. It made him compelling and Nimoy did it really well.

Hot Rod – This guy has the heroes journey and it is pretty good. He goes from reckless and arrogant, to a team player who can see the bigger picture. It’s a pretty standard heroes journey but the character has personality and grows up and isn’t as static as a lot of the heroes and villains. I’m also glad the Matrix of leadership didn’t go to either of the human characters.

Loss – So many characters die and you feel it. Megatron murders Optimus Prime and he doesn’t come back. Galvatron kills Starscream and he doesn’t come back. Galvatron kills Magnus and in the war countless Autobots and Decepticons die and this isn’t even including all the ones devoured by Unicron throughout the film. This loss gives the move stakes and makes it extremely enjoyable.

Okay: Random Planets – There were a few planets we went too that we never got to know fully. One had an alien judge who had many faces and was crazy and killed people it declared innocent and that was about it. There were also creatures that transformed into alligators. These threats didn’t need to be robotic and felt unneeded with the threat of Unicron and Galvatron.

Okay/con: Minor Autobots and Allies – Magnus was bland and stale and felt like a guy trying to Optimus but clearly wasn’t. The humans were completely uninteresting and weren’t needed (since the Transformers are interesting enough on their own) Hot Rod’s love interest was just kind of there and needed rescuing as much as the human kid and a few of the Decepticons had no personality at all, which is one reason Starscream stood out so much.

The Cons: The Annoying Transformers – Sometimes characters could get really annoying. Wheedle for one, who spoke in riddles and had an annoyingly high voice, as well as some of the minor ones who got killed off.

   If you like animated films sand like any of the Transfomers shows, I’m guessing you’ll like this. It was so much fun and though it had obvious problems was worth it. From Leonard Nimoy’s Galvatron and Orson Welles’s Unicron…the voice acting was phenomenal and the animation and action were never dull. It also has a story that is much more compelling than any of the Michael Bay films and actually focuses on the Transformers and not the annoying side human characters. This is a movie that takes itself seriously enough to tell a good story but is self aware enough to know it was inspired to sell toys. This film feels like people playing with toys and creating an amazing and fun adventure in the process.

Final Score: 8.3 / 10. Well worth the time if you like animated films or the Transformers.

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