Movie Name: The Transformers: The Movie
Release Date(s): August 8, 1986
MPAA Rating: PG
It is 2005, and Cybertron has fallen to the Decepticons with the Autobots are continuing to wage a losing war. Leading an assault on Autobot City on Earth, Megatron manages to mortally wound Optimus Prime forcing the Autobot leader to pass off the Autobot Matrix of leadership to Ultra Magnus. Megatron is left for dead by Starscream but discovered by a new threat…the planet-size transformer Unicron who now is threatening Cybertron. Transformed into Galvatron, Megatron is ordered to destroy the Autobot Matrix which leads to a battle across the universe and the rise of a new Autobot leader.
Directed by Nelson Shin and Margaret Nichols, The Transformers: The Movie fell between the second season and the third season of the popular series and had a big theatrical release. The movie was also the subject of a Marvel Comics adaptation (Marvel at the time was producing the monthly The Transformers comic book series). Receiving modest box office returns and greeted by average reviews, the movie has since become a cult classic among animation films and fans of the series.
I am on the side of “not a huge fan” in regards to The Transformers: The Movie. I watched the cartoon religiously but actually missed the movie…leading to tons of confusion when the third series of The Transformers kicked off. I like the movie’s darker, more adult tone, but there are tons of things the movie gets wrong.
The Transformers: The Movie is actually rated PG and this was intentional by the filmmakers. Spike Witwicky (a long-time human character who is now the father of Daniel in this film) utters the word “s**t” in the film which propelled it from a G movie (the rating system was a lot easier then) to a PG film. This allowed the film to air in more theaters in a greater rotation than the G-Rated films. It was a smart movie and with the darker tone of the story, it was probably necessary…just feels a little weird and out of place. Some versions of the film have edited said swear word from their versions, but most current versions include it.
The movie also really racks up the death count by killing a ton of popular transformers. Ironhide, Prowl, Ratchet, Brawn, Windcharger, Wheeljack, Starscream, and of course Optimus Prime among others. Some characters like Megatron were reworked into new characters like Galvatron, and the movie also served as a way to introduce characters like Daniel Witwicky and Hot Rod, Springer, Kup, Blurr, Arcee, Wheelie, and Wreck-Gar. These characters played a big role in the third season and also replace many of the dead characters.
The movie also featured a ton of great voice actors. It is the last role of both Scatman Crothers (as Jazz) and Orson Wells (as Unicron). Orson Wells originally was said to have not completed the film (with Nimoy filling in), but others have contested it since (he indicated in a late interview that he wasn’t very happy about doing it). Other voice actors include Eric Idle as Wreck-Gar, Judd Nelson as Hot Rod/Rodimus Prime, Robert Stack as Ultra Magnus, and Micro Machine motormouth John Moschitta, Jr. as Blurr, Casey Kasem as Cliffjumper, and Leonard Nimoy as Galvatron. Classic cartoon voice actors Peter Cullen (as Optimus Prime) and Frank Welker (as Wheelie and others) also round out the cast.
What I don’t like about The Transformers: The Movie is that first the plot just drags. From Cybertron to Autobot City, to the garbage planet of Junk, to inside of Unicron, the movie just doesn’t flow. It feels like such a waste of these great vocal talents to have this jerky plot still has a daily cartoon feel with a big screen look.
The next problem is the music. The classic “You’ve Got the Touch” was mocked in Boogie Nights, and if you have one of the DVD versions you get an interview with the composer who wishes more movies would have synthesized movies. The music just randomly shows up, doesn’t apply to the movie and is very distracting. I love Weird Al Yankovic but I don’t really get what “Dare to Be Stupid” has to do with anything. It is unfortunate because the animation is a step above the TV series too.
The Transformers: The Movie is definitely worth checking out. Some of the events in the movie were written out the next season (Optimus is back!), but the movie is still pretty shocking to fans of the cartoon. It isn’t perfect, and it is tedious at points. I wish the Transformers movies had been a bit closer to this…though I am still bitter about Ratchet getting killed.