The celebrity massacre of 2016 has reminded millennials of their inescapable mortality. As a child of the eighties however I am already well acquainted with death, because I grew up watching Transformers: The Movie. No, not the Michael Bay garbage flicks – the animated one starring the first generation Autobots and Decepticons. Although awesome, the film is a traumatic eighty-five minute bloodbath (or should that be oil bath) were fan favourites are killed off by laser-gun fire, which is suddenly fatal despite never causing much damage in the TV series. Like Akame Ga Kill no one is safe, although the body count isn’t a case of director Nelson Shin trying to be edgy. Hasbro decreed that the old guard should perish to make room for a new line of toys that they were hoping to peddle.
Transformers: The Movie takes place several years after the events of the original series, as evidenced by Spike’s age. The former oilrig worker has a son now and has grown up to become a foul-mouthed adult (much to my amusement he utters the line “oh shit” in one scene of this PG film.) During the series/movie interim Cybertron has been conquered by Decepticon troops, forcing Optimus Prime’s Autobots to colonize the planet’s moons and relocate to a metropolis situated on Earth. Fearful of an imminent attack, the evil Megatron hijacks a shuttle and uses it to sneak a platoon of Decepticon warriors into Autobot City. Many valiant heroes are slain in the ensuing assault, including Optimus Prime himself. Damn it Hot Rod you fool! Why did you have to interfere in the Megatron/Prime duel? He had the battle won before you got involved.
From that point on the story goes off world, with the surviving Autobots being relentlessly pursued by Galvatron (who is basically the latest Megatron model – same robot but he now has a better camera and you can’t plug your old headphones into him.) Galvatron chases after the good guys, as they possess the McGuffin that is the Autobot Matrix of Leadership. Said relic is the only thing in the universe capable of stopping Galvatron’s master Unicron. In case you didn’t know, Unicron is pretty much a sentient Death Star. Instead of obliterating planets with energy weapons he prefers instead to consume them whole. Cybertron is on Unicron’s menu and he intends to chomp on it faster than a sumo wrestler goes through a sushi buffet. Oh man. Defeating the ravenous evildoer would be so much easier if he had a vulnerable thermal exhaust port.
My rating for Transformers: The Movie is four and a half stars. Younger viewers may disagree with that nostalgia-influenced score, but its tough to be unbiased when Transformer cartoons and toys dominated my childhood. The comedy provided by the Dinobots and Blurr’s motor mouth still makes me chuckle, and the action continues to make my heart race after all these years. Compared to the TV show, the movie’s visuals have aged well and benefit from the added polish of a 4k transfer in the latest Blu-Ray release. On the audio front the soundtrack holds the honour of being one of my favourite movie scores of all time. The tunes on offer include a song from geek icon Weird Al Yankovic and loads of cheesy eighties rock. Warning – listening to Dare and The Touch will immediately cause you to grow a mullet.
I am surprised to learn that the movie was a financial flop in the States, causing Hasbro to cancel production of a planned Jem animated movie (shame they didn’t axe the crap 2015 live action film too.) If you take into account worldwide sales (and how many times Transformers: The Movie has been re-released on DVD) I do however suspect that the film has since turned over a profit. Is Transformers: The Movie the pinnacle of animated storytelling? Hell no, but you won’t care one iota if you happen to be a fellow eighties kid. At the very least I would recommend giving the movie a bash because the main villains are voiced by screen legends Orson Welles and Leonard Nimoy. This eighties classic will “live long and prosper” in the hearts of Transformers fans forever… I doubt the same can be said of the rubbish Michael Bay is currently pumping out.